Tag Archives: Batman

Today’s Super Comic — Catwoman #1 (2002)

Here’s a time it actually made sense to start over with a new issue #1. When writer Ed Brubaker and artist Darwyn Cooke (both incredible talents) took over Catwoman, they injected a mature tone into the book and set Selina Kyle on a fresh course.

She’s been presumed dead for the past six months, so now it’s time to figure out what to do with her life. She laments how self-serving she had become, but she’s not quite sure what that makes her at present. As she observes Batman in action against the Riddler, she realizes how she doesn’t belong in his world of good against evil; her territory is “between right and wrong.”

Catwoman and Batman have a nice moment together on a rooftop, and the dialogue further sharpens their differences:

Batman: No matter what, I believe that deep down, you’re really a good person. Don’t you think so?

Catwoman: Sometimes…yeah, sometimes I do…but I think it’s just a lot more complicated than that.

(As a side note, it’s always nice when a Catwoman/Batman rooftop scene in a Catwoman #1 manages not to devolve into gratuitous sex to “shock” us or show off how “adult” it is. I try to stay positive here, but that poor decision in the New 52 series deserves the jab. So…sorry/not sorry. But as I said, Brubaker and Cooke bring a mature tone to this book.)

Catwoman, when handled properly, is a complex character. Her many shades of grey give her the potential to surpass Batman as a compelling protagonist. And this particular #1 kicks off the finest set of Catwoman comics I’ve ever read.

Writer: Ed Brubaker

Artist: Darwyn Cooke

Inker: Mike Allred

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Catwoman vol. 1: Trail of the Catwoman (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 14 and up

Today’s Super Comic — The Brave and the Bold #197 (1983)

I almost forgot—there was at least one version of Batman who got his happily ever after…and with Catwoman, no less.

Until the mid-1980s, the DC Universe had two Earths. The modern superheroes of the Justice League lived on Earth-One while the Golden Age superheroes from the 1940s lived on Earth-Two. Characters who were around in both eras, like Batman, had a separate version on each Earth. And The Brave and the Bold #197 shows us what became of the Golden Age Batman on Earth-Two.

The story is framed as an older Bruce Wayne looking back on a turning point in his life, when he had been the Batman for fifteen years and was beginning to lament how empty the Bruce Wayne side of his life had become. What life does he have to look forward to after Batman, other than a very lonely one?

The Scarecrow strikes, and his fear toxins heighten Batman’s anxieties to the point that he hallucinates all his allies vanishing, leaving only a reformed enemy to turn to—Catwoman. As they partner to apprehend the Scarecrow, they learn more about each other…and Catwoman helps Batman learn something about himself.

Namely, he acknowledges the fear that’s consumed him since his parents’ murder. It’s driven him to build a life where he’d never have to form a real emotional connection with anyone again and thereby never truly have to experience another devastating loss. He overcomes this fear by letting Catwoman—or more specifically Selina Kyle—into his life, and they spend the next twenty years happily married.

Actual emotional growth and an actual, fitting ending for the character. At least the original Batman got to experience those. This story’s inclusion in The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told collection is no mistake.

Writer: Alan Brennert

Penciler: Joe Staton

Inker: George Freeman

Cover: Jim Aparo

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; included in The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Batman: Son of the Demon (1987)

One of the challenges with Batman is he’s so skilled and experienced that it can be difficult to put him in a situation where he learns something new.

But the Son of the Demon graphic novel places him in roles entirely new to him—marriage and impending fatherhood. And, it so happens, this is the one situation that can compel the stubbornly dedicated Batman to rethink his life’s priorities.

Batman and old enemy Ra’s al Ghul join forces against a common threat, during which Batman stops denying his attraction to Ra’s’ daughter, Talia. This isn’t a quick mission; Batman spends many weeks away from Gotham helping to train and lead Ra’s’ people against this terrorist plot—long enough to conceive a child.

Given Batman’s origins, it makes perfect sense that this would change him. He doesn’t want his child to ever suffer through losing his parents like he did.

Of course, being a comic book starring one of the most popular characters of all time, there can be only so much change by the end. But this book does a better than most of presenting at least the illusion of character growth. Within the context of just this graphic novel, Batman journeys far from home, has new experiences, and returns home sadder and wiser.

The pace is maybe a little too fast due to page-count constraints, but it’s a great arc that fits the character well.

Writer: Mike W. Barr

Artist: Jerry Bingham

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: Comixology; Batman: Son of the Demon graphic novel

Appropriate For: ages 15 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Flashpoint #1-5 (2011)

flashpoint_vol_2_1The Flash broke the DC Universe. He messed with the timeline, resulting in the New 52, which I am not a fan of, barring a handful of notable exceptions. It’s unfortunate. But the storyline in which he ruined everything was pretty great.

Flash (Barry Allen) interferes with time for a noble, human reason—he wants to save his mother, who was murdered many years ago by a time-traveling Reverse Flash (kind of like in the TV series). So Barry has a strong justification for his actions, but he nevertheless creates an alternate timeline in need of serious repair. The most compelling reason: A feud between these non-heroic versions of Wonder Woman and Aquaman is putting the whole world on the brink of war.

Flashpoint’s standout alternate version of a character is Batman, who isn’t Bruce Wayne here—he’s Bruce’s father, Thomas Wayne. In this world, Bruce and his mother Martha were murdered by a mugger, and Thomas was the sole survivor. So when Barry comes along speaking of a better world in which Bruce survives, Thomas has powerful motivation to help him out, crazy as he sounds. What parent wouldn’t want to trade places with their child in that situation?

Yesterday, I mentioned how Zero Hour lacked a central protagonist. DC seemed to have learned its lesson seventeen years later. Flash anchors the series and guides us through. He’s the only one from “our” world and therefore the only one who can ultimately set things right (not that he nails the target perfectly, but that’s irrelevant to judging this series on its own merits).

As someone who grew up with the Wally West Flash, this is one of the better Barry Allen stories I’ve read.

Writer: Geoff Johns

Penciler: Andy Kubert

Inker: Sandra Hope

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; Flashpoint (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Batman #17 (2013)

batman_vol_2_17Batman’s “Death of the Family” story arc is one of the most disturbing Joker stories I’ve read. It’s also one of the richest psychologically.

Writer Scott Snyder drills into the heads of Batman and the Joker, amazingly giving a fresh spin to an antagonistic relationship that’s been going on for over seventy years. On the surface, it’s creepy as hell and far too nightmarish for children to read, but lots of careful thought clearly went into the narrative. The payoff in issue #17 is brilliant. Once you get past the grotesqueries, you find an intelligent comic hiding within.

It really shows just how versatile these characters are. They fit a seemingly endless variety of stories.

But keep the kiddies away from this one!

Writer: Scott Snyder

Penciler: Greg Capullo

Inker: Jonathan Glapion

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Batman vol. 3: Death of the Family (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 15 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Detective Comics #826 (2007)

detective_comics_826This is a nice Christmas comic…kind of like how Die Hard is a nice Christmas movie. So maybe it’s not “nice” exactly, but the holiday season provides a backdrop to gripping tension and action.

During a moment of desperation, Robin (Tim Drake) makes the mistake of getting into a stranger’s car. Turns out, the Joker is at the wheel. (And that’s why you don’t get into strangers’ cars!)

Joker ties up the Boy Wonder in the passenger’s seat and makes him watch helplessly as he runs over random pedestrians. And whenever he gets bored killing innocents, the Joker will probably kill Robin, too. It’s a death trap with psychological torture thrown in.

This is one of those done-in-one short stories writer Paul Dini excels at, particularly when it comes to Batman’s world. The Joker is at his most terrifying, and Robin needs to be at his most resourceful…which will require him to maintain his calm in the face of horrific murders.

It probably won’t get you into the Christmas spirit, but it is a great comic.

Writer: Paul Dini

Penciler: Don Kramer

Inker: Wayne Faucher

Cover: Simone Bianchi

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Batman: Detective (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 13 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Superman Annual #11 (1985)

superman_annual_vol_1_11Since we’ve entered the holiday shopping season, how about a classic comic that’s basically about giving a gift? And Superman Annual #11, “For the Man Who Has Everything,” is a gift, one given to us by the team behind Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.

It’s Superman’s birthday, so Wonder Woman, Batman, and the then-new Robin (Jason Todd) visit him at the Fortress of Solitude, all bearing thoughtful presents. But what do you get the man who has everything? The villainous alien Mongul has the perfect gift for him—a life of contentment, which happens to be all imaginary.

A symbiotic plant called the Black Mercy traps Superman in his own head, where he’s living a perfectly normal life on a Krypton that never exploded. He has a wife and two children, and the weight of the world isn’t constantly on his shoulders. It all feels so real and satisfying.

But outside that fantasy, Mongul begins his quest for world domination by taking on Wonder Woman and the Caped Crusaders. To save his friends, and the world, Superman must abandon the peaceful life he always wanted, rejecting a loving family in favor of his Fortress of Solitude.

When you have a character as powerful as Superman, especially this old-school version, you’ve got to be creative to hurt him and even more creative to make him work for his victory. And trapping him in happiness, and requiring his own strength of will to erode the façade, is perfect.

The comic is so good that Justice League Unlimited adapted it into an animated episode. The comic does some things better, and the cartoon does other things better, but really, just check out both.

Writer: Alan Moore

Artist: Dave Gibbons

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in DC Universe: The Stories of Alan Moore (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Batman #404-408 (1987)

batman_404I’m a bit pressed for time, so forgive me for going with a super-obvious one today. But Batman: Year One deserves all its many accolades.

Originally presented in Batman #404-408, this is writer Frank Miller’s other great Batman story, focusing on his early days rather than later days. But while The Dark Knight Returns seems to be the consensus favorite, I’ve always preferred the more down-to-earth Year One (though DKR might very well appear here before my year of positive reviews is over).

In Year One, Batman himself is the weirdest thing about his world. This is before the Joker, Mr. Freeze, and other colorful scoundrels have descended on Gotham City. (We do get some morally ambiguous Catwoman action, though.) Then-Lieutenant Gordon is the co-lead, and it’s basically a story of two flawed but good men trying to help their crime-ridden city in two very different ways. But maybe they can find some common ground and forge a productive friendship?

Artist David Mazzuchelli draws in an appropriately gritty style that produces several memorable Bat-images, and Miller’s tight story is constantly moving forward and gaining momentum.

Too often, writers portray Batman as so competent that he’s borderline superhuman, and that can be fun, but here we see an inexperienced Batman making mistakes and learning the ropes. This Batman is skilled but undeniably human, and that suits the character well.

If you enjoyed Batman Begins, you’ll be doing yourself a favor by reading this.

Writer: Frank Miller

Artist: David Mazzucchelli

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; Batman: Year One (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 14 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Detective Comics #627 (1991)

detective_comics_627Now this was a great gimmick for an anniversary issue.

To celebrate Batman’s 600th appearance in Detective Comics, DC Comics (Detective Comics Comics?) not only reprinted Batman’s first-ever appearance from 1939, but they also included three other interpretations of that six-page story. One originally appeared in 1969 to celebrate the Caped Crusader’s 30th anniversary, and it updated the story to the tone and style of that campy era. The remaining two iterations of “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate” were produced by the then-current creative teams of Batman and Detective Comics, Marv Wolfman & Jim Aparo and Alan Grant & Norm Breyfogle.

Each team took the same basic idea and executed it in totally different ways, thereby showing a clear glimpse of Batman’s tremendous versatility.

What really makes this gimmick work is the fact that they’re not rehashing Batman’s origin story. That first story, by Bill Finger & Bob Kane, was just a standalone, dropping us into a city where the “Bat-Man” was already active. The big twist ending was the stunning revelation that the “Bat-Man” was…gasp!…Commissioner Gordon’s bored socialite friend, Bruce Wayne! (I wonder if that was genuinely surprising to the readers of 1939 or if they saw it coming a mile away.)

So Detective Comics #627 doesn’t give us any bold new reinterpretations of the Dark Knight himself—it gives us four creative teams from three eras each trying to tell a good, solid Batman story. And succeeding.

Writers: Various

Artists: Various

Cover: Norm Breyfogle

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 9 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Batman: The Long Halloween #1-13 (1996-97)

batman_the_long_halloween_1Seems to be an appropriate time of year for Batman: The Long Halloween, though anytime near a major holiday would work. This Batman story is, as the title implies, long in scope, spanning a full year early in the Dark Knight’s career. A serial killer is targeting gangsters, but only on the holidays, giving Batman a mystery to haunt him for a full 365 days.

It’s a busy year in which we see many of our favorite Bat-villains, including quite a bit of Harvey Dent as he transitions into Two-Face. Early on, Harvey, Batman, and Commissioner Gordon make a vow to bring down the crime lord Carmine Falcone, a.k.a. the Roman—perhaps with bending some rules, but never breaking any, Gordon insists. You can spot the DNA of the excellent Dark Knight movie in that and other moments throughout. In Gotham City, doing the right thing takes a toll—but it still needs to be done.

Certain writer/artist teams seem to bring out the best in each other, and the quintessential example is frequent collaborators Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, the writer and artist here. Sale’s panels are big, uncluttered, and consistently a little rough, which suits Batman’s world rather well, and Loeb writes a lean, efficient script that covers up a minimum of the artwork. Interestingly, the story has plenty of room to breathe over thirteen issues, but it still feels stripped down to its essential components.

And another plus—the story requires Batman to be a detective. That facet of him tends to get overlooked sometimes, particularly in other mediums.

The miniseries deserves its status as a classic. I wouldn’t call it the best Batman story or anything like that, but it certainly is something special.

Writer: Jeph Loeb

Artist: Tim Sale

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; Batman: The Long Halloween (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up