REVIEW: Detective Comics #1008 is a creepy reunion one-shot for Batman and Joker

By Alex Batts — Detective Comics #1008 sees the return of artist Doug Mahnke, accompanied by inker Jamie Mendoza and colorist Dave Baron. This isn’t the only return seen in the issue though, because for the first time in a while The Joker makes his way back to Gotham. This time with a devious plan to terrorize pedestrians at the local amusement park (named Bolland Park after Brian Bolland, artist of The Killing Joke, which has its own iconic amusement park scenes). 

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REVIEW: Detective Comics #1007 is a showcase for top-tier artwork

By Alex Batts — Detective Comics #1007 sees the end of a two-part tale featuring the Vengeance of God, the long-tenured DC character, The Spectre. The creative team of Peter Tomasi, Kyle Hotz, David Baron, and Rob Leigh set the stage for this story last month in Detective Comics #1006, with another great mystery for Batman to solve. The inclusion of The Spectre adds an unorthodox element, and the interplay between him and Batman has been a blast to read. 

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REVIEW: Detective Comics #1006 launches another intriguing mystery story

By Alex Batts — The Arkham Knight story arc in Detective Comics wrapped up a few weeks back, excellently introducing the character to the mainstream comics continuity. With the closing of one arc starts the beginning of another. Detective Comics #1006 is part one of a new arca called “There Will Be Blood,” and it sees Jim Corrigan and macabre The Spectre character in Gotham City for a grizzly murder mystery in which the Vengeance of God seeks out the help of the World’s Greatest Detective. 

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What’s Up With Batman’s Knightmares Story Arc?

By Alex Batts — Before we dive into the recent arc of Batman that just wrapped yesterday, I’d like to review the basic info to make sure we’re all up to speed. Also, this serves as a SPOILER WARNING. I will be discussing events from Tom King’s Batman run leading up to issue 61 as well as the events of this story arc, issues 61-69. I’ll avoid divulging everything that happens in these issues, mainly because…

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REVIEW: Tom King’s Batman #69 is a gorgeous ending to an audacious story arc

By Zack Quaintance — This is it, everyone, the six-part largely separate Knightmares story arc has now come to an end. This has been an audacious set of stories, each illustrated by a different artist and designed to explore a different part of Batman’s psyche, revealing as they did that our hero was suffering some form of torture. Remember those old campy and elaborate death traps Batman always got stuck in back in Batman ‘66? Well, this arc has been like that, but the booby trap is Batman’s own…

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A Batman Comics Reading Guide

By Alex Batts — I consider myself a die-hard Batman fan. Lucky for me there are a ton (to put it mildly) of Batman stories out there to read. Unlucky for me, however, it’s a bit difficult to find one easy-to-digest checklist of Batman comics to read. Which made me wonder, how great would it be to have one comprehensive and organized reading guide for the Caped Crusader? What if I could find the magical list I was looking for? Well, folks, I stopped wondering and went out and made the thing myself.

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REVIEW: The Detective Comics #1000 stories ranked

By Zack Quaintance — Well, here we are, the second GIANT-SIZED celebration of a seminal DC Comics character in as many years, commemorated once again by a set of vignettes that clearly aimed at capturing 80 years of fictional superhero history via narrative. Detective Comics #1000 has arrived, bringing with it a set of creators old—Denny O’Neal, Neal Adams, Paul Dini, Jim Lee, Kevin Smith—and new—Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev, Priest, James Tynion, Tom King.

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The Best Detective Comics #1000 Variants (and Why They’re Cool)

By Zack Quaintance — The release of Detective Comics #1000 is upon us (coming next Wednesday). It’s a landmark issue (obviously), and, as such, it gets the whole giant wave of variants treatment. There hasn’t been as much ballyhoo (that’s right ballyhoo) around this one as there was for Action Comics #1000 last year. I attribute that to a phenomenon called hey, didn’t we just do this? As well as to Superman being a less tragic and more celebratory figure in general.

But I digress, we’re here to talk about variant covers! Specifically, we’re here to ogle our favorites from next week’s releases as well as share a few quick words about why we find the best Detective Comics #1000 variants so great, great enough to potentially drop an extra $9.99 (plus shipping on many cases) to add them to our collections alongside the standard cover (I clearly have OCD...at least about that).

With all that said, let’s take a look at our 10 favorites! In no particular order...

The Best Detective Comics #1000 Variants

Brian Bolland - Forbidden Planet Detective Comics #1000 Variant

Brian Bolland is one of the best cover artists of all-time, with notable runs such as Geoff Johns’ The Flash. Here on this Detective Comics variant, Bolland leans into something that has made Batman one of the longest-tenured and most-popular characters in all of American fiction: his rogue’s gallery. Bolland renders them all in his clean and colorful style here, putting the nonplussed Dark Knight himself right at the center. Fantastic stuff.

You can get it now through Forbidden Planet.

Michael Cho - Detective Comics #1000 1950s Variant

As with the Action Comics #1000 release, Detective Comics is getting a themed variant for each of its eight decades of life. Our favorite of the bunch (and the only one to make this list) is Michael Cho’s 1950s cover, which embraces the way that decade (with its prurient anti comic book campaigning) forced creators to move away from violence and into wackiness. Cho captures it well.

Patrick Gleason - Newbury Comics Detective Comics #1000 Variant

As noted at this time last year, Gleason drew one of our favorite Action Comics #1000 variants...and now he’s back with a similar piece for Batman. Indeed, this cover mirrors his last one, substituting Batman, his wards and his pooch for Superman, his wife, child and pooch. Add to that Gleason being one of our favorite artists in all of comics, and you get another really memorable piece.

You can get it now through Newbury Comics.

Nicola Scott - Kings Comics Detective Comics #1000 Variant

Another familiar cover would be Nicola Scott’s Detective Comics #1000 variant, which like Gleason’s mirrors the work she did last year for Action Comics #1000. What Scott has done has drawn the various iterations of Batman’s look throughout the years, all lined up chronologically as if they were in the same room together. It’s a great concept and (as always) her execution is flawless. Now here’s hoping the Wonder Woman cover she’s teased in the same format one day becomes a reality…

You can get it now through Kings Comics.

Kaare Andrews - Third Eye Comics Detective Comics #1000 Variant

Kaare Andrews has the third (and final) Detective Comics #1000 variant that stands as a callback to a piece done last year for Action Comics #1000. Whereas the Andrews cover last year was Lois and Clark kissing amid the clouds of a sunset sky, this version features a corresponding moment of intimacy between Batman and Catwoman, in all their sado-fatastacistic (sorry) glory. Phew.

You can get it now through Third Eye Comics.

Alex Ross - Detective Comics #1000 Variant

When it comes to photorealistic renderings of comicbook characters and scenes, no one is better than Alex Ross. No one. What he’s done for his Detective Comics #1000 variant cover is an homage to the Batman’s first appearance way back in Detective Comics #27. The result is gorgeous. Unfortunately, the cover has sold out via Alex Ross’ website, but you can still signup for a waiting list (not sure how that works) by clicking here.

Stanley ‘Artgerm’ Lau - Retro Detective Comics #1000 Variant

Batman and his passionate fandom just wouldn’t be the same without Catwoman, Poison Ivy, or Harley Quinn. As such, this list isn’t complete without a selection honoring their contributions. We’ve gone with this retro Detective Comics #1000 variant by Artgerm, and just look at how fantastic it is. Like the Alex Ross cover, sadly, this one is also sold out. But you can check out other options (including a different modern rendering of this same concept) on Artgerm’s website by clicking here.

Bill Sienkiewicz - Detective Comics #1000 Variant

Another key facet of Batman’s character has been his outsider status as a frightening creature to the night, a figure of vengeance that appeals to the deeply human suspicion that it sometimes takes harsh actions to defend against those who would harm us (incidentally, this is maybe where I point out that I’m personally more of a Superman guy myself…). Sienkiewicz cover is perhaps the best and purest interpretation of Batman as a scary defender lurking in the night over the shoulders of criminals.

You can order it now by clicking here.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

REVIEW: Tom King’s Batman #63 enlists Mikal Janin for Bat-Cat wedding redux

Batman #63 is out 1/23/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — There’s a very familiar feeling to the start of Tom King’s Batman #63. Mikel Janin, King’s primary collaborator from July’s infamous Batman #50 Bat-Cat wedding issue, is back providing the artwork. Moreover, what’s actually happening on the page is familiar too. Bruce is on a rooftop in a tuxedo as the sun comes up, just as he was during the wedding, flanked by Alfred and a tipsy officiant. There’s a quick cut to the goodbye letter Catwoman left on his pillow, and then our hero steps to the edge of the building prepared to jump off...we’ve seen all this before.

Before he can go fully over this time, things begin to change. This time Catwoman is there, telling him to wait. This time things are different, better—until they suddenly aren’t. Thus is the premise of Batman #63, the third part of the ongoing Knightmares story arc for this title (and before you protest about spoilers, everything I just described happens on the first page of this very compressed issue, which is an idea we’ll return to a bit later...).   

Knighmares continues to be an arc of unreality. Readers don’t know what’s real and what’s not. The last issue saw Batman battling Professor Pyg, who at the very end removed his mask to reveal himself as Damian Wayne, Bruce’s estranged son and Robin. Essentially, Batman #61 planted the seeds that Batman was trapped in some sort of hallucination via the Bruce Wayne murder kid character (which I’m pretty ambivalent about, but that’s another thing all together…), Batman #62 confirmed it, and now Batman #63 builds on the concept further, doing so by replaying what so far has been the headling moment of Tom King’s Batman run—the wedding.

I won’t go too far into specifics, but this issue uses John Constantine as a mechanism for both tormenting Bruce (telling him this happiness is fleeting) and giving some narrative clarity to the reader. Constantine (whose own reality we are left to wonder about for most of the proceedings) keeps telling Bruce what we pretty much know, that this is all fake and will end badly. This is all setup in the start, and I don’t want to go too far into the plot what happens. What I do want to talk about, however, is whether this issue and this larger arc is good.

Let’s look at where the arc started, or, to be more precise, what it started after. In Batman #60 Alfred is assaulted in the Batcave by Thomas Wayne, Flashpoint Batman, who we knew was in this reality and assisting Bane from the last panel of Batman #50. He also gets the jump on Bruce, leaving us to wonder what happens next. What does happen next? Well, we’re plunged into the fakery of Batman #60. In some ways, this arc is one meant to stall, to keep us wondering what’s up with the Flashpoint Batman without giving us too many answers.

In other ways, it’s meant to give the creators a chance to delve further into the psyche and humanity of Batman, which is what this run has been about from its very first issue. King knows that cliffhanger has fans on the hook, and now he’s basically saying let’s slow down (in entertaining and relevant ways) to look at the emotional effect on our hero. King has done this previously with other lesser-known superhero characters, mainly Mister Miracle and The Vision. Mister Miracle in particular played with perceptions of reality, with a case to be made that any action in any of was happening entirely in Scott Free’s head.

Given the prominence of the character, King doesn’t seem to have (or maybe want) that same luxury with The Bat. As such, he ends up giving us more compress Knightmares (as it were) and tipping his hand sooner. Does it work? I absolutely think it does, and on the whole I enjoyed this issue and its functions within both the longer story arc and run. Basically, a little bit a clarity about what’s actually happen goes a long way, bringing what the writer is trying to do into focus and engendering us with the trust and patience we need to stick with it. This lack of clarity, in my opinion, has hurt portions of a couple of other recent Tom King comics: the ending of Mister Miracle and the beginning of Heroes in Crisis.

Someone like David Lynch might get all the rope in the world to confuse the daylights out of us, but David Lynch is making arthouse cinema. In superhero comics, it’s almost always the case that writers most artful form-bending inclinations are best served by being reduced just a bit in the service of accessibility. It’s like if you were baking a cake—experiment with ingredients all you want, but you’re still going to need the sponge and taste and texture that make what you set out to do recognizable. I think Batman #63 most certainly delivers in that regard.

One last note: I think Tom King’s voice and stylistic flourishes work better with some characters than with others...Constantine is without question a good fit for King, and I’m suddenly intrigued to read more of his work featuring this character, even if it’s just a cameo here or there.

Overall: A little bit of clarity about what’s really happening goes a long way in Batman #63 mixing with the Bat-Cat wedding redux motif to result in the strongest issue of this arc so far. Also, Mikel Janin’s impeccably-clean linework is always welcome on this title. 8.5/10

Batman #63
Writer:
Tom King
Artist: Mikel Janin
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as
BatmansBookcase.

Tom King's Batman: Should We Keep Reading?

By Zack Quaintance — I got a call the other day from a friend, asking if I planned to keep reading Tom King’s current run on Batman. The series is currently on #58 (out this week) of what King has said will be 104 total issues. To be quite frank, before that call I hadn’t even considered quitting. So, the question caught me off guard. My friend had also previously written about King’s work, heaping praise upon it. Yet, there he was, ambivalent about continuing.

But you know what? By the end of our conversation, I could see his point. The shine has indeed faded just a little bit from this Batman series, which is why today I’d like to talk about the big question—Tom King’s Batman, should we keep reading? I think there are valid cases to be made either way, and so I’d like to look now at both sides, starting with…

The Case Against Tom King’s Batman

Something has changed with this Batman comic.

Maybe it was the wedding, hyped by many (from DC marketing to the creators) as a pivotal moment in the long history of a classic character, until...it wasn’t. But no, that’s not it, The Cold Days arc that followed (in which Bruce Wayne finagles his way onto a jury to successfully make a case that his alter ego is flawed) was one of the best Batman stories in many, many years.

Well then, maybe it was that recent KGBeast arc? After all, Nightwing was shot in the head for some reason, which I guess was maybe kind of justified by Bruce and the aforementioned Beast having liked the same gross children’s book as kids? I don’t know. The whole thing felt a little disturbing, mostly based on (excuse the pun) the execution (although I did love Batman #54, which preceded it). This shot in the head thing, however, has been worse for the current Nightwing comic (they ran off Ben Percy!), than it has been for Batman.

The gritty themes in Heroes in Crisis have some readers wondering if DC has given up on the hope that made Rebirth popular.

Or maybe the reason was and continues to be Heroes in Crisis? The mini-series has, after all, upset many fans (perhaps purposefully), brutally murdering beloved and long-tenured characters in swift and unceremonious fashion, one of which (Wally West) was a pretty literal embodiment of the hope that defined the publisher’s most recent line-wide shakeup, Rebirth.

I think that last one is having a bit of an impact on readers, so let’s talk about it. Heroes in Crisis is a 9-part series purported to be a combination of commentary on an American PTSD epidemic resulting from the war on terror, plus also a murder mystery starring superheroes. Two issues in, it’s been utterly grim and fairly cold, literally slaughtering and autopsy-ing several young characters. It also seems to be indicative of a larger grim turn for a publisher that had its biggest success this decade with Rebirth, which, again, was built on hope.

Heroes in Crisis, in other words, hasn’t been a crowd pleaser, and Tom King is the one behind it. I’m still hearing the majority of readers (both online and off) say things like This is Tom freaking King, he knows what he’s doing, but for others, confidence in King’s ability to deliver has been slightly rattled. Meanwhile, King is also a writer whose style often feels non-conventional, relying as it does on voice-heavy tricks such as repetition of key words or phrases to re-enforce meaning, novel uses of form and structure, and quotations from poems and literature. These are all things that really standout in today’s corporate superhero comics malaise, which is part of what helped King so quickly rise to prominence. The flip-side to all of that, however, is that stylistic flourishes tend to yield diminishing returns. The poetic quotations in King’s breakout 2015 series The Vision, for example, landed much harder for me than those in this week’s Batman #58. Batman, it should be noted, is a twice monthly title on a white-knuckle creative schedule, and so, really, it’s hard to fault King for going back to some of his most trusted tools here and there.

All that said, I’m not personally at the point where I’m ready to even consider dropping this title, which brings us to our other section…

The Case for Tom King’s Batman

Overall, I’ve liked King’s run, with the highlights for me being the double date issue (Clark/Lois, Bruce/Selena), the much-loved and Eisner Award-winning Batman Annual #2 (Rooftops), and the recent Cold Days arc, wherein Bruce Wayne finagles his way onto a jury and makes a case that his own alter ego is flawed (a premise so nice I rehashed it twice…sorry). And on the whole, I’m still enjoying this comic’s writing. I have a bit of Batman fatigue, but I’ve had that for at least a decade and yet still I soldier on.

Could Tom King’s Batman run be a direct play on the classic Knightfall storyline?

To me, King is engaged in a deep character study, taking apart and rebuilding Batman in an in-depth way not attempted since Knightfall. In fact, my deep suspicion here is actually that what King is trying to do with his 104-issue run is craft Knightfall for a new generation, creating a sequel of sorts in which primary villain Bane takes a less-overt and more-cerebral approach to breaking The Bat. And if that’s the case, I’m there for it.

In the original early ‘90s Knightfall, Bane weaponizes Batman’s rogues gallery against him by freeing them all from Arkham and laying back as they exhaust the Cape Crusader, pushing Bruce to place of shaken weakness after he spends several sleepless days rounding them all up. Afterwards, Bane storms Wayne Manor/The Bat Cave, and literally breaks Bruce’s back over his knee. Why? Because he wanted to prove that he could and because, of course, he’s evil.

After the failed wedding, we learn Bane has returned to his old tricks and is trying to once again break The Bat, perhaps as revenge for an earlier story arc and all the other indiginities he’s suffered through the years at the hands of Batman. Here’s where this sequel idea really becomes interesting to me. Bane’s efforts are evolved, more subtle and more cerebral than the last time he gave it his all. He’s now manipulating Bat foes into having direct incentives to complicate and terrorize Batman, be it KGBeast’s assassination attempt of Nightwing, or Catwoman being guilted into leaving Bruce at the altar. My guess is that this all could lead up to another (or different) broken back scene soon.

I find this intriguing because it strikes me as an essential update on the Knightfall story for our times. Knightfall was published in the early ‘90s, when real world foes, like Bane, were more overt. The Soviet Union had just fallen, but for years prior we’d known them as our rival, our enemy. We’d watched out for their machinations. These days, however, we seem to be involved in a Cold War sequel, rife with speculation about what Russia may or may not be doing to move against us, as well as tertiary and internal actors seemingly being motivated to aid their cause. Casting Bane as a similarly-improved tactician is sharp and heady stuff.

If that kind of metaphor is what King’s engaged in here—phew, count me in, I’d like to see where it’s all going, even if Heroes in Crisis continues to land with a thud (although I’m still hopeful that there’s something larger in play there than the first two issues would suggest…). Moreover, even with King’s style becoming more familiar, it continues to stand out as a smarter approach to the work. The meaning isn’t always as powerful as it was in his early superhero books, but King is still on a marquee title and trying something new, an increasing rarity in this age of editorial oversight and careful guarding of would-be billion dollar movie franchises. I think that entitles him to a slightly longer rope, one I’m still personally happy to afford him.

Check out more of our analytical writing on comics.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase. He also writes comics and is currently working hard to complete one.