Batman Comic Book Reviews for 1/1/20

RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS #41, BATGIRL #42, BATMAN BEYOND #39, JOKER/HARLEY CRIMINAL SANITY #2, and DETECTIVE COMICS #1018

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Below you’ll find reviews for all Batman-related comics from DC released on January 1, 2020. Happy New Year! – Bill “Jett” Ramey

DETECTIVE COMICS #1018 by Peter Verra

Peter J. Tomasi jumps into the new year doing what he does best, balancing Batman in and out of the mask and exploring new relationships while further developing older ones. Tomasi is hitting the ground running in 2020. Scott Goldelwski’s art and David Baron’s colors go so perfectly together, it’s a beautiful book to flip through.  The shading and colors fit so perfectly on this cold Gotham holiday night. This book does give off some 70’s vibes, at times it was like reading a classic O’Neil/Adams book.

The who, what and why are not provided this issue but that does not mean the book comes up empty-handed.  Tomasi has crafted four superbly written pieces and fantastic action pieces mixed in with a retro feeling crime scene. There is so much to sink your teeth into in this issue.  Tomasi grabs your attention early on and doesn’t let cover until the end.

Batman has two incredible scenes with Bullock.  You haven’t seen anything this good between these two since BTAS.  The back and forth is spot on, Bullock’s rude inappropriate way of communicating mixed in with Batman trying to “be the bigger man” adds some real humor at just the right moment and even gets the Batman to laugh.  I’m dying for more of these interactions, the Batman/Bullock dynamic has always needed just a little more attention if you ask me.

What takes the cake this issue is the ally scene, on both sides of the page it is just awesome!  Batman kicking ass, zip-lining through the city, taking down thugs, dropping them off to the cops.  That is what you buy the books for right? That is what Batman is all about, everything that you love about the Dark Knight is on full display in those three pages.

Tomasi taps into the recent events coming out of Tom King’s run.  The loss of Alfred weighs heavy on both Batman and Bruce Wayne.  Bruce is even taking on more responsibilities than normal, no matter how small the task.  In just a few subtle moments throughout the story you really feel the pain that Bruce is going through.

Scott Goldelwski’s artwork is a real joy to see, it reminds more of Pat Gleason and a tamed Ed McGuinness.  While the ally scene I mentioned earlier is my favorite in the book followed closely by the crime scene with the tree.  The two Bullock/Batman scenes are just perfect in every way.  Its Goldelwski’s attention to little details, like the character’s eyebrows.  That really caught my attention. He provides so much detail when Bullock and “Batman” are talking on the phone you really can get a sense of the emotion and tension between the two.  That little bit of detail goes a long way for me when I read a book.

David Baron’s coloring really does enhance the artwork, Batman is using his flashlight and Baron is blending and fading, those are the little things that take this book the extra mile.  Or when Batman is telling the cops to “shh” that warm amber color on his face really catches your eye.  Baron did a wonderful job the whole issue.

At times throughout the story you can’t help but think of ‘89 or Batman Returns as there are a few not so sublet winks and nods to those films and the holiday aspect of Returns.  While we don’t know who crashed the Wayne tree lighting, this was one hell of a story to read.  Tomasi really nails every aspect of Batman so perfectly.  Combined that with the stunning artwork from Goldewski and Baron and you have a book that is a must-read for your pull list. – Peter Verra

GRADE: B+

JOKER/HARLEY CRIMINAL SANITY #2 Review by Ryan Lower

It took us a while to get here, but we finally have the second issue of JOKER/HARLEY: CRIMINAL SANITY. Book one set the story in motion back in October, and we’re still setting the table.

Harleen, the psychiatrist, continues to help the GCPD with grisly murders, trying to connect the dots on who is behind the violence. Meanwhile, the Joker is also on the loose, but leads are almost nonexistent. In a side story, the kid who lost his mother in the debut issue gets additional storytime, leading us to believe he’s going to be important in the coming months. By the end, Joker has shown his face and his victim isn’t smiling.

Writer Kami Garcia is again very patient in her storytelling here. The issue doesn’t unravel a ton of story, but we’re never bored. Instead, we get some great true crime details that are haunting, yet interesting. The term ‘delusional’ has received a bit of focus, so it’ll be interesting to see if that factors into the overall story in coming issues.

Another stellar tag-team effort on the art from Mico Suayan and Mike Mayhew. The book flops from the present (black and white) to past (color) in a realistic form that is easy on the eyes. I do appreciate the way that style is turned on its head, and the unsettling feeling it brings to each page.

Overall, another patient, but an interesting issue of this story.

My only “complaint” was in the delay because I had to go back and reread the first issue so that I could understand every part of this one. However, with both of them being top-notch, it wasn’t too painful. – Ryan Lower

GRADE: B+

RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS #41 Review by Javier E. Trujillo

I found a lot of this issue to be confusing. Right off the bat, the story opens with a splash page showing Artemis and Red Hood passionately kissing with Jason’s narration stating, “So this happened. But it was nice. For a girl.” The story then flashes back to months ago, finding Jason and Roy Harper talking on a beach before jumping back to our current predicament of Jason lying unconscious at the feet of Artemis and Bizarro. So what was the whole thing about Jason kissing Artremis and why was it nice “for a girl”? Did I miss something about Jason’s sexuality? It doesn’t matter, at least in terms of this issue, because the story doesn’t go back to it for further context.

With the story now in the present, my confusion continued to expound as Artemis and Bizzaro spoke to the scared Cloud 9 in a manner that was just slightly…off. If Lobdell was a new writer, I’d accuse him of not knowing the characters. I actually went back to check the credits. Yup, it says Lobdell’s the writer.

Things became much clearer in the next scene as we see Devour continue to escort the boy he found last issue. Turns out, we’ve seen him before, in the recent annual, actually. I had already forgotten him, so when his identity gets spoiled on the fourth page in what I thought was the title of the issue, it didn’t mean anything to me or ring a bell. Anyways, it’s Vessel, he who can sync with the dead to use their superpowers. He’s channeling Deadman to control the bodies of our favorite missing Outlaws, hence their off-kilter speech patterns. Out of all the kids who comprise Generation Outlaw, he comes off as easily the most villainous of the lot. I don’t remember him being presented like that in the annual, but I just rolled with it, opting to let the story play out.

And play out it did, in a confusing, jumbled mess. I felt like I was missing something, be it a past issue or story pages. The story makes several leaps in narrative and logic. Why does Jason not question where Bizarro and Artemis have been? Why does everyone blindly accept Pup Pup? Is he not surprised Ma Gunn is back randomly?  How does Artemis know Jason is teaching the next generation? How did they even get back?

The saving grace for this issue was the art. David Messina returns and while his panel layout may not be as non-traditional as Rocafort, he still does a fine job with his storytelling. In fact, he kind of reminds me of the Dodsons-just some solid-looking art with easily recognizable characters, whose return I would welcome to these pages anytime.

Unfortunately, though, Red Hood: Outlaw #41 feels like a story that is racing to some imaginary finish line that happens to skip a few stops getting there. So many missed opportunities cheat the reader out of any emotional catharsis by robbing them of seeing the Outlaws reunite after a year apart. When I first binged the opening 25 issues of this book, I was drawn in by the relationships and characterizations of Jason, Artemis, & Bizarro. This storyline has glossed over so many details along with what should’ve been key moments along the way that seeing them all reunited was robbed of any impact.   Now the old and new status quos are smashed together and I’m sadly unsure why I should care. – Javier E. Trujillo

GRADE: D+

BATGIRL#42 review by Rob Veatch III

Well, the Oracle storyline comes to an end! I’m excited to see what happens… but mainly because this arc has been a bit of a drag. This issue does have a couple of cool covers, including a fun holiday-themed variant by Terry and Rachel Dodson.

With the conceit that Oracle has been created from Batgirl’s mind and therefore can predict her every move, Batgirl approaches their confrontation as a chess match of reverse psychology. Honestly, this doesn’t play out in action so much as it’s continually told to us in monologue. She keeps telling us “the last thing I would do in this situation would be to _____, so that’s what I’ll do!”, but these actions mostly don’t make sense as a way to evade or get a step up on Oracle.

Carmine Di Giandomenico creates a very cool portrait on page 5 of a partially silhouetted Batgirl waiting to confront Oracle and her underlings. This is the first in a series of tricks that Babs has set up to divert Oracle. Eventually, the two come into direct conflict when Batgirl walks right into an obvious trap because of her whole “do the thing I wouldn’t do” strategy. It’s best not to examine the plotting of too much here.

Toward the climax of the issue, Batgirl is in a pickle where she’s holding on to Jason Bard who is dangling from a rooftop about five stories up, while also trying to fight off Oracle. She tosses him toward dumpster down below that we can see is filled with garbage bags and several two-by-fours. We don’t see him land, but he shows up standing comfortably a few pages later. Comics are funny, y’all.

Oracle is apparently taken out in a large explosion, which is a reliable way to indicate a character’s demise while leaving wide-open the possibility of their return (and a close look at the background on the next page shows that it’s more than a possibility). The story ends with some character beats and a clean slate for the next story arc.

I’m realizing that I don’t know what Oracle’s reason was for wanting to destroy Batgirl and cause havoc in Gotham, other than to take part in this Year of the Villain crossover thing. Now it was probably explained several issues back and I just forgot, so it’s mostly on me, but I feel like the fact that I’ve forgotten points to a thin, convoluted motive.

So hey, we reached the end! Pat yourself on the back. Again, this story arc left a lot to be desired. I think I’m ready for something smaller and more intimate, maybe with a stronger through-line of interpersonal drama and less tie-in to some big DC event. One way or another, I’ll let you know how things shake out next month! – Rob Veatch III

GRADE: C (minus half a point for not starring Cassandra Cain)

BATMAN BEYOND #39

I started out really disliking this issue. Early on there’s a *TON* of exposition. Luckily, it gives way to some pretty good storytelling later on.

Inaki Miranda takes up art duties in this issue and all I can say is “wow.” I absolutely love his art. His designs and attention to detail are great and his design for Blight, in particular, is fantastic.

Speaking of Blight, we get a refresher on his backstory, as well as some connections he has to some main characters. The big piece of action is a fight between Blight and Batwoman. This sequence would be great if it wasn’t so exposition-heavy (lots of “this is why I’m evil” talk). As it stands, it’s just “good.”

After the big fight, the issue starts to pick up from a storytelling standpoint concerning Terry and his partner in crime on the street. Best of all, we’re promised the reveal of the identity of Batwoman in next month’s issue.

I can’t sing the praises enough for Inaki Miranda’s artwork. It’s definitely the high point of this book for me. As far as the writing, once you get past the first half of the issue, you’re in for a treat. Dan Jurgens falls into the trap we’ve seen him fall in before with writing that doesn’t really go anywhere. Luckily, he changes course and we end the issue with some pretty fun and intriguing storytelling. – Matt Whaley

GRADE: C+