3/11/20 Bat-Comic Book Reviews

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CATWOMAN #21 Review by John Funderburg

SYNOPSIS: In this action-packed conclusion to the Villa Hermosa epic, Catwoman and Raina Creel go head-to-head. Win or lose, this is a crossroads for Catwoman. Will she stay with her sister in their new home, or return to Gotham City and the life she hoped she had left behind?

Culmination at Creel Mansion!

It all comes down to this!  Catwoman has clawed her way through the zombies that have been unleashed upon Villa Hermosa and is ready for a final showdown with Raina Creel.

Selina is conflicted.  She can’t sleep.  Things haven’t felt right since she left Gotham.  She’s fighting an internal conflict that has finally risen to the surface in the midst of her external conflict with the zombie hoards.  She isn’t where she is supposed to be.

Battered, bruised, and covered in cuts, Catwoman has at length come face to face with the dastardly, though feeble, Raina Creel.  After pinning her to the ground, Selina regales Raina with a story of how she took to a life of crime, only to discover that she couldn’t fill the emptiness within because she didn’t have someone to take care of, and she didn’t have anyone to take care of her.  The possessions she stole, the life she lived, no longer held meaning without someone to love.  It’s all very touching. It’s a plea to have Raina change her ways…

But will she?

Nah.

Raina’s son Adam immediately rips her throat out once Selina stops talking, which effectively ends the whole shebang.  The end.  RIP Raina.  Selina leaves a canister of the water from the Lazarus Pit at the hospital so Linda can be cured from the attack she suffered at the Pawn Shop, and Selina and her sister drive off into the Sunset (literally).  She’s headed back to Gotham.  Deuces!

Jöelle Jones wraps up this arc in a tepid, uninspired manner.  Oddly enough, though I didn’t care for the zombie angle that Jones took, the conclusion feels premature.  I felt like things were just ramping up with Raina Creel and her sinister plan, when suddenly Creel is dead, the day is saved, and the story building from Issue #1 closes, seemingly permanently.  It feels like a TV show that the writers knew was getting canceled so had to wrap everything up in one final episode.

This is frustrating because we’ll never know what Raina Creel was trying to accomplish.  All of the Hermosa elite imbibed the tonic she created, turning them into zombies, but because Raina doesn’t survive, we can’t know what her end goal was, other than to create an army of suggestible zombies for… some purpose?  The ending is particularly vexing because Raina Creel started off as a rather enigmatic and compelling villain (see Catwoman Vol. 1: Copycats), but by this issue, she’s regrettably dissolved into a hackneyed cliché.

Though the story suffers some bumps, the artwork by Fernando Blanco is quite good this month.  He is able to showcase his versatility as an artist on the pages where Selina is telling a story from her past – I would have thought a completely different artist was drafting these pages.  Colors by FCO Plascencia are excellent; though I didn’t care for the zombie narrative at all, I do love the psychedelic color palate that FCO got to explore here – it’s my favorite aspect of the book.

Well, for the time being, it looks like Selina’s adventures in Villa Hermosa have come to an end.  She’s headed back to Gotham!  The last page of the issue promises that the story will be continued in Catwoman’s 80th Anniversary Issue (out 4/15), even though Catwoman #22 will be out the week before, on 4/8.  Be on the lookout for the reviews for these books right here on BOF.

Until then! – John Funderburg

GRADE: C


THE BATMAN’S GRAVE #6 Review by Javier E. Trujillo

SYNOPSIS: The Batman is trapped in the most dangerous house in Gotham City, trying to protect Commissioner Gordon from a secret army out to kill anyone involved in the justice system. The war on the law has only just begun.

Picking up immediately where the last issue left off, Batman and Gordon are deep inside Arkham Asylum and will have to run a gauntlet of Scorn Army soldiers if they want to survive the night! As the cover suggests, we are in for some action!

Ellis keeps the fighting interesting as Batman & Gordon have a conversation as they (okay, really just Batman) go through their foes. Ellis’ dry wit is present as the Dark Knight and the Commissioner trade barbs on life expectancy, but it’s not all flip remarks. Batman is talking out the case as he goes, insinuating to Gordon that this plan has been going on for far longer than either of them have suspected and laid out the reasons why. Even dealing with an army, Batman’s mind is still working on clues and patterns!

The Arkham action is breathtaking as one would expect from Hitch at this point. It’s not just that he draws a physically imposing Caped Crusader who can strike as quickly as a cobra. It’s all the little details, too, like Batarangs that resemble Christian Bale’s. (Hey, I had to point it out. It’s Batman-On-Film, after all!) Not only that, but weapons that he pulls out from his utility belt are clearly seen stored there behind his back before they are utilized later on in the fight. It adds to the verisimilitude of the combat and speaks to Bruce’s nightly preparation. Also like Bale’s Dark Knight, Batman uses the scalloped edges of his gloves to block and entangle attacking blade weapons.

One of the best moments in this issue is the splash page of Batman found surrounded by his enemies. Our hero announces with determination, “I am now in a mood.” I turned the page in anticipation, eager to see the comic’s cover elaborated upon…only to find the Bat-Signal shining over the Gotham skyline with Batman in the next panel asking Gordon, “Didn’t I just drop you off here three hours ago?” I felt cheated.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I found the preceding 14 pages to be thrilling. It’s just that with all the build-up, I assumed it was going to culminate in the craziest battle for this series yet. I was anticipating what Ellis and Hitch would pull out of their hats to get the Caped Crusader out of this jam and now am left to my own imagination’s devices. Instead, we get a rooftop briefing where Gordon advises Batman that ‘80s villain Cornelius Stirk is unaccounted for after their recent fracas at Arkham.

This escape results in a scene in the Batcave between Bruce and Alfred, with the dutiful butler recounting a tale of encountering a similar villain back in 1984. The story culminates in Alfred putting two bullets into the back of a man’s head and dumping the body in the river!

I find it really interesting how Ellis has played up the more fatal tendencies of Batman’s closest allies, while in the meantime highlighting The Dark Knight’s fastidious adherence to not killing. It puts him in stark contrast to two men whom he holds dear. While I was surprised to hear of war veteran Alfred executing someone, I felt more shocked to see Commissioner Gordon exclaim he should shoot an Arkham patient in the head. While the man was a threat, he was mentally ill and not seemingly part of the Scorn Army trap. A lethal headshot seems extreme to me for someone who was just minding his own business in his room till Batman caused a ruckus outside his door. Now, maybe Gordon was just threatening out loud, but in this day and age, a police officer shooting a mental patient would cause quite a stir, even in Gotham I’d imagine.

This brings up another interesting aspect of this series-continuity. You can easily hand this book off to a newer reader and they can jump right into the series with only knowing the Bat-basics. While Flamingo and Stirk are rogues with varying histories with the Dark Knight, you don’t need to have read any of those issues to get what’s going on here. While Batman seems to have been Batman for some time, there also appears to be a freshness to his career. Look at Gordon chiding the Caped Crusader for not giving him a cell phone to contact him by or Batman constantly reminding Gordon to not kill-doesn’t sound like a man who has been fighting alongside a vigilante for over a decade.

Is this the future for DC?

Stories told with iconic characters not tied to a certain timeline?

The issue closes with Batman investigating another murder, this time of the head of the GCPD’s Crime Scene Unit, Dr. Daniel Kaysen. Again, The Batman tries to put himself in the victim’s mindset but gets caught in the act by Gordon, who notices the verbal tic. This makes this scene distinctive from the prior ones as Batman isn’t seen as depicting himself in the victim’s place.

I’m going to mention the details of the art once again. Hitch carefully places them in there for the readers to notice and rediscover later. Now, I’m a big fan of Peter Tomasi and I am enjoying his run on Detective, but Eliis, with the way Batman breaks down the scene of the crime, out-detects Detective Comics. I am thoroughly enjoying the procedural aspect of this book and seeing how Batman works through the investigation out loud. The issue closes on a question, one Batman will have to wonder about for an extra month as the title takes a quick monthly hiatus before barreling forward with the second half of the arc.

I am without a doubt loving every issue of this book. Maybe some blow me away more than others, but the writing, art, inking, and coloring are perfectly in tune with each other, providing an exciting issue starring Batman month in and month out. As we get into the back half of the story, I feel like nothing is sacred. Could it actually end with Bruce found lying in The Batman’s grave? Anything is possible in this title. Javier E. Trujillo

 GRADE: B+


BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS #11 Review by E. Chad Metz

SYNOPSIS: Black Lightning is an Outsider no more! It’s up to Katana to take up the reigns of leadership as things look their darkest for the team-and the new addition of Babylon has thrown the team into flux. Plus, Batman is far from thrilled with the secrets that the Signal and Orphan are keeping from him. And this is exactly what Ra’s al Ghul wants: a broken team that doesn’t stand a chance against his new League and their deadliest assassin yet.

The gang’s all here…sort of.

After months of building in different silos, the Outsiders unite in the latest issue. Splitting the team up and having them grow together in smaller groups was methodical, and at some points, you could feel it in the story, but that wait works in this issue. The last time the core Outsiders (Black Lightning, Katana, Orphan, and Signal) were together the audience knew they weren’t a team yet, and that feeling was intentional. That feeling was driven so hard so that having them come together here feels believable and earned. That flows into the action, which is plentiful in this issue.

Even though the core of the team is finally, the entire team has yet to fully form. These two initial arcs have all stemmed from Batman trying to get to Sofia. It all seems to be leading to Sofia having some role on the team and Batman being a more active participant. Neither is a part of the action with the other Outsiders. They are having a conversation about Sofia’s future with The Batman.

If I have one major complaint is that I do not feel anything for Sofia. While the others have been building their character off one another Sofia has spent her time binging back and forth between the Outsiders and Ra’s Al Ghul. Her stint with the Demon feels rushed, as does he turn to join the Bat. The story is not over so maybe the closing chapters will offer up something more for the character, it is teased that she will get a Bat-Identity at the end of this book, but as of now, she’s been little more than a McGuffin.

I do have one other complaint, but it is not about the contents of the book itself. It is about the cover, which lets us believe Black Lightning has had it with being an Outsider. The distrust between BL and Batman is one of my favorite parts of the book, and I am expecting some form of confrontation between the two, but nothing close to that happened in this book. After last month, I did not expect anything to happen in this issue. I do not understand why such a quintessential “I quit” cover was used on an issue that has nothing to do with that. Whoever is picking the covers needs to do a better job. It does the book a disservice when the cover sets expectations.

Now that I’m off my soapbox, really enjoyed the progression in this issue and actual team heroics. Looking forward to the end of this arc. – E. Chad Metz

GRADE: B+