Outsiders Are Making a Comeback

Over the weekend, I managed to link up a pretty good run of Outsiders that I hadn’t yet started on. Outsiders Vol2. #3 has been out of stock from most places where I could have bought it at a reasonable price, and I’ve been reticent to pay ebay prices (especially S&H) for a single issue, when I knew that if Midtown had it in stock, it would’ve only cost maybe a dollar [and I’d just fill in some other gaps to make the S&H worth it]. But, the guy at one of the local flea markets finally got his booth organized [and kind of sorted!—almost unheard of for flea market comic booths], and while ain’t nobody is paying his prices for some random-ass Rai & the Future Force issues, I was ready to pay $3.25 for the issue of Outsiders I’d been looking for since this spring.

But this is a post about Bryan Edward Hill’s upcoming Batman & the Outsiders Volume 3.

Back in the summer of last year, Scott Snyder teased a return of the original Outsiders lineup in The Forge [the prelude to the Metal event]. It was just a tease—a holo-dossier image of the team with the quip “Batman has a black ops team?” And then we got nothing, until the No Justice epilogue of Metal when Batman tells Black Lightning he could use someone working from the Outside.

outsiders metal

It’s pretty clear that whatever’s going to happen with the team, it’s not going to jibe with how the team was originally teased [all 5 original members, a team that had been together for some time in the background, just without their exploits featured in any current Rebirth titles or the Geoff Johns version that is appearing in Doomsday Clock], but right now, I’m okay with that.

Bryan Edward Hill was given the reins of Detective Comics for an unfortunately brief 5-issue run which will lead into his book: Batman & The Outsiders Vol. 3. All of my fears and trepidation about the quality of an upcoming Outsiders book have melted away in the wake of this series.

One of the complaints I’ve seen about recent Detective is not just that it’s a Bat Family book, but that the Bat Family has gotten rather crowded. It’s strange that the lone-wolf Dark Knight seems up to his elbows in teenagers who “dilute” the Batman brand. At least in the Detective books, Wayne Manor is overrun by unruly teenagers. Hill runs with this idea, with a villain intent on targeting Batman’s weakness: the young Bat Family members who he’s relied on.

Batman realizes that the kids need to be reined in. To this end, Bats brings in Jefferson Pierce, Black Lightning. Why? Because Pierce was a high school teacher [now principal, IIR] with years of experience working with troubled teens who have issues with authority. Oh, and Katana’s back!

So what have we got here?

-A new Batman & the Outsiders team with fan-favorites Black Lightning and Katana at the core with some of the new Bat Family kids having a chance to shine without it having to be in Bat’s books.

Batman-The-Outsiders-1

-New Bat-villains with ties to Markovia; Karma, the main villain of this 5 issue arc was a terrorist that Batman severely injured in Markovia—which definitely feels like a callback to 80s Mike Barr callous asshole Batman—who would be worthy of recurring in other Bat stories, if writers could figure out how to make him more than a one trick pony. Other new main villain will be explored more in the opening story of the new BatO, which will likely see the team back in Markovia to investigate.

-80s fans who were constantly writing in saying that Black Lighting or Katana should be leading the team are finally getting their wish. Geoforce was a good dude but a poor team leader. It always made sense that Katana, who was already “mom” for the team or Black Lightning, who had both practical street smarts and leadership experience as a teacher, should be leading the team. When Batman was around, cases could be made that either of them were his “second”. But with Batman gone and only Markovian financial backing to keep the team going, the job fell to Brion Markov—and it went about as well as you’d expect: the team went from one screw-up to the next until Batman showed up and took over again.

-No Looker. I am more than okay with this.

What we’re probably not getting:

-We’re in the Rebirth continuity and Dr. Jace was never reintroduced Post-Crisis. There has never been a Dr. Jace in the current continuity. This is a good thing for Dr. Jace fans. I thought she was a cool character, and I hate that she got thrown under the bus for the Millennium event [all DC writers were instructed that they had to throw one character from their book under the bus to be a Manhunter sleeper agent; in the case of the Outsiders, it was decided that the woman who had given the team leader his powers and acted as the chief science advisor and almost defacto leader would suddenly betray the Outsiders for no reason, get Metamorpho killed, and be buried without honors as a traitor. It was terrible]. There is a chance we could have Dr. Jace back and all of that “she was a Manhunter sleeper all along” could be wiped out. I don’t think this is a real possibility, but I can cross my fingers.

Outsiders_Vol_1_27

-I’ve never liked the modern look for Katana. It’s ugly and dumb, and the association of the Rising Sun iconography with her because of her ethnicity is double so with a character whose ethnicity was not her defining characteristic. Sure, the orange and gold costume was garish [though I prefer it to even the crimson/maroon and gold she had in later stories], but it had a charm that’s thoroughly lacking in her black & white get-up she’s had for the last several years. IIRC, one of the rules of Suicide Squad was “no costumes”, so maybe that’s part of the justification for the look, but I’ve always though it was drab and made worse by the one spot of color being that lampshade hung on her race. The new look is a more streamlined, though slightly more colorful version of her look from New 52. She’s drawn “sexy”, which, while not a problem in and of itself, feels out of place for Katana, as she was an inversion of the “dragon lady” trope. The unflattering nature of the original costume vs. what was typical of female comic characters underscored this.

1218163-003

Anyway…

Hill can tell an exciting story and has shown that he can add some reflective depth to the characters; one of the things that always kept me sticking with the Outsiders was the potential that these characters had to show some real depth—we got flashes of it with Barr writing, but I think that under Hill’s writing, we’ll finally see some of them really living up to that potential.

I’m completely stoked for this, and at this point, I don’t care that the origins of the team may contradict how Snyder set them up. The wheels fell off Snyder and at this point, I’m done with him. Hill, on the other hand, I’m open to and see loads of potential, and I am looking forward to his run—I can hardly wait until the new book launches.

Advertisements

Cirsova’s Script for Batman #50

There are a lot of important things I probably should’ve been doing today, but in a fit of mania I wrote a 22 page script for a Batman Wedding. I hope you all enjoy this more than you did Batman #50.

Page 1:

Church sanctuary, wedding day. Members of the Bat Family and Justice League are seated in the pews in costume; Batman and Catwoman stand at the altar.

Narration: At long last, the day is finally here! The Wedding of Batman and Catwoman!

 

Page 2:

Panel One: Bat & Cat looking at each other in front of priest. Green discordant notes from the side

Priest: Do you promise to—what’s the organist doing?

Panel two: The organist is Joker.

Joker: I can’t believe you didn’t invite me to the wedding!

Panel three: Batman holds up Joker by the collar.

Batman: How DARE you!

Joker: Easy, Bats, you don’t want this wedding to blow up in everyone’s face.

 

Page 3

Panel 1: An explosion

Panel 2: Everyone in the sanctuary is coughing; there is mist everywhere.

Panel 3: Joker’s head is on the ground, looking up; it’s animatronic, because it had been a Joker doll.

Joker’s head: It would be a shame to spoil such a happy day.

Panel 4: Batman holding what’s left of the Joker automaton in one hand, covering his face with the other.

Batman: Joker gas! Quick, get everyone out of the church! Cat?

Panel 5: Batman looks back to the altar. Catwoman has passed out.

Batman: Cat!

Panel 6: Batman falls down.

 

Page 4

Panel 1: Batman, Catwoman, Robin (doesn’t matter which one), and Batgirl are pinned to a large block of ice.

Batman: Where… Where are we? Cobblepot!

Panel 2: Penguin, Joker and some Joker thugs look on at the captive Bat Family. It is clear that they’re in Iceberg Lounge. One of the Joker thugs has a freeze cannon.

Joker: I rented the place out for a reception! What do you think?

Penguin: If anyone asks, I’ll just say Joker forced me to do it. No one would believe otherwise!

Joker: It’s true!

 

Page 5:

Panel 1: Joker menaces the Bat Family

Joker: Don’t you think I wanted to be a part of this? I could’ve killed you, but I got you a gift!

Robin: You’re sick, Joker.

Panel 2: Joker turns, hand to his mouth, calling.

Joker: Ladies, bring in the wedding cake!

Panel 3: Penguin’s henchgirls, Jay, Raven, and Lark wheel out a large cake with a riddler “?” on top.

Joker: Doesn’t that look good enough to eat?

Panel 4: Mad Hatter pops out of the wedding cake holding a bridal veil.

Joker: I’ll bet you were expecting Harley Quinn! Jervis, come on out, and show ‘em what they’ve won!

 

Page 6:

Panel 1: Joker gestures to Catwoman, Mad Hatter approaches holding the veil out towards her.

Joker: We’ll have Catwoman back to a life of crime in no time! Get that on her and set her loose!

Panel 2: With the veil placed over Catwoman’s head, she looks on with a vacant stare

Joker (off panel): Now go and rob the nearest bank. Get yourself something nice for the honeymoon.

Catwoman: ~meow…

Panel 3: Joker thug shooting Catwoman with the freeze cannon.

Joker: Hit the reverse on that thing Freeze loaned us… and don’t hit Batman, we don’t want him getting out!

 

Page 7:

Panel 1: Catwoman scrambles away.

Joker: And off she goes!

Panel 2:

Batgirl: What are we going to do, Batman?

Batman: Don’t worry, I was expecting something like this. Hold your breath…

Panel 3: Everyone in the iceberg lounge looking around as gas seeps in.

Joker: Hey, what is this? Gas is MY shtick! No, don’t… pass… out… zzzzz….

 

Page 8:

Panel 1: Batman smiling

Batman: It pays to have someone working from the OUTSIDE.

Panel 2: The gas solidifies into Metamorpho

Metamorpho: Heya, Bats! Looks like these guys are down for the count with my sleeping gas!

Panel 3: Metamorpho is melting the ice with his powers

Robin: Thanks, Rex!

Batman: We’ve got to catch up with Catwoman. She’s headed to the 1st Bank of Gotham.

Panel 4: Freed, Batman is rubbing his wrists.

Batman: Can you and the rest of the Outsiders handle these clowns yourselves?

Metamorpho: For four volumes!

Panel 5: Batman has slung Joker over his shoulder.

Batman: I’ve had enough jokes for one day!

 

Page 9:

First Bank of Gotham, a towering edifice. Catwoman is climbing up the side in broad daylight!

Onlookers: Hey, is that the Catwoman?

Onlookers: What’s she doing?!

Onlookers: In her wedding dress, too!

 

Page 10:

Panel 1: The Riddler stands in front of TV camera crews in front of the bank.

Riddler: What’s black and white and robbing 1st Bank of Gotham on her wedding day? The Catwoman of course!

Panel 2: Batman grabs the Riddler; the cameras are still on them.

Batman: What’s your part in this Riddler?!

Riddler: The part I play is the part you say! Isn’t this your wedding day?

Panel 3: Batman has let Riddler go and walks past him.

Batman: I don’t have time for your nonsense. Batgirl, Robin, watch him!

Riddler aside to Batgirl: Even if it’s just an act, can’t you leave my face intact?

 

Page 11:

Panel 1: Catwoman breaks into the bank window.

Panel 2: Catwoman sneaks down halls of the bank.

Panel 3: Catwoman trying to open the Bank vault.

Panel 4: Catwoman still trying to open the Bank Vault, but looking surprised

Batman(from behind her): Stop! It’s over.

Panel 5: Batman lifting the veil off Catwoman; her eyes are clear again.

 

Page 12:

Panel 1: Batman and Catwoman standing in front of the vault.

Catwoman: What happened?

Batman: Mad Hatter put a mind control device in this wedding veil and told you to rob a bank.

Panel 2:

Batman: Joker must have hoped that if everyone thought you returned to a life of crime, it would be impossible for the Batman and the Catwoman to be married.

Panel 3: Catwoman looking downcast, turned away from Batman.

Catwoman: Maybe he’d be right…

Batman: Exactly…

 

Page 13:

Panel 1: An interrogation cell at GCP, Gordon stands next to Bullock and looks on at Joker, who’s in a straight jacket.

Gordon: There’s always more than meets-the-eye with Joker’s plans.

Panel 2: Joker grinning in the room.

Joker: It was all King Tut’s idea, I swear! He’s so funky!

Panel 3: Gordon looks frustrated.

Gordon: Do you think it’s even worth questioning him, or should we just toss him back into Arkham?

 

Page 14:

Panel 1: Gordon still standing there, but instead of Bullock, Clayface is standing next to him.

Gordon: You’re awfully quiet, Bullock…

Panel 2: Gordon looks in horror at Clayface.

Gordon: What are YOU doing here?!

Panel 3: Clayface moves in on Gordon.

Clayface: I got a bit part…

Panel 4: Clayface

Clayface: and I’m ready for my close-up!

 

Page 15:

Panel 1: A blast of a freeze ray from the freeze gun hits Clayface and knocks him away from Gordon.

Panel 2: Bullock holding the freeze gun.

Bullock: Some Asian lady with a sword said this was at the crime scene… good thing I hadn’t checked it into evidence, yet, huh?

Panel 3: Joker furious in the interrogation room

Joker: What? That’s it?! I was hoping for much more in the third act!

 

Page 16:

Panel 1: Batman is standing in front of the camera crews outside 1st Gotham Bank; Catwoman is looking down and is wearing cuffs beside him.

Batman: …and that’s why I’ve decided that the Batman and the Catwoman can NEVER get married.

Panel 2: Two-Face’s cell; Two-Face is watching the live broadcast on his TV.

Batman on the TV: Batman is a crime-fighter, and the Catwoman is a criminal.

Panel 3:

Two-Face: Why that no good double crosser…

 

Page 17:

Batman fires his grapnel with one hand, holding Catwoman in the other, and goes soaring off away from the press conference that’s formed around the outside of the bank.

Batman: It’s time she gets her just deserts.

 

Page 18:

A Gotham Courthouse.

Caption: Later that week…

 

Page 19:

Panel 1: Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle stand in front of the desk of a Justice of the peace wearing normal clothes.

Justice: Your paperwork is all in order, you’ve paid your license fee. Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Wayne.

 

Panel 2:

Bruce Wayne: It may be awhile before Batman and the Catwoman can be seen together in public.

Selina: I’m hoping that we’ll be in private for a bit. Meow!

 

Page 20:

Panel 1: Bruce and Selina leaving the courthouse.

Selina: This was all brilliant, really…

Bruce: With Batman and Catwoman ‘officially broken up’, there’s no suspicion about the wedding of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle.

Panel 2: Continuing down the steps

Selina: And that’s fine. It’s the man I’m marrying, not the costume.

Bruce: …Of course!

Panel 2 circle inset: Nightwing smiling and waving.

Nightwing: Thank God for that, right?

Panel 3: Selina looks lovingly at Bruce

Selina: You may now kiss the bride!

 

Page 21:

Panel 1: Bruce and Selina embrace and kiss.

Panel 2: The couple ride off in a car together

Selina (from inside the car): Our friends are all waiting for us at the little chapel we booked just outside of town.

 

Page 22:

Panel 1: Arkham Asylum

Joker narrating: What? That’s it?

Panel 2: Joker in his cell

Joker: No big twist ending? Batman and Catwoman aren’t getting married!? Everyone saw that coming!

Panel 3: All of the Bat Family + Catwoman waving.

All: Thanks for reading!

Batman: See you after the Honeymoon!

If you want me to have more time to devote to writing weird stuff like this, please don’t pledge to our Kickstarter for Volume 2! ;D

Disclaimer: DC owns Batman, all the characters, trademarks, etc., yadda yadda yadda.

Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor and Why I Defend It

So far, the DCEU has been pretty terrible.

  • Man of Steel was an overly serious and pompous trainwreck that fundamentally misunderstood the character of Superman and managed to make the two plus hours of non-stop action dreary and tiresome.
  • Batman vs. Superman had a few decent moments of pathos that were tied more to our memories of Chris Nolan’s Batman than anything the movie actually gave us, but those were largely mired in a poorly paced mess of a plot that relied on a number of assumptions and the feeling that we’d “missed something”. Plus making Gotham Metropolis’ Jersey City was a strange choice.
  • Suicide Squad was another trainwreck that felt like it should’ve been the second movie in its own franchise and was edited so haphazardly that I think they were going for a Tarantino feel but without an ounce of finesse; fans cheered it against critics because a) they’re fans, b) everyone hates critics, even when they’re right on occasion, and c) Harley Quinn fangirls & boys.
  • Wonder Woman was heralded as brilliant because it was the first entry into the franchise that was a competently done film.
  • After watching creepo Ezra Miller try to pressure an uncomfortable and embarrassed looking Gal Gadot into saying his Smash-the-Patriarchy BS during a promo interview, I figure I’ll wait until my gym picks up Justice League to watch it.
  • The fact that they’ve hired Ava DuVernay to direct New Gods suggests that WB & DC are entirely unserious about the prospect of making good movies in the immediate future.

LuthorNow for my dangerous claim: the one bright spot of the DCEU was Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor. It was the one genuinely interesting thing that the films did in terms of storytelling, direction, and acting. His Luthor was not without problems, of course—the biggest being that his character was named Lex Luthor.

 

The main complaint I hear about him is “He’s not Lex Luthor; he’s not my Lex Luthor,” and no, he’s really not. Which is why it’s a damn shame they call him Luthor, because now you CANNOT do anything else with the character. Lex Luthor is usually portrayed as either a criminal mastermind, a mad scientist, or evil corporate billionaire with tons of resources at his disposal. In most cases, he’s set himself up as untouchable, and in fan favorite portrayals (StAS, L&C:NAoS) he’s often a cool, calculating and collected character—quite the opposite of Eisenberg’s portrayal. You need that aloof, powerful and untouchable nature to remain an ongoing villain to Superman. Yet the Luthor portrayed in BvS is a fantastic Batman villain and far more interesting than your typical portrayal of Luthor.

At its core, Batman vs. Superman is a story about three men who are living in the shadows cast by their absent fathers*. Their fathers have shaped who they are, what they do, what they believe, and they are constantly trying to live up to ideals that they think will make the ghosts in their memories proud. Eisenberg’s Luthor is shattered by this pressure. He’s the broken mirror that’s held up to Batman and Superman; could they turn into this broken and groveling man who is desperate to make Daddy proud? Many times in his adventures, Bruce Wayne comes close to this; he approaches the edge and often has be pulled back by his friends and loved ones. He sees himself, to a degree, in a character like Eisenberg’s Luthor, and it terrifies him. He wears the mask of the happy playboy billionaire, but every day inside he’s asking himself “Am I making my father proud?” And it makes Bats and the folks watching him wonder “How is he going to avoid ending up like that? Can he? How similar they are!” Like I said, A GREAT BATMAN VILLAIN!

Now, I understand why a lot of people don’t like him, I really do! And I agree, he’s NOT Lex Luthor, and his character should NOT have been called Lex Luthor. Calling him Lex prejudiced fans against character and ensured that this intriguing villain, great in his own right, cannot be used or explored further in future. It’s a shame, because really he was the one worthwhile thing the DCEU gave us.

*:One aspect that sets Supes & Bats apart from Luthor in the film is their love for their mother—something which Luthor is not shown to have—which brings them together against him at the movie’s climax, but that’s like an essay unto itself, right there!

Retrospective: Batman and the Outsiders Vol.1 & Outsiders Vol. 1

I’ve been meaning to write this up for a while, but I’ve just been so busy that I’m only now getting around to it! A couple weeks back, I finished the original run of Outsiders. That includes Batman and the Outsiders Vol. 1, Adventures of the Outsiders (a continuation of BatO vol 1 sans Batman), and Outsiders Vol. 1 (a deluxe format monthly that ran concurrently with the conclusion of BatO post-Crisis, taking place one year after).

Outsiders_0030

Outsiders was a title with peaks and valleys in its relatively brief run. By the time it was cancelled, it’s hard to not look at it as a mercy killing. I won’t say that Looker’s arrival ruined the Outsiders, but many of its best stories predate her addition to the team. After Jim Aparo left the original title, Mike Barr’s writing was still on enough to deliver some great stories, but by the time Jim had left the deluxe format title to other artists, like Erik Larsen (who drew Geo-Force’s chin longer than the rest of his head from the lip up), Mike had started writing for a main-line Batbook and was phoning it in a bit.

The Outsiders were never a great superhero team, and a lot of their team fights were run-of-the-mill Silver Age schlock (to which it was sort of an homage, if not the last gasp). The real charm of the Outsiders was in the deeply personal moments that these characters would sometimes share with each other and the reader.

out5-9-1

Halo didn’t exactly have it easy, either, but she’s pretty chipper about it.

 

katana1

For instance, Katana begins as a very complex character; she’s lost her husband and her child and sworn bloody vengeance. Batman helps temper some of that vengeance, and taking care of Halo stirs her maternal instincts, though there’s the tension of being an adoptive mother of a teenage daughter that she has to work through. One of the great touches that I wish more had been done with was Bruce setting Tatsu up with her own oriental bookstore in Gotham as a front; she gets the ball rolling to open a store of her own on the West Coast in the deluxe series, but nothing ever comes of it. You can’t imagine how much I would love a series of Katana solving cozy oriental occult mysteries out of her bookstore. Unfortunately, Katana spends much of Outsiders Vol 1 just being the close-combat character with no powers who speaks in stilted English. While much of Katana’s personal drama actually does get resolved to satisfactory degrees (something I gather that gets rolled back in later books), the series misses out on opportunities to develop her further.

Halo_0008

Halo goes through a pretty powerful arc, and has a rough ride, learning she was never human to begin with, finding her human host body was a terrible person, and nearly being absconded with by Kobra cultists while trying to find herself. She unfortunately spends much of Outsiders Vol 1 filling in the twee teenager role, but without near as many of the touching moments, such as when she and Brion were teased at as a couple but mutually backed away—the great “you’re like a sister/I’ve never had a brother before” moment was powerful, especially given Terra’s death over in Titans, but it was a bond that never really developed deeply.

Geo-Force_0012

Fans were often split as to whether Katana or Black Lightning were Batman’s #2 on the team while he was leading it. Many folks in the letters especially wished to see Black Lightning step up into the leadership role. And I’ll give Outsiders Vol 1 this: the arc where BL is wanting to try to get back on better terms with his ex-wife, but the African politician behind the food aid charity she’s working with turns out to be an evil dictator who’s stealing the money and turning his country into a Soviet satellite really was the best the deluxe run had to offer. And it was good. But Geo-Force was, for story reasons, the nominal team lead.

Outsiders_0037

Except once Batman left, Brion kinda lost his chill, and Looker showing up to cheat on her husband (and lead Brion to cheat with Denise) didn’t help things. Looker, who was something of a knock-off of Dazzler, is portrayed as a chronic narcissist, is drawn like a drag queen, and never gets any character development beyond “Thot who cheats on her husband who misses her deeply”. Which is a real shame, because her origin arc in the final issues of BatO was really good and set her up to be a potentially better character than she ultimately ended up being.

Emily_Briggs_0002

Emily Briggs ultimately cheats on her husband because he loved her for who she was; she wanted him to be attracted to the attention seeking fame-whore persona she adopted when her physique changed. It’s pretty tragic.

Looker_001

Metamorpho was pretty great throughout. I really have no complaints where Rex was concerned other than the fact that he gets killed off for the garbage Millennium Crossover. He doesn’t get Ben Grimmed too hard, but his condition does give him some motivation. Stuff with he and Sapphire Stagg was solid, and just before he’s killed off, the two of them adopt a child together.

Outsiders_Vol_1_27

I get that it was a way they could end the comic and it had to tie into Millennium somehow, but making Dr. Jace a Manhunter sleeper agent was a terrible choice. After Batman left, she became the de facto team coordinator (if not leader), since Brion was usually having mantrums. She helped keep the team together, and really even played a role in starting it, since it was she who gave Brion his powers. Making Looker, who had sewn discord among them members of the team pretty much from the moment she showed up to the last battle with the Manhunters, the mole would’ve been a much better twist than making Dr. Jace suddenly evil for no reason.

Outsiders_0033

Barr wrote a brutal, violent, and often petulant Batman, yet somehow his other characters from Outsiders tended to shine the brightest when he was around. His return at the end of Outsiders Vol 1. and the appearance in the Annual (a story that made me reconsider whether Kobra was trash-tier) were bright spots not for him, but for the other team members, but it wasn’t quite enough. Halo’s haircut, Looker being foisted front-and-center on so many occasions, and the character development that made first run what it was getting kind of tossed in some cases, flatlined in others, left an ensemble title with the ensemble spread thin even when the stories themselves were solid.

kr

I need a better camera. I did a grid transfer enlargement of a panel of Geo-Force fighting Superman from BatO 19, one of the best issues. 

It sounds like I’m dumping really hard on a series that I do love, but I guess I kind of am. I’ll admit that a lot of the love I have for the Outsiders is for the potential that the characters and the title had that ultimately go unrealized. But I don’t want anyone to think that there weren’t high points. There were. Lots of them. And that’s why it was hard to watch a title that had so many great moments and great character development begin to grow stale and flanderize some of its best characters.

Outsiders_0040

Oh, yeah, and Atomic Knight is an Outsider for like 3 or 4 issues.

Tom King Did It (Spoilers)

Remember how I said that if Tom King started Batman 40 with a pull-back from the kiss, with Bruce saying “No” and Diana saying “Good” it would be brilliant and cathartic and illustrate that he understood both of the characters and all of that stuff?

Well, Tom pulled it off, doing it almost exactly like I said he should.

BM_40_4

(Black and Purple are Catwoman and the Gentle Man; the former is pissed because the Gentle Man never told Bats & Wondy how the passage of time worked there)

bat2.jpeg

Wondy tells him to “be good”.

Capture2.PNG

No, I’m not saying that Tom did what I suggested, merely that it was the obvious choice and the right choice and the choice that would relieve three weeks of nail-biting tension.

Tom King’s Batman is someone who could spend 40 years alone fighting demons with one of the most beautiful women on earth but stay true to the woman he made his promise to. It’s a good Batman.

 

Batman #39: “Revealed! The Secret of the Eternal Vow” and Pulling Off Brilliant Cliff-Hangers

For those of you not following DC comics, Batman recently proposed to Catwoman: Bat & Cat are engaged. Tom King’s run has been solid thus far, and parts one and two of his “Superfriends” mini-arc did well to capture the characters of both Batman and Superman and show why they are so beloved, having stripped away the dark layers of edgelord some writers put on them and showing why the two are friends: they are both men who try to do the right thing in spite of (or because of) the adversity they’ve faced, and they have a tremendous amount of respect for one another. Respect AND humility, because each feels deep down that the other is truly the better man.

yntj3458ea201

There’s trouble in paradise, however, and fandom is prepared to be outraged by Batman and Tom King’s betrayal:

batman-wonder-woman-almost-kiss-2-1075472

(Note that much of this issue is a call-back to a JLA from about 15 years ago, with Bats & Wondy’s “first kiss“)

Part 3 of “Superfriends” in Batman 39 shows the power of the cliffhanger. And the danger.

Wonder Woman and Batman have been called to spell the eternal battle of The Gentle Man. The Gentle Man is constantly fighting hordes of demons for aeons, and once Bats & Wondy promised to fill in and take his place if he ever needed a break. Well, GM needs it, and Bats & Wondy don’t go back on promises (brilliant foreshadowing, if King doesn’t drop the ball!). Unfortunately, time passes incredibly slow there, so GM’s quick vacation on Earth will be ten years for Bats & Wondy.

#39 ends with a tease that Bats & Wondy might kiss! Bats may cheat on Cat! Needless to say, there’s been a good amount of furor over this. However, there have been certain hints dropped in #39: Cat’s belief that Batman is a “Good Man”; The Gentle Man’s own devotion to his wife—he hasn’t seen her for one year in earth time, but a thousand years to him, yet he still loves her; Wonder Woman does have an intimate connection with Bats, but the Temptress role is out of character.

At the end of Thomas Burnett Swann’s The Dolphin and the Deep, the witch Circe offers the hero a choice: he may have her but abandon his friends forever, or he may keep his friends and lose her. He chooses his friends—‘Good’ Circe tells him. ‘If you had chosen me, I would have killed you.’ As his reward for choosing correctly, the hero is rewarded with true love when Circe grants the dolphin its wish to become a real girl.

I can see something similar happening in Batman #40.

If it does, Tom King will have pulled off a brilliant fake-out with his cliff hanger. If Bats stays true to Cats, he’ll be able to say to the worriers “Come on, guys, it’s BATMAN! He’s a GOOD GUY!” It will have been a nail-biting two weeks for reader, and the catharsis will be fantastic.

If Tom King drops the ball and Bats cheats on Cats with Wondy, not only will readers be disappointed at the betrayal of a fictitious character’s trust and, more importantly, the betrayal of Bats & Wondy’s core characters by a writer, he will have missed out on the chance for that brilliant cathartic moment when, after three weeks suspense, Batman says “No” and Wonder Woman says “Good, that’s what you were supposed to say”.

So, what am I getting at here? Cliff-hangers are an INCREDIBLY powerful tool in a writer’s arsenal. But the payoff of the conclusion has to meet reader’s expectations of the character. Make the “will he/won’t he?” question believable enough to cause genuine suspense (and it’s working here, Tom!), where it brings doubt into the reader’s mind, but fulfill your reader’s expectations for the characters. Tarzan doesn’t get trampled by the aurochs, John Carter doesn’t get run through by a Thark, and Batman doesn’t cheat on Catwoman with Wonder Woman. The conclusion of your cliff-hanger is what will lead readers to judge whether the cliff-hanger itself was brilliant or hackneyed.

Right now, I’m crossing my fingers that Tom goes for brilliant.

DC Metal’s Dark Knights Ranked

As promised, I am ranking the Dark Knights from DC’s Metal event.

First, I’d like to note a few things about the other cross-over/tie-in titles:

Gotham Resistance was the real gem of the event. It picks up with Damian right after Batman’s disappearance, and brings in the Teen Titans, Suicide Squad, Green Arrow, and Nightwing for an all-out-assault on a Gotham City that has been transformed into a series of Malebolges by the Batman Who Laughs and a number of Gotham Rogues he’s empowered with Nth Metal Joker cards. The story flowed well across all four titles and, despite the fact that they’re titles I’m not interested in, made me consider giving them a shot because they were ALL GOOD!

Bats Out of Hell was a disappointment. While the B-team heroes brought an A-game story, the A-team heroes’ writers brought their B-game. Despite a shot to have some really great fights between the Dark Knights and the Justice League, or some good character development to build on some of the stuff established in the one-shot tie-ins, Bats Out of Hell was largely wasted. The first two issues felt like a muddle mess of clips, failing to establish much of story in its own right. Part 3 had a decent idea of primarily featuring a Knight interacting with his counterpart, but gets an F for execution. Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps 32 literally uses Dawnbreaker’s power as an excuse to not draw half the comic. “Oh, he has power over light AND darkness? Let’s make ever other panel solid black and not draw backgrounds!” This meeting was nothing but wasted potential, and I much rather would’ve seen a Wonder-Woman tie-in devoted entirely to her and Merciless.

Batman Lost was really good. It may not have been a work of genius, but it’s easy to mistake a competently done Batman story in this vein as being genius because they’re so easy to mess up. It reminds me a bit of those navel gazey and introspective Bat stories that Grant Morrison is prone to writing; you know, the ones that that are tie-ins to his Bat Saga but are so off the wall that they don’t get collected in context of the works that would allow them to make the remotest amount of sense? It was like that, only you could follow it and it was enjoyable enough. It didn’t feel like a complete waste of time as a Bat story, even if it was kind of filler.

Now, onto the rankings of the Knights!

7. The Drowned – The Drowned is by far my least favorite of the Dark Knights. The gulf between the 6 and 7 slots are tremendous. The art wasn’t bad, but other than the whole “Batman is a woman in this world—also she is Aquaman,” it didn’t really do much to look at the character in any sort of unique, insightful, or exciting way. It had a nice aesthetic, but it failed to do anything with it and just was not an interesting book.Batman-The-Drowned.jpg

6. Red Death – Okay, Red Death is down here in number 6, but not because it was bad, just the others were better! Batman fuses with the Flash to gain access to the Speed Force. It’s kind of Cronenbergesque. The reason why it’s ranked so low is Red Death book really just portrays one brief scene between the two. I liked the concept, but wanted something meatier.Batman-The-Red-Death.jpg

5. Dawnbreaker – Dawnbreaker gets a lot of hate because Dawnbreaker is dumb. The premise, that is. The Green Lantern ring went to Bruce Wayne, who used it for revenge against criminals and went insane with power (like that one time Green Lantern went insane, except worse, because he’s Batman and has Maximum Willpower + 200%). He ends up killing everyone and everything, plunging his world into total darkness. It’s dumb, yeah, but his book tells a complete story with beginning, middle, and end, and it features some really great artwork of Lantern-Ring horrors; which is what makes HJ&tGLC 32 that much more disappointing.Batman-The-Dawnbreaker.jpg

4. Batman Who Laughs – Batman Who Laughs falls in the middle because it met expectations. And meeting expectations was not easy to do, and this could’ve been a big let-down. As it is, though, we got a pretty gruesome Bat story that gives us a decent canonical reason for why, at the end of the day, Batman CAN’T kill the Joker. Imagine Return of the Joker, only with the real Batman being possessed and not schlubby middle-aged Tim Drake. Had a real “Oh, man… Oh, shit…” vibe to it; not for the faint of heart.

1012104-the-batman-who-laughs-1.jpg

3. Murder Machine – Murder Machine was kind of bizarre and surreal, but oh my gosh it had some amazing art! In MM’s universe, Bane killed Alfred instead of breaking Batman’s back, and an AI Alfred program goes crazy, Batman along with it. This is one I need to reread so it’ll make more sense in context of the rest of the Event, but it was good enough that I decided to pick up all of Metal even though the Outsiders were a bait-and-switch in The Casting.Batman_The_Murder_Machine_Vol_1_1.jpg

2. Devastator – This one was a real surprise; I expected Devastator to be in the middle, but whoa. Here we have a Batman who had to deal with a Superman who went crazy, so he injected himself with the Doomsday virus. I was not expecting that what sent this Batman off the deep end was seeing Superman kill Lois. Devastator’s interactions with Lois were some of the most powerful in the whole event (the “I’m doing this for you, Lois…”), in part because, unlike with some of the Knights, we don’t really have an “evil” Batman so much as a Batman who is broken by his worst fear—Superman going full murdergod and no force on earth able to stop him—coming true.batman devastator.jpg

1. Merciless –Another big surprise and the best of the bunch. I’m a DCAU Wonder Woman x Batman OTP guy, so this one really tugged at the heart strings. Bats and Wonder have been leading the force of good in an extensive war with Ares. Wondy dies, and it breaks the Bat. Bats takes up Ares’ Helm of War, and goes all death knight crusader. And it’s awesome. Merciless is one of the only ones of the bunch who I could see having worked as a standalone villain. In fact, a Batman corrupted by Ares would make a pretty good recurring Wonder Woman villain, especially given the weakness of her own rogue gallery. The biggest letdown of Metal so far has been that Merciless and WW haven’t gotten much page time together, and the couple panels they got Bats Out of Hell were bland and even kinda spoiled some of Merciless’ depth. But still! Of the whole bunch, this is the one I want to see more of after Metal is over.

Merciless-1.jpg

Addenda: Mom-Jeans Lois is smokin’ hot.

metal 3