DC RELAUNCH Group 2: Bat Books
Joining us now are our Senior DC Relaunch Analysts Danny Djeljosevic, Nick Hanover and Chris Kiser with a look at the second group of titles- the Bat Books.
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artists: Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion
Chris Kiser: In a move designed to get everyone’s pull lists mixed up, DC has swapped the creative teams on the two main Bat-titles. Remember that totally sweet Detective Comics series that Scott Snyder was writing? It’s now called Batman, and it features an artist nowhere near as subtle at creating mood as Jock. All in all, though, DC has been wise enough to leave the soaring Bat-franchise largely untouched, and that is a very good thing in my book.
Danny Djeljosevic: Scott Snyder on Detective Comics was the cat’s meow, so I expect more of the same from him writing Batman. But seriously — Greg Capullo? I’m sure he’s a lovely man, but following Francesco Francavilla and Jock on Snyder’s underrated run? DOWNGRADE.
Nick Hanover: A running theme on these relaunch titles is pointlessness and silly decision making. Letting unproven artists write titles has been perhaps the most glaring example of those two traits but here we’ve got the pointless decision to have Snyder swap banners and the silly decision to no longer pair him with Jock. Unless, of course, Snyder and Jock had a falling out due to Snyder’s lack of an awesome one word name. In which case, carry on, DC.
Writer: Tony S. Daniel
Aritsts: Tony S. Daniel, Ryan Winn
Danny: To be honest, I had no idea Tony Daniel’s run on Batman was still going on, so once Detective Comics comes out I’ll have no idea that it’s being published, either. Also, what’s with the arbitrary creative team swap? That’s whack. Clearly there’s an “It ain’t broke, but let’s create the illusion of fixing it” mentality when it comes to the Batbooks in this relaunch.
Chris: Remember that kinda okay Batman series that Tony Daniel was writing? It’s now called Detective Comics, and it’ll probably still pale in comparison to whatever Grant Morrison happens to be doing with the Dark Knight at the time. I rolled my eyes when I read someone hyping this relaunched book as “the first ever Detective Comics #1 to feature Batman.” Expect issue 27 of the new series to debut a character who’ll become the cornerstone of the most celebrated multimedia franchise of the next 100 years.
Nick: I think DC missed a key opportunity here to make Detective Comics an actual detective book, like Snyder had experimented with in those heady pre-Relaunch times. There are quite a few people who long for a return of Gotham Central and this could have been excellent way to do it and the bonus of the Relaunch hype could have enabled the book to be a success in the way it wasn’t in its original run. Instead, we’ve got a title that no one is going to be excited about. No offense, Tony.
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Artists: Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray
Chris: I sure hope Damian Wayne is featured in some of the Bat-titles besides this one, because I’d really like to enjoy the character without having to wade through 20 pages of Peter Tomasi dialogue every month. Tomasi was the forerunner of this recent batch of DC editors turning writers, and it often seems like he must have slept through creative writing class the day they talked about when to start and stop an in-story conversation. It feels like a really long time since Grant Morrison launched this title as a snappy pop fiction masterpiece.
Danny: Okay, stay with me on this one: there are way too many books starring Batman. All respect to Mr. Tomasi, but I jumped ship the moment Morrison left the book. I will say, however, kudos to DC for keeping at least one guy on the same Batbook.
Nick: I suspect that DC didn’t really think about the flavor of these books very much. I’m an avid comics reader, I work for a major comics website, I can name all the Robins- yet I have no real idea what the intent of this book is. Theoretically it’s a showcase for Damian Wayne, right? So why not just give him his own book? Oh, right, you want to lure in those crusty old fanboys “new readers” who will only read things with a well-established character in them at all times. Hope you enjoy being DC’s Wolverine, Batman.
Writer: David Finch
Artist: David Finch
Chris: Only Batman could convince a publisher to take a perpetually late artist (who doubles as a critically panned writer) and let him keep doing what he was doing post-relaunch. If the fat on the Bat line could have been trimmed anywhere, it was here, but DC still seems keen on the notion that printing Batman comics is akin to printing money. And hey, this one does have the same title as the last Batman movie.
Nick: Sure, this is about the music industry but I feel like it applies here. Just substitute “an artist written DC comic” where “folk singer” is.
Writer: Duane Swierczynski
Artist: Jesus Saiz
Nick: As unfortunate as it is that the announcement of Swierczynski handling Birds of Prey has been tied to the ugly mess of gender issues DC has going on, I remain cautiously optimistic. Swierczynski has done some excellent work at Marvel and I think he can bring some much needed personality to these Batbooks.
Chris:Many fans are aghast at the prospect of a Birds of Prey series not written by Gail Simone, but they would do well to realize that the series was actually created by Chuck Dixon, not her. The real question lies in how this book will feel without Barbara Gordon starring as Oracle, who has been the heart of the Birds since day one. I thought Duane Swierczynski did an admirable job following Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction on Immortal Iron Fist and a poor one following Marjorie Liu on Black Widow. If you’re on the fence about buying this one, you might as well Two-Face it and flip a coin.
Danny: Wow, Duane Swierczynski on a DC book! This is an honest shock. I’ve liked his Marvel stuff (Punisher, Cable), so Birds of Prey should prove a solid sleeper hit. Here’s the problem, though — will this book get lost in the shuffle of the 12,000 other satellite Batbooks?
Writer: Judd Winick
Artist: Guillem March
Chris:Freeing Catwoman from the confines of the ill-conceived Gotham City Sirens? Sounds good to me. Tabbing Judd Winick as the guy to write her? Not so much. Look no further than the character’s last solo series to see how much difference a writer makes. Under Ed Brubaker, Catwoman was an Eisner nominee, but without him it quickly devolved into crossover fodder for shoddy stories like Amazons Attack.
Nick:I used to think Winick was a decent enough creator. And then he just kept hitting the same obtuse points over and over and over. I can tell you already how this series will go. Catwoman’s sidekick will be a troubled young streetwise prostitute with HIV who doesn’t yet realize she’s a lesbian and is crushing on Selina Kyle. Things will come to a head when Catwoman’s former sidekick, a rentboy with a heart of gold, returns from the dead and is pretty bitter about Catwoman leading him to his doom. Who will she pick? Will we learn a lesson about acceptance?
Danny: I’m not 12 and I’ve already discovered masturbation, so I don’t really have a use for the Catwoman comic they’re apparently trying to sell here.
Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Ardian Syaf, Vicente Cifuentes
Chris:If you don’t get a little excited over the notion of Barbara Gordon returning to the role of Batgirl, then you seriously have to question whether you’re actually a comics fan. Still, it’s a hard pill to swallow to consider what is being moved out of the way to make room for her reassumption of the mantle. First, you’ve got the loss of Stephanie Brown as Batgirl, who, under Bryan Q. Miller’s supervision, had become one of the most lovable characters in all of Bat-dom. Second, there’s the realization that Babs is likely no longer playing the role of Oracle, an innovation to the mythos that largely helped define it over the course of the past twenty years.
Danny: Look, DC, I see what you’re trying to do. You take away the Bryan Q. Miller Stephanie Brown Batgirl I was really enjoying and try to mitigate it with a Batgirl written by Gail Simone. That’s kind of you, but taking back the wheelchair-bound Oracle is in questionable taste, considering how much of a powerful symbol she was in that form.
Nick: DC is all about taking three steps back for every step forward. Which is how we’re the beneficiaries of a Gail Simone penned Batgirl that manages to make absolutely everyone frustrated and angry. Great job, DC!
Writers: J.H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman
Artist: J.H. Williams III
Chris: Is Kate Kane significantly older than Barbara Gordon? Because if not, it’s going to be pretty awkward having both a Batwoman and a Batgirl running around Gotham City at the same time. This is the one of the books that people are most eagerly anticipating, mainly because they can’t wait to get a look at all them pretty pictures.
Nick: Sometimes all you need are pretty pictures, though. The art alone may just be enough to make this book standout from the crowded Bat pack enough to continuously lure in readers.
Danny: I’m pretty sure that, on the day Batwoman #1 comes out, we’ll find ourselves reading a previously unpublished story about Ace, the Bat-Hound, and not something gorgeous by J.H. Williams III.
Writer: Judd Winick
Artist: Ben Oliver
Danny: This is the satellite Batbook that I’m most curious about. It adds a nice bit of diversity to DC’s line, but I wonder if Judd Winick can create something special here or if it will just be a flurry of Western stereotypes of Africa. Prove me wrong, Judd. Either way, this book will be problematic in some way, and the bloggers and journalists will eat it alive.
Chris: Bat-man, Bat-girl, Bat-woman, Cat-woman, Night-wing…and Bat-wing. Are there any permutations of these root words that we haven’t covered yet? Let me know when Nightwoman comes out, because I’d probably be more interested in that series than this Judd Winick-penned one about the Batman of Africa.
Nick: I will read this just to find out how awkwardly forced the whole affair is. Worst case scenario I get to see the most stunted attempt at diversification ever and I laugh my ass off. Best case scenario we get something that is actually interesting.
Writer: Kyle Higgins
Artists: Eddy Barrows, JP Mayer
Danny: Ugh, Nightwing. It just feels so disingenuous — the brightly colored kid who distanced himself from Batman by becoming a dark vigilante himself? Please. With that costume, he’s always going to feel like a Batman derivative. But! Kyle Higgins is doing pretty well on that Gates of Gotham mini, so maybe Nightwing the comic will work despite the central problem of its own main character. If anything, at least the first story arc has a circus in it.
Chris: I keep reading all these rave reviews for Kyle Higgins’ work on Batman: Gates of Gotham, but I just don’t get it. Doesn’t it bother anyone how boring that series is? My interest in Dick Grayson was reinvigorated during his stint as Batman, but I think we all assumed it was only a matter of time before he’d be pushed out of the role again. They changed the colors on the Nightwing suit, so finally all those Chris O’Donnell Robin fans will recognize the character when they walk into a comic store.
Nick: I feel reasonably certain that these two Nightwhatever titles will cancel each other out in readers’ eyes and doom themselves to instant cancellation. Too many of these Batbooks will be far too difficult for new readers to distinguish and may in fact just intimidate those casual fans away. Oh, wait, DC doesn’t care about new readers, what the fuck am I talking about?
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artist: Kenneth Rocafort
Chris: Dude, you know it’s just killing Judd Winick that he’s not writing this book. I mean, why even bring Jason Todd back from the dead in a stupid way if you aren’t going to get to write the series starring him that eventually comes as a result? With Scott Lobdell at the helm, this might read like a bad X-Men comic from the ‘90’s, but keep in mind that bad X-Men comics from the ‘90’s sold like Lady Gaga albums do today.
Danny: Red Hood and Arsenal in the same book? My cup runneth over, DC. Really.
Nick: Scott Lobdell still exists? I thought we got rid of him with some kind of phone voting event.
Writer: Adam Glass
Artist: Marco Rudy
Chris: Pretty much the only bad thing about the Arkham Asylum video game was the bad-grrl revamp of Harley Quinn’s costume, so why does that element have to be incorporated into the comics? Everything about this cover image suggests that the creative team involved has absolutely no clue why fans were originally so enamored with the character. If Suicide Squad truly is the heir apparent to Secret Six, it’s a real shame. The old Harley—cute on the outside, but demented and sadistic on the inside—would have fit perfectly into that series.
Nick: The way DC misunderstands the appeal of their characters is endlessly amusing to me. Even a cursory google search will reveal that Harley Quinn has a huge following amongst girl readers, which DC would know if they realized that women other than Gail Simone actually exist or had a tumblr account that a dashboard flooded with Harley cosplay like ours does. So the decision to strip Harley and throw her to the hordes of male comic book fans eager to prove all those stereotypes isn’t exactly baffling, but it is extremely discouraging.
Danny: I was about to say “Ain’t nobody tryin’ to hear that,” but then I looked at the characters on the (pretty dope) Ryan Benjamin cover. There’s a hammerhead shark and a cybernetic Deadshot! This is like some insane Corey Lewis shit right here. That Harley Quinn redesign, though — ain’t nobody tryin’ to hear that.
Nick: Dammit Raf, what have I told you about submitting things using Danny’s name?
Join us next week, when we realize that Superman and Green Lantern ain’t got nothin’ on Donovan.
Danny Djeljosevic is a comic book writer, award-winning filmmaker (assuming you have absolutely no followup questions), film/music critic for Spectrum Culture and Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin. Follow him on Twitter as @djeljosevic or find him somewhere in San Diego, often wearing a hat.
When he’s not writing about the cape and spandex set, Nick Hanover is a book, film and music critic for Spectrum Culture and a staff writer for No Tofu Magazine. He also translates for “Partytime” Lukash’s Panel Panopticon.
Chris Kiser does not exist. He is a figment of your imagination. You should go get that checked out. Seriously.