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52 #30

Posted: Thursday, November 30, 2006
By: Jim Beard



Writers: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Artists: Keith Giffen (breakdowns); Joe Bennett (p), Joe Bennett and Ruy Jose (i), David Baron (colors)

Publisher: DC Comics


For Synop-Sissies Only: The Question comes home to die. Renee Montoya comes home to questions. Bruce Wayne leaves home to seek answers.

The Yo!: Some good stuff this week, enough to warrant a pretty good bullet rating.

This is the turning point for Renee Montoya, the platform from which the rest of her life will be launched. Yes, there have been other milestones for Renee in this series, but I believe, like Ralph before her, that coming back to Gotham marks a deep and substantial change in our favorite erstwhile cop. The Question, on his literal deathbed, is now her “best friend.” She accepts complete aid and asylum from her former lover, Kate Kane. She eschews conversation for meditation…,and her new best friend smiles at the sight. The honest-to-god new Renee Montoya starts here.

So, Jesus went into the desert to confront his demons…err, I mean Bruce Wayne, of course. Week Thirty offers the “missing link” between the conflicted Dark Knight of Infinite Crisis and the by-comparison jollier Caped Crusader of "One Year Later." It's obviously going to be a bit more complicated than what we see this week, but despite 52 being “A Year Without Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman”, I for one was more than glad to catch up with Bruce and his “cut and run” from Gotham.

For the most part, I’m intrigued to see how a company like DC can take an old character, one that in hindsight looks pretty silly, and re-weave it into their decades-old tapestry. The Ten-Eyed Man, that funky flunky from 1970 (Batman #226), gets turned inside out, upside down, and every which way but loose here in Week Thirty, and is re-introduced as a strange group of mystics out in the desert, the “Empty Quarter,” as they say in the issue. Bruce wants his demons cut out, and after a brief scuffle, the Ten-Eyed Men are happy to oblige. Meanwhile, Tim Drake (Robin) is concerned about everybody’s future, and Dick Grayson hurries back to Gotham. Wheels within wheels. I also dug Tim’s prescient vision of him and Dick being the new Batman and Robin. Wishful thinking, kid, or a creeping dread?

Nightwing flies back into the old belfry and immediately meets up with Batwoman. Despite their sexual incompatibility, more sparks fly here than between and Kate and her former supposed-lover Renee. I also very much appreciate the playfulness still present in Dick’s character. Despite all that has happened to him over the years, you can still believe that he was once the Boy Wonder, the Laughing Robin Hood, the kid who made Batman Laugh. That’s a small thing but a very cool thing to a long-time Bat-fan like me.

Before I forget, I also loved the reference to the Joker giving up “being a murderer for a while.” God, would I love to see a new story or two about that time and that “crazy, brilliant clown running around.”

The art by Joe Bennett was solid, as one expects from Joe, but there’s the matter of the inking, which leads us to…

The Meh: Bennett’s art was watered down this week and after several runs through the book, I can only conclude that it’s the inking this week that brought it down a notch or two. There’s an inconsistency of line that appears to take what is normally bedrock-solid pencilling and turn it into oatmeal. I can only assume this is from Joe’s own inking as Ruy’s has been fairly consistent on previous issues. Overall, it's not poor by any standard, but not what I expect from Bennett. Pencillers aren’t always their own best inkers, I guess.

Back to the story, I wish Renee’s scene with Kate were as worthwhile as her very brief moment with The Question. Unfortunately, those pages are as empty and hollow as their cousins in the first few weeks of 52. The duo seems to be stuck in a world of cliched dialogue and stereotypical situations, only the fact that they are lesbians making it any different from a million other such scenes between distanced lovers. Kate’s “let me help” stance is fine, even noble, but nothing ever quite sparkles and/or crackles between these two characters, and I think there’s something being lost or overlooked there. Pity.

And then the whole damn issue ended too soon! I was liking it, grooving on it overall, and then it was over. If there ever was a week that could have stood a few extra pages by cutting out the Origin, it was Week Thirty, not last week. We’ve been looking forward to a glimpse of the Bat-Family’s sojourn from Gotham, pumped up by DC’s hype, and then the pages ran out, and we were into the Origin…

…which had such goofy art I could barely read the words. It took me a long time to get past the visuals and force myself to read Waid’s explanation of who and what are the Metal Men. That’s Iron? That’s Tina? That’s Lead and Tin? They’re now from Japan? What happened to maybe making the concept into something that elevates it from the goofy and into the cool? That art isn’t helping anything at all, my friends. And Mercury is “volatile”? Well, yeah, he is, but someone forgot to tell the writer who wrote his recent scenes in 52 proper.

The Moment: It was like Brave & Bold started early. It was a pure fanboy moment, and I’m not shy to admit it. Nightwing meets Batwoman and they..., wait for it..., “team up"! There’s nothing groundbreaking about it, nothing intrinsically important to the 52 oeuvre, but art, dialogue and action all combined to make a pure super-hero moment, and I was all of ten years old again. Wicked!

The Line: “Believe me, there’s always a Round Two.” That should be in some sort of Super-Hero Rulebook, shouldn’t it? Great line, one of many from Nightwing this week. There’s a sense of play there, of teaching, or camaraderie, even of commiseration. Made the Nightwing-Batwoman convergence that much more special.

The Character: Renee? She grew, again. Batwoman? She offered help to Renee and accepted it from Dick. Robin? He’s concerned about Bruce and the future of the Bat-mantle. Nightwing? He knows that Gotham needs him, and he’s willing to work with a possible usurper to the Bat-throne. Bruce? God love him, he’s cracked and running around in the desert, talking to men with eyes on their fingers and falling under their soul-knives.

C’mon! Cut me some slack! Who would YOU pick? You think this stuff is easy?

Mr. Wanty Wants to see more of the Batwoman-Nightwing team-up, more of Bruce’s inner struggle, and definitely more of Renee Montoya’s future. He also wants to know exactly what DC’s got up their collective sleeve to top 52.



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