Batman and Robin #1 (2/5)
title – “Born to Kill”
writer – Peter J. Tomasi
penciller – Patrick Gleason
inker – Mick Gray
colorist – John Kalisz
I picked this one up because of how well Tomasi handled Green Lantern Corps #1, and am tentatively planning on picking up issue #2. The prologue with the Russian batman (we never learn his actual code-name, a-la Batwing) intrigued me greatly, and is my biggest clue to the situation of Batman Incorporated in the new DCU so far (in the issues I’ve picked up). My heart hurts for the guy. The whole “Batman Incorporated” thing is still very much unexplained in the context of the reboot – and isn’t very permeable to new readers. The sentimentality of Bruce’s last visit to Crime Alley is touching, though I wonder how long the “plow it under to allow redevelopment of the neighborhood” change to Gotham’s geography will last in Batman’s mythos. The plot moves from the annual visit on the anniversary of Dr. and Mrs. Wayne’s murder to stopping a theft at a nuclear research instillation, with hints of a larger mystery in the kidnapping and murder of the Russian batman.
The argument about recklessness and the sanctity of preserving life that Batman has with Robin will be familiar to long-time readers, and is introduced with little acknowledgment of Damian’s own origins here. The personality of each character is revealed in both dialog and art, but without the benefit of actual exposition. The material is dark and epic – it seems the storytelling stakes have risen significantly from ho-hum robberies (stealing nuclear material, accidentally exploding the thieves, dissolving a living man in acid), which I feel is unfortunate for attracting un-jaded readers. The deaths don’t have weight in an of themselves, making up for that stylistic slightness in shock value.
Red Lanterns #1 (2/5)
title – “With Blood and Rage”
writer – Peter Milligan
penciller – Ed Benes
inker – Rob Hunter
colorist – Nathan Eyring
This is inaccessible to the new reader, as it requires previous knowledge of the Lantern universe to tell what exactly is going on. There is no explanation of the rings, where these lanterns fit in the Green Lantern mythos, where they are, or why the plant exploding all over Atrocitus resolves the conflict of the issue. We just learn that the characters are angry, very angry. Atrocitus, leader of the Red Lanterns, spends the issue getting in touch with his inner rage – the better to function as the leader. There is no indication that the rest of the Red Lanterns are actually producing thoughts, as such. Not much in the way of plot introduced itself.
I am a new reader to Blue Beetle, so I can say that it is quite accessible. The prologue is very much in the mode of “long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away”, with evil invaders, a brief cameo by Green Lanterns, the whole bit. The introduction of The Reach and a conquering army is chilling, particularly the forced-conscription and partial-amnesia of the conscripts.
The introduction to Jaime is very well done – letting the reader know his personality as well as where he fits into the high-school hierarchy (including the presence of gangs and friends that have dropped out). We’re introduced his romantic and friendship interests in two concise pages. We are also introduced to a shadowy more organized crime ring (not one, but two sets of violent thieves) which serve as the plot device that gets the scarab of The Reach into Jaime’s possession. When what’s possessing whom switches around, Jaime’s terror is evident.
This is the title that’s keeping my attention best, so far, with it’s combination of action, mystery, character interaction, and previously-unknown DCU history.
Ben Oliver’s art is amazing, breathtaking even when its depicting brutal and violent acts (see: the last page). The prologue robs the final panel of it’s urgency, due to the timing already established, but that the initial shock was still present.
We are introduced to Batwing – one of the batmen of Batman Incorporated. No, Batman Incorporated is not explained, and I’m assuming even as much as I am based on the solicits copy for the #1s. For this story, it doesn’t actually matter, even if I personally find the lack of explanation frustrating. We begin with a fight, which we do not realize is over whether or not the villain (Massacre) will slaughter a bus-load of people until Batwing becomes pinned. Then we are shot six weeks into the past (which is how I know the last panel of the book doesn’t mean what I think it means) and we learn that Batwing is a policeman named David Zavimbe, are introduced to policewoman Kia Okuru, whom Zavimbe is trying to mentor without, y’know, letting her know that’s what he’s doing, and the murder case most bloody.
The crime they’re looking into is brutal, and the implied state of the police force is so-corrupt-they-can’t-stand. And it ties to the history of superheroes in Africa (a brief mention of a spontaneous appearance of super-powered people, world-wide sometime in the 1960’s, if they’re using the actual date of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s independence from Belgium, which is a nice look into the historical time-line of the new DCU). The final pages were a kick to the guts, and I really hope Okuru isn’t in that crowd scene.