By: James Tynion IV & Scott Snyder (story), Guillem March (art), Tomev Morey (colors)
The Story: Calvin and Co. deal with the Gotham Butcher using some strategic running away.
The Review: One of the downsides of optimism, even the cautious kind, is you tend to run into disappointment a lot. Case in point: I had just started to enjoy myself on this title, especially with the new team dynamics Tynion introduced in the last issue. And just like that, with impeccable timing, he takes a lot of the things I liked and throws them out the window. I would be upset, but by now, it just feels like my lot in life.
I don’t want to overstate my attachment to Casey’s crew of ex-assassins, but I actually liked them—as ideas. Taking these former killers and convicts and turning them into an Ocean’s Eleven type crew, each with his or her own quirks, had a lot of potential to transform this title into something beyond a spin-off. Tynion would’ve been smart to explore the kinds of stories he could mine out of these characters, but instead, he cuts their one on-page adventure short before you even get the full excitement out of it.
Which leads me to—spoiler alert—the death of Nicky, one of Casey Washington’s support team members. Death is a funny thing in fiction. If someone dies in real life, even if it’s a complete stranger, you can easily appreciate the tragedy of that. If someone dies in a story, you don’t really tend to care unless it’s a character you have some kind of attachment to. Nicky, a lean, cocky, wise-guy stereotype who barely got more than a few panels to his name before his demise, hardly counts as someone you’ve grown to love. The impact of his death is mostly lost on us and is used primarily to emphasize the ruthless evil that is the Gotham Butcher.
Speaking of which, the Butcher is yet another one of those grappler-type villains who specialize in being violent for its own sake. He has no purpose of his own other than to enjoy the pain he inflicts, and for that reason, he is a serviceable obstacle to the story, but a boring one. Tynion exasperates these qualities by sticking to his usual, overdone writing:
“Hah! So, this is some kind of trap? How quaint. The thing you must understand, Mr. Rose, is that I don’t care if I kill you today. I will hunt you, killing everything in my path, until the day I tear your throat open with my bare hands. I will take everything you love and eviscerate it, from your precious Casey Washington to her darling child, Sarah. It’s been well over a century since I’ve had such fun. I’ve no qualms about prolonging the experience.”
That’s what you get in just two panels, by the way. Excessive scripting has been a failing of this series since day one, and it continues to drag down the pace and tone of every issue. DC writers seem to run into this problem a lot: they introduce a character/event to us, then force us to go through the same intro again as other characters have to be filled in. We already knew from #2 the origins of the Butcher; having Sebastian explain that to us again is just a waste of time for us.
March has a sexy style that makes for some great close-ups, and he has a flair for action sequences that make them come across freewheeling and wild. As an action-adventure artist, he’s both original and experienced. But when the script calls for something more subtle, he seems incapable of pulling back the energy. The emotions always seem a bit too much, overflowing from the panel, full of bug eyes and gaping mouths and taut faces. Morey does smoothing things over with some lovely, warm colors, but the lighting feels a bit too flat and washed out at times.
Conclusion: All my old doubts about the series have come rushing back with this formulaic issue, taking away every promising feature it introduced last month.
- Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: - At some point, the Court’s gonna have to figure out a workaround for that whole freezing trick on their Talons.