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Batman #18 – Review

BATMAN #18

Chapter One by: Scott Snyder (writer), Andy Kubert (pencils), Sandra Hope (inks), Brad Anderson (colorist), Nick J. Napolitano (letters)

Chapter Two by: Snyder & James Tynion IV (writers), Alex Maleev (art), Nathan Fairbairn (colors), Carlos M. Mangual (letters)

The Story: An angry and grieving Batman gets a reality check from a teenage girl.

A few things (with very minor SPOILERS): 

1). The regular artists are missed. - The best way to find out how much people appreciate you is to go away and see if they miss you.  Well….this comic really missed the talents of regular art team Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion and FCO Plascencia.  We readers have been truly spoiled by their excellence and consistency over the last 1.5 years.  Suddenly, it is harder to pay attention to Scott Snyder’s nifty script because one is distracted by how poorly Andy Kubert draws teenage girls or how “massively detailed art” and “striking panels” are not necessarily “good sequential art” or how any editor thought that Andy Kubert and Alex Maleev were a great combo on a single issue.  I guess I can understand how someone would think that Andy Kubert would be a good stand-in for Capullo because they do have basically similar drawing styles, but this issue showed that if you’re following Capullo you should just draw things differently and avoid the direct comparison because you’re going to look bad.  Plus, Alex Maleev should be chained to a desk drawing Scarlet all the time with no Bat-distractions.

2). Harper Row is a fun character. - This is a neat little story that Snyder is trotting out with Harper Row.  I like the idea of checking in with this young lady and her brother every 6-7 issues.  Presumably the idea is to give her a starring role in a story-arc at some point (which will doubtless be followed by a new spin-off series).  She’s young and fresh and it’s all about brightness and hope as a contrast to Batman’s horrible gloom.

3). But, “Angry Batman” is no fun. - Speaking of upset Batman, this issue made me miss the Dick Grayson Batman of the Old 52.  I loved reading those stories about a Batman who was happy, smiling and generally wasn’t a dick to everyone.  I know that Crabby Batman is a recurring theme of the series over the last 30 years, but I really wonder about the audience for this stuff.  Grim Batman I can understand, but this dude who is always screaming at people just wears me out.  To be clear, this is more a critique of story-direction than the craft.  Snyder really does make you believe that Batman is a total dick (pun intended).

4). What is he upset about? - I wanted to think that Batman is upset about the Death of the Family, but for some reason I kept thinking that his rage was over a death of a character in that other Batman title that I don’t read.  It’s actually very clever how Snyder was about to keep the story vague so that it “worked” with either interpretation, but I was bugged by the feeling that Batman was really over-reacting if he was just angry about Death of the Family.  I mean, the outcome of that story was just that the Bat-family didn’t want to hang around with Bruce anymore.  That warrants some gloom and depression, but probably not a 5 day bender of vigilanteism.  Now….the death in that other Bat-book?  THAT could trigger some rage, but I really don’t want to think that DC is causing Batman to be polluted by the other Bat-books.  The Snyder/Capullo run on Batman is producing all-time classic stories that DC can sell as stand alone hardcovers for years.  These are really timeless stories and that is weakened by the vaguest scent of crossover pollution.

Conclusion: By the standards of this series…..not the best.  All should be fine when the regular artists return.

Grade: C

- Dean Stell

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18 Responses

  1. He very obviously was reacting to Damian. It was a requiem issue, which were all about Damian and took place after his Death. Even if Damian is the main character in another book, he’s still Batman’s son

    • I think you’re probably right. I’m just pointing out that it’s a little weird to have a requiem issue when the character has barely appeared in this title. I used to read all the Bat-titles, so I know how weird it can be when something “BIG” happens in one title and then is barely mentioned in the other titles. On the other hand, if you’re only reading one title (Batman) and it is devoting entire issues to events that happened elsewhere, it’s kinda weird. The only reason I know anything about Damian dying is because I read about it in the news.

  2. I actually enjoy Kubert’s art so that isn’t a complaint for me.

    For me, the two weakest issues Snyder’s done on his Batman run have been the Harper Row issues. The character seems shoe-horned in especially in this issue. Her brother even more so.
    As a “requiem” issue I think this fell flat. Tomasi did a much better job on “Batman and Robin” without using any dialogue or exposition. It hammered home just how much this is hurting Bruce Wayne to lose another loved one to another criminal. The only time I saw that with Snyder in this issue is when Batman lashed out and kicked Harper Row in a fit of rage. You just don’t see Bruce Wayne lose it like that. The rest was standard fare, raging Bruce, confused-hurt-worried mouthpiece for the bystanders, a moment of self reflection by Bruce Wayne and everyone’s friends again.

    I really hope that Snyder and DC don’t have plans to make Harper Row the new Robin. It would insult the readers to throw her in like that and be counter to Batman’s ways. Row has an ex junkie brother who appears to be quite vulnerable and weak minded. Having Row become Robin would expose Batman to a world of trouble. It would make no sense.

    I’ll stick my neck out and make a prediction…Row will keep trying to become a “hero”, Batman will finally give in and say “ok, if you insist on this course, let me train you so that you have a better chance of survival”…whether she becomes a new Robin or a new “hero” I’m not certain yet.

    • I think I like Kubert in a vacuum and he has some GREAT single images in this issue. But, he’s got a lot of weird and inconsistent panels or places where the storytelling fell apart. Capullo can have a storytelling hiccup sometimes too, but when it happens to him, it’s often because he was doing some odd page layout that didn’t quite turn out. I tend to forgive those errors due to experimentation because Capullo also sometimes has these pages where the panel layouts are just amazing.

      I think you’re probably right about the ultimate direction of Harper. She’s clearly going to be a player of some sort. Maybe a Robin? Maybe something else? I guess Batman does need a Robin now, right?

      • I fully agree on Capullo’s layouts they can be really exciting.

        When Kubert has a great inker he can be quite amazing too.

        From what I gather, Snyder is going to be concentrating on Bruce Wayne’s beginnings and how he became Batman going into 2014. The other titles are going to be the “contemporary” Batman stories. The cover for Detective #21 has already been released and shows Harper Row in a tussle with Batman and an unnamed villian on the cover. Again…I don’t think Row is going to be Robin (at least for now) but she is going to be getting some kind of training/support from Batman. To me it makes no sense other than Row’s technical aptitude with Gotham’s electrical grid…but apparently this quasi-emo teenager with a septum ring (I hope the mask can cover that distinguishing feature) and more baggage than LAX (a simpleton ex-junkie homosexual brother and a father already in jail thanks to Batman..and an unknowin mother) has the makings of a superhero.

        I stand by what I said though…it would be insulting to make her Robin at this point. It would feel like, “well we planned to kill off Damien a while ago and that’s why out of no where Snyder did an issue of Batman in the midst of the Night of the Owls story that introduced a teenaged lesbian (because DC bows at the altar of diversity) “Tim Drake” (just pretend you’ve never seen a Batman story before where a teenager who fantasizes about being a hero is stalking Batman because he can see weaknesses and concerns) who immediately got the seal of approval from Alfred Pennyworth and Bruce Wayne without any idea as to who this person really is…the trick works if you don’t look at the other hand”. We need another Jean Paul Valley or get Bruce Wayne to take the tarp off the lazarus pit in the Batcave and give Damien a dunk in it.

        With the “Death of the Family” story and the “Bat Family” distancing themselves from Batman I’m guessing the stories will go the already tried and tested “grim solo avenger” route with guest slots by the variious former Robins and peripheral players.

        I’m almost missing the days of Liefeld, Portacio and Silvestri with their over-muscled spandex wearers, big shoulder pads, oversized guns and same face for every character approach. At least it was fun.

  3. Maleev was awesome! I wish he was a regular on a Batman book.

    • Ha….I like Maleev too. He wasn’t given much to do in this issue, but he can be a favorite of mine. I just don’t want him doing any superhero work until he is finished with Scarlet. :)

  4. If they needed another fill-in artist, I wish they’d brought back Becky Cloonan.

    • I know, right? I mean….just go a different direction instead of finding a guy who is roughly similar to Capullo/Glapion but not nearly as good. And….Maleev? Was he brought in to save the shipping date? Did someone say, “Kubert is a little behind, but you know who will help us punch this book out? Alex Maleev!” Just seems weird. Or was the plan to pair up these two very dissimilar artists the whole time?

  5. Actually he is Reacting to the death of Damian wayne from Batman Inc. Snyder and Tomasi both knew from the beginning of the New 52 what was gonna happen to Damian Wayne so they planned this out with the editor to effect everyones books.

    • Are you sure? I mean….I think it was implied that he was reacting to Damian, but I don’t think it was actually stated in the text.

      I really hope that isn’t the case. Damian has barely even appeared in Batman since it started. It’s one of those places where a publisher kinda ruins things by publishing too many titles. Now you have Snyder having to devote page time to a death that happened in another title with a character who has barely even appeared in the main title.

      On the other hand, if you’re reading all the Bat-titles, I’m sure it would be weird for Batman to have no reaction to Damian’s death. Oh well….this is DC’s self-inflicted mess. I have little sympathy for them.

      • Well they held off on killing Damian as long as morrison was gonna wait. he wanted to kill the boy at the end of his dick grayson batman run but they convinced him to keep the boy around.

      • It is my understanding that Tomasi knew Damien Wayne was to be killed off and wanted to do it on the title dedicated to Batman and Robin but he acquiesced on it because Damien is Morrison’s creation and Morrison intended to kill off Damien as part of his Batman and Son, RIP, Batman Inc storyline.

        I agree though…I have little sympathy for DC for not having more cohesive title interaction on their most successful franchise character. Morrison was thrown a curve ball when DC decided to run with New 52. He then had to cobble together the last half of Batman Inc from the cards he was dealt by DC. DC would have been better off leaving Batman Inc as a self contained title just like Arkham Unhinged is. As a result we have cut and paste grieving on the latest Detective Comics in the midst of a Penguin storyline that was hinging on what was happening over on the main Batman title with Penguin imprisoned by the Joker.

        I hate DiDio and DC’s “throw some muck at the wall and if it sticks we’ll run with it..for now” approach to writing.

        • I have to say that – in general – my enjoyment of superhero comics has gone up a LOT since I quit trying to read everything. I just read the good stuff, ignore everything that I think is even mediocre. If it becomes in a cross over I don’t like….I drop the title. If I don’t like the fill-in artist, I drop it. It helps so much not to hurt my brain worrying about these inconsistencies. Plus, if you’re reading digitally….you’re never missing out on anything. It’s all right there where you can get it whenever you feel like it.

          • that’s the best way.

            I learned some time ago that trying to follow characters is the path to madness. These days, I have a list of writers whose work I’ll always at least give a look. That’s about it.

            • My approach is a bit of both at this point…I have writers and artists I’ll give priority to but if a crossover or a direction comes along that I don’t like, I drop the title and continue with any others I’m enjoying until this one gets back on track.

              • Funny….I’m much more of an art-guy since I think that most superhero writers these days aren’t doing much more than writing high-quality fan-fic. But….I simply won’t follow artists around anymore. They rotate them too much and I find I end up reading comics that I don’t want with artists I don’t enjoy as much. If I want to look at their art, there is almost always something in their backlist and I can revisit if I need a fix. :)

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