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God of Comics – Detective Comics #965

God Of Comics, Reviews

September 26, 2017

Detective Comics #965 (DC Comics)

A Lonely Place of Living.

That’s the name of this story arc. It’s a play on A Lonely Place of Dying, the tale that introduced us to Tim Drake as Robin, and though the art can be a little iffy in places the writing is spot on: a kid figures out that Dick Grayson and Jason Todd were Robin, so Bruce Wayne must be Batman. He’s proven to be a genius and has noted the Bat is acting crazier than usual – he gets Dick involved in trying to help Bruce, but Dick is firmly Nightwing at this point and Bruce needs a Robin. It’s awesome stuff, full of psychology and pathos and some excellent Joker / Two-Face villainy, and it’s an easy recommendation.

And then all of that was tossed aside in the nu52. “Tim Drake” was no longer his real name, but the name he was given as a part of the Witness Protection Program after hacking the Penguin (and the government moved him to Gotham because nothing made any sense at all in the nu52). That Tim was never a Robin, adopting Red Robin from the get-go because he thought that would pay homage to Jason without stepping on any toes – and the name Red Robin wasn’t going to trigger any guilt or anger in Bruce, not with the name graphically illustrating a certain crowbar-related incident.

The real reason for Red Robin was that black and red are cooooooooool colors that are also exxxxxxxxxxrtreme and they match the nineties aesthetic that makes so much of the nu52 unreadable.

But this? This feels like the last vestiges of the nu52 are being washed away. Tim Drake is back, and his reason for becoming Red Robin is because he’d moved on and become a hero in his own right, having helped Bruce come to terms with Jason’s brutal death.

Of course, things aren’t so cut-and-dry.

In an earlier part of James Tynion IV and Christopher Sebela’s run on this title, Tim sacrificed himself for Gotham. Everyone thinks he’s dead, but in truth he was taken by people good enough to fool Batman. He’s been stuck wherever he is, information about his captors and their reasons doled out slowly. We don’t know what’s about to happen but James has been laying an ever-increasing complexity in this tale, one that raises the stakes with every arc and makes every previous arc better in retrospect.

What’s even more impressive is how good those story arcs are to begin with. Carmen Carnero and Ulises Arreola are a large part of that, bringing light to Gotham and the world while keeping the Bat in shadows, working a variety of inks and vibrancies to a title that is all the stronger for it. We don’t mention letterers much these days, but Sal Cipriano’s work on this title has been exquisite and has given immediately recognizable textures to the voices of Gotham. It’s a heady mix of darkness and light, silent sounds and voices that seep off the page, mingled with strong story-telling and interesting characters.

It is very much everything you could want from a Batman comic, and you should read it.

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God of Comics – Detective Comics #962

God Of Comics, Reviews

August 7, 2017

Detective Comics #962 (DC Comics)

Wow. Azrael. Okay. This is a big one. Here we go.

The nineties were a dark time for western culture, both in terms of real life and media. In the real world, we were beginning to see the fallout of the selfish seventies and greed-wrought eighties, and the storytelling from that era reflected an increase in violence and so-called realism, a virulent taint that continues to haunt us to this day.

Back then, there were a number of people that looked at the operatic DCU, with its focus on hope and making the world a better place, and started howling about how DC was unrealistic. They wanted blood, they wanted death. They didn’t believe in Superman and the wanted a Batman that would kill…

… so DC Comics killed Superman and gave us a murderous Batman.

We’re going to focus on the latter right now. No one outside of Tim Burton ever thought that Bruce Wayne would become a killer, so they needed a new Batman and they introduced two characters to make that happen: Bane, to take Bruce out of action, and Jean-Paul Valley, to replace him.

Those same people that wanted a murderous Batman hated what they got and demanded that Bruce come back. I don’t think they ever realized the genius of what DC had done: by giving those people what they wanted, DC Comics was able to criticize the trends of the industry and return to form with an operatic climax that was an amazing bit of storytelling.

Bane survived intact and went on to be one the one person that Bruce genuinely worries about, the one guy Bruce is never sure if he can beat. Azrael – Jean-Paul Valley – didn’t fare so well. A large part of the fanbase hated him for being the representative of what they said they’d wanted, never understanding the larger cultural commentary the character represented.

He got his own series for a bit that meandered between good and terrible, often within the same issue. He was then largely forgotten until more recently, where he’s been a part of the commentary Detective Comics is doing on the Bat-family as a whole: the Robins, Catwoman, Spoiler, Batwoman, both Pennyworths, Black Bat, et al.

See, Jean-Paul Valley is interesting. He’s the latest in a long line of engineered assassins that are created by a religious order and then allowed to live somewhat normal lives until they’re activated by something called the System – a doctrine that is implanted via hypnosis and other means into the subconscious of the victim. There are certain circumstances in which the System takes over and makes use of the genetic modifications that the religious order created in their assassin, but Jean-Paul himself cannot make use of them outside of those circumstances.

Or so we thought.

Luke Fox is Batwing, a recent recruit of Bruce into his crusade and the son of Lucius Fox, who was played by Morgan Freeman in the Nolan movies. He’s a tech genius and wunderkind, a better adjusted African-American version of Tony Stark who works with Bruce and recently stepped into Batman’s world. He’s also working with hacking algorithms and techniques created by himself, Tim Drake, and Harper – and he thinks he can hack into the System itself.

Part of the System is recognition of appearance: in Jean-Paul Valley’s case, the clothes make the angel. He can only be Azrael and access his powers when he’s in a special suit. Luke has built an alternative suit for him, one that we nineties kids will remember, one that destroyed Jean-Paul before but might save him and everyone around him.

And if that isn’t proof of how much James Tynion IV loves the Bat-comics and the quality of his writing, I don’t know what is. He’s literally taken something that many are, at best, iffy about, and made it into a crowning moment of awesome and we get to read it in this very issue. You’d be worthy of being an Arkham inmate if you think that’s anything less than an amazing accomplishment.

DC Comics believes in him, and you can tell by the artists on this project: the expressive and fine lines of Alvaro Martinez, deft inks of Raul Fernandez, and deep colors of Brad Anderson combine in a way that makes their already excellent work more than the sum of its parts and brings James’ writing to life. This is among the best run of comics DC Comics has ever published, and everyone involved should be proud of the work they’ve done.

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