Review: Robin: Year One trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

"I find myself in the service of lost boys struggling to be strong men." So ends Robin: Year One, with a gorgeous sentiment as to the relationship between Alfred, Batman, and Robin. In the end, this book reveals itself not just as Robin's story, but as Batman, Captain -- nee Commissioner -- Gordon, and especially Alfred's story as well. This deceptively simple book is not only, as the name would imply, the story of Robin's first year, but the story of the first year of the Batman cast with Robin in their midst, and that gives it depth beyond a traditional sidekick story.

It was interesting to watch the Justice League Unlimited episode "Epilogue" this past weekend with an eye toward Robin: Year One (though, for the life of me, could someone remind them that it's Justice League Unlimited and not the Three Cheers for Batman hour?), especially in light of Terry McGuiness's speech that everyone leaves Batman in the end. In Robin: Year One, Dick Grayson leaves too, if only briefly, and Chuck Dixon and Scott Beatty do a good job writing a Batman that shows no more emotion when Dick leaves than when he returns. The math here is simple: If no one is as perfect as Batman, no one can ever entirely be the partner he wants; therefore, every partner must eventually leave. McGuiness ultimately becomes the perfect partner -- or replacement -- because of JLU's suggestion that he is Batman; no one else ever had a fighting chance.

And in this, perhaps we can intuit a little bit of Batman's character growth. Dixon seems to almost purposefully ape himself in some places, as Robin disobeys Batman not once, but twice, in scenarios reminiscent of stories in the Robin: Tragedy and Triumph. In essence, Dixon shows us how Batman's mistakes with Dick shade his actions in the future (the subsequent firing of Spoiler notwithstanding), and for Robin fans, it all has a nice resonance.

It's a shame, really, that this book is a retcon. Captain Gordon offers Batman some strong words about taking on a sidekick, let alone what Gordon would do were Robin to die, and it would have been interesting to see how this played out in light of what happened (or didn't happen, nowadays) to Jason. Much of the book's second chapter -- Dick's encounter with Two-Face first seen in Batman: Prodigal -- echos Batman: A Death in the Family, so much so that I hope that the rumored "next part" in Dixon's Year One series features Jason and not Oracle; I'd like to see some of what's set up here come to fruition.

Essentially, I'm reading Robin: Year One for the first appearance of Shrike, next to appear in Nightwing: On the Razor's Edge (and Robin/Batgirl: Fresh Blood), and I appreciate that Nightwing tie-in making Robin: Year One part of continuity. It's a good book to read after Batman: Dark Victory -- the plot is not as detailed, certainly, but it looks as though Javier Pulido and Robert Campanella tried very hard to make their styles and Tim Sale's mesh. What's in Robin: Year One -- even if its aftereffects won't ever be felt -- has moving moments and suggests plenty of potential, and makes a nice sidebar to Chuck Dixon's Nightwing series.

That's where I'm headed now -- reading Nightwing through to On the Razor's Edge. See you then with a review, or more news as it breaks.

War Games concerns, Legion trade, and DC's 52

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Does it concern anyone else that the solicitation for Batman: War Games Act Three seems to leave out Detective Comics #799 (Act Three, Part 1), Legends of the Dark Knight #184 (Act Three, Part 2), and Nightwing #98 (Act Three, Part 3)? Hopefully this is simply an omission from the solicitation, and not an actual reflection of the trade's contents. And really, I had hoped to see the War Games epilogues in this trade, too--Detective Comics #800 and Batman #634--but with Batman: Under the Hood, it looks like we're jumping right to Batman #635. If it's not fixed now, my hope is that we see those issues in the Batman: War Crimes trade later on.


In a "blink-and-you'll-miss-it" announcement, DC has solicited the first trade of the new Legion of Super-Heroes series, Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 1: Teenage Revolution.

The inclusion of "Vol. 1" in the announcement is interesting--will this become common practice for DC now?

UPDATED: I find this remarkably weird, but apparently the DC press release to comic book stores states that this collection will also include the Teen Titans/Legion Special. Since most of that special--if I understand correctly, featured the old Legion, I wonder if this means the whole special (which I would expect to see instead in Teen Titans: The Future is Now) or just the six-page Legion prelude from the special. But does anyone know if that prelude was just a preview of Legion #1, or a separate, independent story?


The current buzz in the air--and requisite flap in response--regard's DC's new series 52, and how a weekly series might help or hurt comics retailers. Me, I'll be holding out for 8 33/50 Volumes One through Six, the inevitable trade paperback collections. And if DC does collect this into a trade, and, let's say, we see a trade within the first six months, does this mean that we'll see an Infinite Crisis trade even sooner? One can hope!

Final DC trades for 2005

Friday, July 22, 2005

This just in -- upcoming DC trades for the rest of the year include:

- Fables: Homelands
- Lex Luthor: Man of Steel (collecting the miniseries)
- Superman: Apocalypse (collecting Action Comics #820-825, the end of Chuck Austen's run)

Also rumored is Y: The Last Man - Girl on Girl (though I do wonder if they'll change that name for bookstore audiences). Superman: Apocalypse takes care of one of the remaining 2005 hopefuls; keep watching this space to see what else we get.

Review: Gotham Central: Half a Life trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, July 18, 2005

I appreciate what Greg Rucka attempted in Gotham Central: Half a Life. He's absolutely right (though I was pleasantly surprised to see him put it in writing) that comics are overwhelmingly populated by white Christian men, and I any effort to sway that is great -- frankly, I'd like to see Greg bring the same sensibilities to a mainstream superhero, and not just the police officers of Gotham City.

In this volume, there's good drama, nice character moments -- the conversation between Renee Montoya and Maggie Sawyer for one, and between Crispus Allen and Renee, for two. I also liked seeing Josie Mac, and hopefully the next Gotham Central trade will collect Judd Winick's Josie Mac short stories, as well as the Gotham Central issues. But at the same time ... so far, I think I like Ed Brubaker's night-side Gotham Central better than Greg's day-side (do I have the shift-split right?).

Perhaps it's because night-side is populated with characters I don't know; reading Half a Life felt like reading a fairly GPD-centered issue of Batman, instead of reading something new and different like In the Line of Duty. Two-Face's appearance is inescapably telegraphed from the very beginning, and I'm still a little sore with DC for reprinting two already-reprinted issues at the beginning of Half a Life, instead of stretching for something new. What Half a Life accomplishes is to be lauded; how it got there left me a little underwhelmed.

To digress momentarily: NYPD Blue started, but never finished, an interesting plotline toward the end of its penultimate season when the department partnered one female police officer with another female police officer and the first began to suspect the second was gay; this created slow tension not only in terms of general homophobia on the straight officer's part, but also in the straight officer wondering if she could trust her gay partner with female suspects. More than name-calling, it revealed deep misunderstandings on the part of the straight officer toward her gay partner, and the gay population in general.

Half a Life, unfortunately, never achieves this level of discourse. The insults that Renee receives from fellow police officers, while terrible, are run-of-the-mill among modern coming out narratives. That her parents shun her is again both terrible and true of the experience of many gay individuals, but it's also generally been done. I felt that Two-Face's ignoring Renee's homosexuality (instead of finding some way to react to it) was a wasted moment. And above all, we're lead to believe here that Renee has been an active homosexual woman since the age of fifteen, when common continuity notes that she dated a man roundabout Batman: Contagion. Where the story had the opportunity to show the uncommon pain that closeted homosexuals suffer by embracing continuity and noting that Renee had dated men in order to hide from herself, the story instead throws continuity to the wind. So I am, indeed, happy to watch Renee in this new phase of her life. I just wish I'd learned something new by seeing her get there.

It's no surprise to me that Half a Life won an Eisner Award, and I believe it, Greg Rucka, and Michael Lark deserved it. I'm just as glad to see Gotham Central blazing new social ground as I am to see it blazing new comics ground as a police procedural. But my feeling is that I'll probably like Soft Targets a lot more than Half a Life. And hey, DC -- no more reprints of already reprinted material, eh?

(And because I do, indeed, truly appreciate Gotham Central: Half a Life, here's a link to an overwhelmingly positive review from Ninth Art, and more discussion from The Low Road.)

What to read next? I was going to start a big run of Nightwing trades, but I'm feeling behind the comics times, so now I'm thinking Hawman: Wings of Fury toward JSA: Black Reign, or else Batman: War Games Act Two. Or maybe Nightwing. We'll see.

DC Comics Solicitations for October 2005

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Collected Editions is back, and we've got DC's October trade solicitations. Reports are still coming in, but for right now, here's two:

Written by Judd Winick, art by Doug Mahnke, Tom Nguyen and others, cover by Matt Wagner.
Shocking revelations and age-old foes make this new collection -- featuring Batman #635-641 -- a ust-have. Batman is confronted with a hidden face from the past -- it's the return of the Red Hood! With Black Mask controlling the Gotham underworld, what role will Red Hood have when all is said and done?
176 pages, $9.99, in stores on Oct. 26.

Written by Jeph Loeb, art and cover by Tim Sale.
The team of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale returns to further the exciting adventures they began in Batman: The Long Halloween and followed in Batman: Dark Victory. Collecting the 6-part series that guest-starred Batman and a host of Gotham's most colorful and dangerous villains, When in Rome chronicles Catwoman's mysterious trip to Italy and her dealings with the deadly Falcone crime family. It's an incredible tale of Gotham's sexiest cat burglar!

That Batman trade has the follow-up issues as well as the Red Hood saga -- color me excited! And for $9.99 -- what a deal!

More news when it breaks ...

UPDATED: In additon, we have Outsiders: Wanted, collecting issues 16-23 (as originally predicted here). Yahoo!

Identity Crisis Direct Market cover, and July price comparisons

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

It's starting to crop up on The Pulse and Newsarama, in addition to DC Comics, but here's another look at the Michael Turner Direct Market cover for the Identity Crisis hardcover. I keep going back and forth on this one--I can't say that I love it, but I think I like it more than the Book Market edition, and the Direct Market is growing on me more and more. To wit: I'm currently fascinated by Hawkman on one side of Superman and Batman on the other; at first, I thought Wonder Woman should be finishing out the trinity, but now I just keep glancing at the two cowls side-by-side like that and swooning. And I like how you can't really tell if that's Wally or Barry, and the Atom's there (of course). I'd like to see Hal or Kyle, maybe, or Elongated Man--maybe Deathstroke. Nah--see, I keep going back and forth. But I like it. (Man, that Batman/Hawkman shot. Shades of the JLA "Crisis of Conscience" going on right now. Hey, DC--rush the trade!)

And did they really get Joss Wheadon to write the intro? But isn't he, like, at Marvel? Great Shades of Elvis!


Meanwhile, a little price matching for you. Discount Comic Book Service offers the Green Lantern: Rebirth hardcover for 50% off, $12.49 (plus shipping). MailOrder Comics and Dreamland Comics each have it for 40% off, or $14.99 (plus shipping at MailOrder Comics; Dreamland Comics has free shipping over $30). Meanwhile, to look beyond my Big Three, Bob's Comics offers Green Lantern: Rebirth for 8% off, or $22.99, but with free shipping included. So there you go.

The next Teen Titans trade and new Herculoids series

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Came to find this weekend that the next Teen Titans trade paperback is Teen Titans: The Future is Now, collecting at the very least Teen Titans #16-19, plus the Teen Titans/Legion special. If we're really lucky, maybe the trade will go all the way from 16 through 23 (nine issues, not unheard of), so that the next trade can start with "The Insiders." Teen Titans: The Future is Now is expected before the end of the year.

Completely unrelated, Wizard #166 reports that Joe Kelly will pen a Herculoids mini-series, in line with his Space Ghost mini-series. I'm in the band that (A) know nothing about the Herculoids and (B) think they visually look pretty cool, so this is a trade I'm looking forward to.

Catching up ...

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Boy, is Collected Editions behind. Gotham Central: Half a Life, Nightwing: On the Razor's Edge, Hawkman: Wings of Fury, JSA: Black Reign, Batman: War Games Act Two, Fables: The Mean Seasons ... don't go away, because Collected Editions will be back ... soon!