No Spoilers: Essential Batman Reborn?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

I'm about to place my pre-order at my local comics shop, and I'm eyeing Tony Daniel's Batman: Life After Death. I've read Grant Morrison's Batman and Robin volume one, but I haven't yet cracked my copy of Judd Winick's Batman: Long Shadows.

Without spoilers, can you tell me whether the Winick-Daniel run is essential for reading the next volume of Batman and Robin, Blackest Night, and into Return of Bruce Wayne and Batman #700, or if I can set Long Shadows and Life After Death aside for now?

I know there's the mystery of the new Black Mask (which I'm trying very hard not to spoil for myself!) but I had a sense that the Morrison books are where the real action is, and the Winick-Daniel books are just window dressing. But, if there's something in the Winick-Daniel books that factors into the "main" Batman plot, then I'll start paying more attention.

No spoilers, please, but I appreciate the advice. New reviews coming this week!
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28 comments:

  1. The Winick-Daniel run really isn't necessary if you're only interested in Morrison's Batman. The only non-Morrison book I'd say is relevant to the "main" Batman plot would be Yost's run on Red Robin, and even then it's not required reading.

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  2. You can pass on the Winnick and Daniel stuff. Winnick's arc was enjoyable, but not essential unless you want a good way to pass over Battle for the Cowl.

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  3. Neither is all that important for the "Batman Reborn" megastory, but Daniel's is *far* superior to Winick's.

    Winick's story was treading water but Daniel WROTE BATMAN. He eased Dick into the cowl and gave an interesting story that mixed old and new plot-lines together. Plus, Daniel's art is much better than Bagley's.

    I'd skip Winick's all together. You won't miss a thing.

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  4. Winnick's brief run began with an EXCELLENT transition issue that set Dick up as Batman. If anything, I'd recommend reading that before you go further, as the effect may be lost as you get more and more into the era of Dick as Batman.

    Unfortunately, the short story arc that Winnick followed up with was pretty lacking (although the Bagley art was great).

    Daniel's run was a really mixed bag. I like his art a lot, and his overall plot was a pretty good idea, but it really felt like he was writing Bruce for most of the story, and he didn't really have any sense of pacing or planning until the last couple issues. On top of that, it really reminded me of some of my least favorite Batman work (generic gang stories of the late 90s and early 00s), so that left me somewhat sour as well.

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  5. Hi there, man. Winnick and Daniel´s run is fun but not very good andnot essential. What´s essential is everything written by Morrison.

    So, you can skip those Winnick-Daniel issues.

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  6. Matthew is right. Read that transition issue: Batman #687, it is fantastic. As someone who read the Winick-Daniel stuff BEFORE the Morrison Batman & Robin (because R.I.P. put me off of Morrison for a while, and then I read All-Star Superman), I can attest that yeah, Morrison's stuff is the more primary story, so stick with that if you want. However, let me just say of the two runs that Long Shadows is WAY better, mostly because it's shorter. Life After Death kinda drags.

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  7. From everything I have gathered, you can skip Long Shadows. Really Lack Luster and not worth shelling the cash out for the collection. I had it on my pull list until I read numerous reviews of Winicks lack luster arc. Seeing where the story line goes next prior to pulling anymore trades....

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  8. I REALLY like Tony Daniel's first few issues, but then his 2-part Riddler story didn't do anything for me.

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  9. Thanks everyone for your answers. I appreciate you all helping me navigate this.

    Let me redirect the question just slightly. I am very intent (perhaps ridiculously) in not spoiling the Black Mask mystery for myself, but rather reading it in its own due time. So, in thinking about Morrison's work on Batman and Robin and related books, is there any Morrison title that spoils the Black Mask mystery?

    That is, not in the Winick-Daniel books, but in the ancilliary titles, does the Black Mask mystery even get mentioned, or is it as if it doesn't exist in the Morrison and other books?

    Thanks again!

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  10. No. Morrison MIGHT have mentioned Black Mask ONCE but it doesn't spoil anything.

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  11. Morrison's works are almost a entirely seperate mini-universe, yes they are all happening to the real batman and dick and damian and everything but in my opinion the only truly essential thing to read is the new batman and robin and the return of bruce wayne, plus the 2 issues of batman 701-702 not released yet. Oh and should really read batwoman: elegy, it has nothing to do with batman: reborn but is a great read onto itself and the best artwork out there.

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  12. Yeah,B&R has nothing to do with the Black Mask mystery, although I THINK, but I don't know cuz I didn't read it, Gotham City Sirens mentions it.

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  13. Morrison doesn't play well with others, and here seems to be no exception. I think his own title is standalone and is the only "essential" "Bat-family" story - it contains all you need to know.

    And Daniel's run is much better, but equally unessential.

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  14. Black Mask's featured as a supporting character in Streets of Gotham, in a way which makes Battle for the Cowl irritatingly essential for Dini's run.

    It's only when the character serves his plot function and gets the hell out that the title starts to get in anyway interesting.

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  15. I'm not 100% sure, but I think that Morrison does not mention anything going on in the other Bat titles.
    However: Hine's Detective Comics is a continuation of Daniel's Black Mask story and spoiles its outcome!

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  16. I was just wondering, if I only wanted to read the Morrison Batman books, do I bother with Battle for the Cowl? It seems like it would be pretty important, right?

    Does anyone want to post a "Morrison + just the essentials" Batman reading list? I guess that would start with Batman and Son (that was GM's first Batman book, right?).

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  17. Battle for the Cowl is pretty unimportant in the grand scheme of the "Morrison +" reading order. The plot threads dangling from BftC are picked up in Batman 688-699, and some are still dangling.

    I will second the "Batman 687" inclusion into the reading list, as well as issues 1-12 of Red Robin (which can be read concurrently w/Batman and Robin). I would not be surprised that Morrison and the Bat editors sat down when he pitched who would be Batman and Robin after RIP/FC, and they said, "What should we do w/Tim Drake?" and Morrison tossed out the germ of an idea: Tim is the only one in-universe that is a good enough detective to realize Bruce is alive. Yost did a great job (I thought) with the series when read in big chunks (I still read Batman titles in monthlies, but read them in bunches).

    In trades, I'd go with

    Batman and Son
    The Black Glove
    RIP
    Final Crisis
    Batman: Long Shadows
    Batman Reborn (B&R v1)
    Red Robin: The Grail
    Batman vs. Robin (B&R v2)*
    Red Robin: Collision*

    It'll be interesting to see how they collect B&R 13-16 and Batman 700-702. The four issues of B&R are the culmination of the RIP+Batman Reborn Morrison arc. Batman 700 stands alone in some sense (although it explains Morrison's view on time travel quite succinctly), and 701-702 flash us back to the post-RIP/pre-FC timeframe.

    *These two trades sit in the same timeframe, and I'll have to re-read to tell you which will be the preferred ending point.

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  18. I second Bob's list for the "essential" reading order, only from what I understand above, you can pull out "Long Shadows."

    When I read Batman & Robin Vol. 1, I read Batman RIP right before it and didn't feel like I'd missed a step (that is, didn't need Long Shadows and didn't need Battle for the Cowl, either). If you take the RIP/Batman & Robin Vol. 1 "jump" as a kind of "one year later" (or "couple weeks/months later," as the case may be), then I don't think you really lose anything.

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  19. Well, I'm gonna toss in my two cents.

    I believe that it's six months in between RIP and B&R, because RIP starts and ends with the "Batman and Robin will NEVER die!" scene in which Dick and Damian attack Le Bossu, then jumps back six months to Bruce's encounter with the Black Glove at Arkham. B&R #3 ends with the "Batman and Robin will NEVER die!" scene, illustrated this time by Quitely (who does a great rendition of Le Bossu).

    Is Red Robin essential? I haven't read it, but it seems like - and I'm trying not to spoil B&R for you - Dick and Damian come to the conclusion on their own that Bruce might still be alive in the past. While Tim might have explained it to them in his book, Morrison makes no mention of that conversation and just has Dick and Damian come to a sort of epiphany before going clue-hunting.

    B&R Vol. 2 would probably be a better ending than Collision, simply because B&R ends on a dynamite cliffhanger that's going to lead right into B&R Vol. 3 (if Morrison and Irving can get issue 13 out sometime this year).

    As for Black Mask, there are a few glib references to who he is sprinkled throughout current Batman comics - moments like Batman just tossing out, "Oh, yeah, so-and-so isn't Black Mask anymore. Total nutter." It's kind of obvious, in my opinion, who it is (cui bono?), but at any rate avoid the Hines issues of DC (which are going to be collected in an Arkham Reborn trade, which is probably going to require a "What's going on in other books" page) until you've read Daniels's proper reveal of the new Black Mask.

    Long story short, Morrison's Bat-catalogue (a Batalogue?) is the only essential reading since he's playing in his own little sandbox, and that's the sandbox from which the Emperor Morrison is guiding the Bat-canon. All the others, I think, really are just window-dressing - even (and I bet I'm going to get jumped for saying this) Red Robin, which is so well-regarded here.

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  20. Honestly even though Red Robin is hardly essential it should be read just because it's so good. It's easy the second best Bat book currently (number one being B&R), and is miles ahead of anything Winick or Daniel wrote.

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  21. Wow, I'm really surprised that Battle for the Cowl isn't considered essential reading; I guess Morrison really is just telling HIS story, and everyone else is just trying to keep up with him.

    Thanks for the help guys. I'm still in the beginning stages of Countdown in terms of my reading, and about to get into the Batman books (I've got Batman and Son, but haven't read it yet). This list, along with the (always great) DC Trade Paperback Guideline, will guide me through my Batman reading!

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  22. Battle for the Cowl isn't considered essential reading mostly because it's unnecesary. It kind of fills in a gap between the volumes saying "this is how dick gets the cowl", but it's not a gap that needs to be explained since it's pretty clear cut. It informs the Batman book, but nothing of Morrisons; and depending on who you ask, it's not very good.

    Everybody's always trying to keep up with Morrison, readers included; his detractors are usually born of fans who fail to keep up and resent him for it.

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  23. @D. Mark Simms: If you're reading Countdown to get ready for Morrison's Batman or Final Crisis I'd highly suggest that you just skip it. Morrison had nothing to do with it, and it really doesn't connect into FC at all. Honestly it's just pretty confusing/bad and spun out of editorial mandate. A better prequel to Morrison's stuff is 52 and Seven Soldiers of Victory.

    As for Battle for the Cowl, it isn't essential simply because it was an easy way for DC to get from point A to point B while Morrison was taking a break/preping B&R. There's nothing bad about the story per se, it's just extremely predictable and doesn't really introduce that many new story elements besides Grayson taking up the role of Batman. For those who do read it though, be sure to picture Jason Todd's lines in Christopher Nolan's Batman voice. It increases the entertainment value a hundredfold.

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  24. If you're just trying to avoid the Black Mask story stuff, it's entirely covered in Tony Daniel's Batman run and David Hine's Detective Comics run.

    Having said that, I do believe that his revealed identity has been mentioned in passing in the more recent issues of Streets of Gotham. And before the story, Mask showed up for a few bit parts in Streets and in Winnick's book, but neither one was actively working toward unraveling that mystery; it was left entirely to Daniel and now to Hine.

    So if you were wondering if Long Shadow stands on its own or as part of this overall Black Mask story, it's mainly on its own as a story of Dick taking over the cowl, the status quo in gotham, and a tussle with a much more obvious and classic villain. If you're wondering where the Black Mask has been present, generally, he's been in every Bat-book except for Morrison's and Red Robin (as far as I know).

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  25. Akylle, I've heard that mentioned many times about Countdown to Final Crisis; however, as I'm interested in the general goings-on of the DC Universe, I decided to read it, even if it's not necessary for (and, as I've heard, in some cases contradicts) Final Crisis.

    At the same time, I can't read EVERYTHING, and unfortunately Batman is one of those characters that has a million related titles a month coming out. Thus, I decided to only read the Morrison books, and anything that was necessary to understand the story he was telling.

    I do appeciate the head's up though; at one point I was going to get all of the Countdown tie-ins (Countdown to Mystery, Countdown to Adventure, Countdown Arena, etc.) but after all the "bad press" Countdown received, I decided to stick to the core books and any tie-ins that received favourable reviews.

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  26. I have clear in my head how Countdown to Final Crisis and Final Crisis itself DON'T contradict one another; when you finish FC, Mark, let me know and I'll give you my crackpot explanation (which I think has basis in comments from Morrison).

    Problem with the "non-essential" Bat-stories, I think, is "the show must go on." That is, you've got this Batman title that's been published monthly for 700 issues, but the guy who's running the show (well, and with full permission of DC) wants the story to go over to a new Batman and Robin title. But, you can't just put Batman on hiatus (or you could, but) because the show must go on. Therefore, DC runs a different story in Batman, related but not the big deal because the big deal is in Batman and Robin, and what results is a mixed bag.

    I might have rathered (and I can't believe I'm saying this) DC do what they did for Superman: New Krypton, and put another support character in Batman like Batwoman was in Detective, so we didn't have this case of dueling Bat-stories. Then again, I'd have rathered DC keep Superman in his own title and not farm him out for twelve months, so obviously I'm conflicted.

    I do appreciate everyone chiming in with the advice. Much obliged.

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  27. Crack open Long Shadows,if only for BATMAN 687.Haven't read LIFE AND DEATH.....but then Morrison's stories are in a universe of their own.He might put in some thread he has barely touched in say,ANIMAL MAN....or maybe SEVEN SOLDIERS,or even JLA....Rucka,if not similar enough works along the same lines....at a point in time it seemed that he used to continue a crackpot Whisper Adaire/drug/animal potion story way from BATMAN: EVOLUTION,into....well,whatever book he wrote subsequently.I think he went into 52 with that....that's what became the religion of crime.Morrison does it the most,but the thing is it's always going to be enjoyable.Though not to say that the other BATMAN is crap.....BATTLE FOR THE COWL was halfway ok...the best non- essential-to-morrison are the PAUL DINI series.....great fun...well since Morrison began his awe inspiring run way back,I've been liking the single issue detective stories that were collected by DINI in DETECTIVE & DEATH & THE CITY...
    So buy LONG SHADOWS,worth it,n don't miss the STREETS OF GOTHAM.GOTHAM CITY SIRENS

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  28. Aalok is onto something here. The ancillary titles "Streets" and "Sirens" rock - but only the issues that Dini writes. He's got a nasty habit lately of getting guest writers on his books, and these people (while maybe good writers) often just write their own one-offs that break up the flow of Dini's storylines. Case in point: Chris Yost's two issues on "Streets" in which NOTHING IMPORTANT HAPPENS. Dick Grayson gets a case, and the solution falls into his lap IN THE LAST PANEL OF ISSUE TWO OF THE ARC. I know Dini's finally writing his own Zatanna series, but frankly that's just not good enough to justify losing him on "Streets" and "Sirens," particularly when his Zsasz/Damian arc was so good. And if the rumors about Tony Bedard taking over "Sirens" are true, I'm out; the whole reason I read "Sirens" is because Dini *gets* why these three women hang out together and he writes them all well.

    And to beat a dead horse some more, after rereading "Batman RIP" for what must be the 100th time and looking at B&R #1, I've come to the conclusion that "Battle for the Cowl" is NOT essential. There's a beautiful splash page in RIP after Dr. Hurt's helicopter goes down, in which Nightwing clutches the Bat-cowl. It says eloquently in one panel what BftC took three issues to stumble onto. Nonessential unless you're a canon nut who NEEDS to see Black Mask's first appearance for him being "back" to make sense.

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