Review: Task Force Z Vol. 2: What's Eating You? hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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There’s a reason I’m waiting on the full 12-issue collections for Human Target, Dark Knights of Steel, DC vs. Vampires, and Danger Street, at least, and that’s because sometimes, when you arbitrarily split a 12-issue story between two volumes, it’s easy to see where the second volume doesn’t measure up.

That’s almost the case with Task Force Z Vol. 2: What’s Eating You?, which takes an unfortunate very long time to get rolling. Indeed, with the premise set, the second volume feels more repetitious, spinning its wheels until the conclusion. That was nearly my final word on the subject until the very end, where writer Matthew Rosenberg not only negotiates well the needs of another title, but manages to parlay it into a pretty big surprise that resurrects (sorry) this miniseries before the conclusion.

Yes, Task Force Z Vol. 2 is a tad slow, and yes it’s mostly just the various characters bickering with each other through to the conclusion (as well as a same old, same old Bat-family intervention), but Rosenberg’s use of history, and some connections he makes between characters, are top-notch. If the former were not so noticeable in a full-series trade, and the ending still stellar, that would have the makings of a great book to read all together.

[Review contains spoilers for Task Force Z and Joker]

We lose artist Eddy Barrows in the first two chapters of this volume, and it shows. Not that artists including Jack Herbert and Jesus Merino are any slouch, but there’s a sense again of the book spinning its wheels at the same time as the series artist takes a breather. We know we’re in trouble when the first issue starts with an obvious dream sequence, and then is simply a series of fights as various team members “recruit” (to the death) other team members.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

The second issue is an “intervene and fight” sequence where the Bat-family tries to reason with Red Hood Jason Todd, which inevitably ends in fisticuffs. We just saw something like this in Joshua Williamson’s Robin Vol. 1: The Lazarus Tournament, and at this point “Robin gone rogue” is something of a cliche. Further, for all the good, thoughtful feelings-exploring dialogue in Task Force Z, Rosenberg’s chats between Jason and Oracle Barbara Gordon and Nightwing Dick Grayson respectively feel wooden, shades of “You don’t trust me”/“You don’t want to be trusted” in various forms.

I would not say Task Force Z Vol. 2 improves particularly from there, but at least we start getting in to what I’ve been waiting for this whole time, which was how Rosenberg would negotiate a zombified Bane here when we saw Bane whole and hearty in James Tynion’s Joker (to which Rosenberg also contributed). Where I thought Rosenberg particularly succeeded is that not only was this not Bane, and not only did the various forces employ a zombified not-Bane just to get Jason to join up for the chance to murder the zombified (not-)Bane, but that it’s actually the corpse of someone we know — Hank “Gotham” Clover, late of Tom King’s Batman Vol. 1: I Am Gotham.

Despite that this isn’t even the first time we’ve seen Hank Clover brought back to life (see Heroes in Crisis: The Price), the whole of Task Force Z continues to be a great melange of the rather separate Batman runs of the past few years — Scott Snyder’s Mr. Bloom and the “Rookie” battle suit; Tom King’s Gotham and Gotham Girl; and all of this launching from James Tynion’s Batman: Joker War and sundry. Also despite that Rosenberg never gets back to Resurrection Man Mitch Shelley here, I adored the cameo by Tynion’s mysterious First Victim, whom we haven’t seen since circa 2017’s Rebirth Detective Comics. And I love how quickly the makeups of the teams in this miniseries change — Jason ends up allied with most of Task Force Z Vol. 1’s antagonists against his former teammates, which seems a very Suicide Squad-y route to take.

Given that “Gotham” Hank has been out of the public eye almost 10 years now, I’m impressed not only that Rosenberg and company thought to use him, but also by the parallels that Rosenberg draws between he and Jason Todd. These are not characters who’ve particularly been connected before, but Rosenberg recognizes in both of them, as Jason notes, that Batman saw good in them, but that they both “lost everything,” “came back angry,” and “swore revenge.” Rosenberg has done well throughout Task Force Z plumbing Jason’s psyche, but I thought this parallel was particularly astute.



As with the first volume, there’s a bit of strangeness around the edges of Task Force Z Vol. 2: What’s Eating You? — a Batgirl Cassandra Cain that talks too much, a KGBeast who’s learned a lot more English than his stereotypical previous portrayals, and a friendship between Batgirl/Spoiler Stephanie Brown and Jason Todd that seems to come out of nowhere, but I’m here for it. Also it seemed odd that for all that Jason admonishes the others not to kill anyone, he must definitely murder Zsasz to get him on the team in the beginning, right? Still and all, if Matthew Rosenberg’s second volume doesn’t have the momentum of the first volume’s newness, again I was ultimately pleased with the end.

[Includes original and variant covers, black-and-white page gallery]

Comments ( 1 )

  1. Human Target and DC vs Vampires are polar opposites of that "falls apart in the second half" spectrum. Human Target absolutely knocks it out of the park, while DC vs Vampires feels like a different writer took over and completely forgot what made the first half of the series so good


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