Detective Comics #613
writer: Alan Grant
pencils: Norm Breyfogle
inks: Steve Mitchell
letters: Todd Klein
colors: Adrienne Roy
editor: Denny O'Neil
associate editor: Dan Raspler
creator: Bob Kane
I'm beginning to think that the only reason Norm Breyfogle isn't my favorite Batman artist of all time is an unfair one; it's that he only does Alan Grant stories, and therefore has rarely brought to life with his pencils a story I actually enjoyed. I'm beginning to wonder if the reverse of this problem helps to explain why there's so much acclaim for Grant out there -- those Breyfogle images made people love his stories, regardless of their innate quality.
No, I'm not calling Grant a bad writer -- not even an average writer, but he isn't good enough for Batman, nor for Breyfogle, at this point. I really enjoyed the brief run where he was second writer to John Wagner but, when Wagner jumped off and kept his name on the book, it was obvious to me, and I don't think the quality has really come back since that time.
This issue is a perfect example of that. It seems obvious that Grant and Breyfogle were particularly passionate about this issue, but while Breyfogle turned in some of his best art ever in this issue (more on that later), Grant turned this into a textbook example of what happens when you throw too much into one issue and make a half-assed attempt to connect it all together at the end.
Is this issue about...
1. America's trash problem and the need to do something about it? We're certainly given this message, over and over, but aside from some weak attempts to draw similarities between Batman and garbage collectors, the story really does nothing to further this message, even when it gets the final panel of the issue.
2. Organized crime moving in on the trash industry? Surely, Grant went there, but it was really just a conflict for the story and never tied into anything thematically. And, by the way, while this was a REAL problem in metropolitan areas in the 1980s, Grant gives it no more believe-ability than armed guerrillas robbing jewelry stores in broad daylight. Rival garbage men jump right to physically pushing around the garbage collector in broad daylight on a populated street. I sincerely doubt the take-over of the trash industry in real world cities ever resorted to physical intimidation and, if it did so, this would only happen as an absolute last resort. Had Grant really committed to telling this story, he could have arrived at the same ending with a much more convincing and gradual escalation.
3. Batman struggling to have a life while being a crime fighter? It's there, and Breyfogle certainly has fun with it on that centerfold page, desperately making me wish he'd been around for Moench's run, which battled with this constantly. Still, Grant gives it little time and utterly forgets it by the close.
4. Crime going over the line? <spoiler alert> Certainly the final fate of the young boy with whom young readers were supposed to identify should have sent some kind of strong message about this, but instead Grant somehow tries to use the tragedy to deliver a final message about the garbage problem (see #1) that absolutely does not fit. Since the boy's fate had nothing to do with his passion for this message, the whole martyr route really doesn't work here at all. </spoiler alert>
5. Batman going over the line? Batman's instinctual reaction to the actions of the criminals, semi-accidentally causing their gruesome deaths, is right out of the early Starlin stories, but Grant doesn't seem to want to give any further attention to this idea, either.
Meanwhile, as noted earlier, this might be Breyfogle's finest work on Batman yet. The gorgeous title page, two exquisite depictions of Batman in motion (one, the centerfold, depicted in glorious details, while the second, page 15, is contrasted in its simplicity), and the brilliant two page climax. In fact, as an adolescent who really had no appreciation for comic book art, I firmly recall copying and copying Breyfogle's depiction of the Batmobile on page 10, with it's headlights bursting out into the stars. To this day, I suspect I could draw it from memory if I tried.
So a very mixed issue with a lot of great stuff battling for attention, but ultimately delivering an absolute mess of a thematic resolution by the close. This could have a been a very powerful story, especially at the close, but it just wasn't because, even in that final panel, it tries to accomplish far too much.
- The Bat office was having a lot of fun teasing us about Tim Drake at the time. Was it Breyfogle's idea to put a Robin action figure on the front cover, flying out of the trash pouring over Batman? As an adolescent, I remember being sure this was a sign of something to come with the same fervor that Beatles fans once clamored over the clues left in the album art. Of course Tim was going to become Robin, but this cover teased us that it would happen far sooner than it actually did.
- Breyfogle's Gotham is far more dilapidated than I recall ever having seen it before, with graffiti strewn right on the walls of a classy restaurant Bruce Wayne and Vicki Vale are dining at, and a nudy bar on the same block.
- Nice acknowledgement of the NKVDemon story happening in the Batman title, provided in passing on page 6. Certainly, with a three part story placing Batman and Vicki in Russia, it was helpful to explain how this fit into the continuity of this story, in which both of them are in Gotham. Apparently, the NKVDemon story happened first. Are O'Neil and Raspler FINALLY paying attention to inter-title continuity??
Plot synopsis in one ridiculously long sentence:
Mike Dell (no relation to the computer mogul) is a kid doing a report on the trash problem in America, his father (who owns a small trash company) is taking him out on his run for the report, Bruce has a date with Vicki Vale in which he is constantly distracted by thinking he sees crimes happening out on the street, a crime boss is threatening Mike's dad to give up his route so that the crime boss's garbage company can move in, and Batman manages to stop them from killing Mike's dad, but not before Mike intervenes and gets killed, himself.
Last edited by shaxper; 01-02-2013 at 08:45 PM.
The stories with with Wagner and Grant were much better in my mind, though I think Grant got better over time as I really enjoy his later work in Shadow of the Bat and the couple of stories he did in Legends of the Dark Knight in the 90's.
New Titans #65
writer: Marv Wolfman
pencils: Tom Grummett
inks: Al Vey
letters: John Costanza
colors: Adrienne Roy
associate editor: Jon Peterson
editor: Mike Carlin
Okay, so you're Marv Wolfman. You have been given the reigns to the most popular and lucrative character/franchise on the planet. Meanwhile, your true baby, a title that you've given a decade to, that was once at the top of everyone's lists but is now largely forgotten, has fallen into relative decline. What do you do?
Lots and lots and lots of crossovers.
Sure, O'Neil probably wasn't going to go for doing five part crossovers twice a year, but Wolfman still manages to put Batman on the cover of this issue, throw Tim Drake into this issue (and at the end of the previous one -- which isn't really worth reviewing since it's one panel), and ultimately teasing us with cover appearances by "The Joker" in coming months while he's supposed to be dead, or at least out of commission for the time being.
In short, this is a pretty shameless ploy.
Of course, Dick Grayson got to officially pass the reigns to the previous Robin back in the day, but that happened in the Batman title (truly, though Wolfman tries to make it work, this subplot has nothing to do with the Titans nor the four part "Plague" storyline culminating in this issue), and it meant something to Dick and his identity last time around (for those who actually pay attention to my endless rants and ravings, New Teen Titans #39 is still my favorite comic book ever written), whereas it's just something he's obligated to do for this next potential Robin here.
And please note that it's called into question whether Tim will even be "Robin" in this issue. Were Wolfman and O'Neil debating this issue, or were they just trying to have fun with the reader?
As always, Wolfman has a talent for writing Dick's dialogue. His playful banter in this issue is both enjoyable and surprisingly authentic. Wolfman writes Dick like a real person, and he should. He's been writing the character continuously for 8 years at this point. However, his characterizations of both Bruce and Tim are disappointing.
Regarding Bruce, Dick and Tim both agree in this issue that Bruce is a joyless man who hasn't "ever allowed himself to truly enjoy anything," a man who wasn't "EVER young. At least not after his parents were killed." Yet, just a few months back, we saw Wolfman exploring the life of the post-Crisis Bruce Wayne in greater detail and showed us a character who, while not clearly enjoying any specific moments, seemed happy and kind to those around him -- not some diligently focused grim warrior on a path. I suppose we're back to the Year 3 notion that Batman needs a Robin to keep him sane.
And then there's Tim. While initially portrayed as a perfect Gary Stu who could deduce Batman's identity as a child, Wolfman over-corrects by making Tim a bit stupid and pathetic in this issue, utterly unable to anticipate Dick's thought process to the point of sitting by a fair ground for 7 straight hours (as ordered) and making absolutely no use of that time nor even attempting to infer what he should be doing. Sure enough, when the final conflict comes around, Tim is less than useless, whereas he should have had enough training by this point not to have been taken by surprise from behind and remain knocked out for the duration.
Yes, Wolfman was handled a difficult job of trying to make sense out of a Batman who'd been handled so drastically differently by so many writers, as well as developing a side-kick so overly monitored by fans and management alike, but this issue doesn't do much to help. Both Batman and Tim seem...confused in their depictions at this point, and I find that frustrating two full years into the post-Crisis retcon.
Plot synopsis in one sentence:
Tim is sent by Bruce to learn how to be a good partner from Dick Grayson, Dick shows him around and makes it clear that he utterly sucks at being a partner while also telling him "you're one of the BEST I've ever seen," the Titans' "Plague" storyline comes to a climax with Tim knocked out on the sidelines, and that's pretty much it.
Last edited by shaxper; 01-02-2013 at 01:13 PM.
After reading Batman#250 I went looking to see your view, only to discover your reviews didn't begin until 300. D'oh!
Apparently, I need to backtrack on these.
In all seriousness, I've been considering going back and starting a Batman review thread from #217-299, including the Detective and Batman Family issues as well Problem is, I'm missing a lot of the Detective issues, as well as the Brave and the Bolds, and was World's Finest still going at that point?
Ultimately, I'd probably go even further than #299 to redo some of my earlier reviews in this thread that were pretty sparse, as well as fill in the missing Detective issues that I skipped over at first when doing this thread.
My review thread priorities change with the day, but right now it's:
1. Keep the Superman thread going with at least one review a day, when possible.
2. Finish the Planet of the Apes thread (only 18 issues left, and then I'll just need to update once a month when the new issues hit the stands).
3. Put a lot more time into the Sgt Fury thread once I've finished the POTA one.
4. Start Master of Kung Fu (it's about time!)
5. EVENTUALLY start a thread for the Giffin/Dematteis Justice League
6. At least six months from now, start thinking of other threads to start. I definitely want to do a micro thread on Len Wein's Hulk run, vol. 1 of the Defenders at least up to Gerber, and Moench's Werewolf by Night and MoonKnight.
7. Maybe, after all that, consider starting up a Batman #217 to #299 thread.
Last edited by shaxper; 01-13-2013 at 07:09 PM.
PS I tried to PM you about this but it said your inbox was full.
Follow Your Bliss!
I've been wanting to get to this run for a long while now, and it finally looks like it will be happening by March.
I had no idea. Thanks for letting me know!PS I tried to PM you about this but it said your inbox was full.
To be honest, I'm pretty sure Batman#250 is the oldest issue I own, and my knowledge of Batman beyond that point is mostly academic as my only exposure to those time periods comes from the Batman of the 40's, 50's and 60's collections. I definitely wouldn't mind seeing your reviews stretch further back though.
Slightly off topic, but how are the new POTA comics? I read the first two issues when they came out but dropped it due to budgetary constraints.
To borrow a marketing approach from Apple, there's a thread for that...Slightly off topic, but how are the new POTA comics? I read the first two issues when they came out but dropped it due to budgetary constraints.
Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #6
Gothic, a Romance: Part 1, "Man Without a Shadow"
writer: Grant Morrison
art: Klaus Janson
colors: Steve Buccellato
letters: John Costanza
editor: Andrew Helfer
asst. editor: Kevin Dooley
Had I been an adult reading this in 1990, I think I would have been very impressed. Though DKR, "Shaman," and the Arkham Asylum graphic novel (also by Morrison) had already worked to portray Batman on a more adult level, this issue works vigorously to extract any sense of conventional kid superhero comics out of this plot and portray something more disturbing and sophisticated. However, Twenty three years later, having read an onslaught of these kinds of books, I look back and see this one trying too hard. The constant allusions to Don Giovani, the entirely irrelevant inclusion of a mob boss working to hide the fact that he's a homosexual, the suggestion that an underling who won't squeal to his mob superiors will be punished by having his wife and daughter forced to perform in pornographic home videos, it's all just screaming "This is adult stuff! Check it out! Adult!!!! Really!!!!!!!!!" Of course, that's also just Morrison's mind in a nutshell. Add the random song referencing church bells in Britain, and even if there'd been no name on the book, you'd know who wrote it.
Klaus Jenson, granted the freedom to ink his own art on this book, turns in some very nice work. As was done with the "Shaman" storyline, he inks the borders of pages depicting events at night in black, which feels perhaps a little too oppressive. Once again, a book trying very hard to be seen as mature for the first time may be trying just a bit too hard.
As for the story itself, it doesn't have much substance yet. This is far from the first time a presumed dead rival from the past returns to knock off mob bosses in a Batman story, and I've no idea where Morrison is going with the dream sequences about Bruce as a kid learning that his father is still alive. What's with Morrison and Thomas Wayne, anyway? In typical Morrison style, we've been left many hints of what's coming that don't mean anything to us yet, and we can only hope it will all pay off in the end (a crap shoot with the man, but perhaps we have better odds since this is an earlier work, before he got the idea that he could do no wrong).
Regarding continuity, LotDK was originally promoted as being a title outside of continuity, and yet the "Shaman" storyline worked hard to embed itself deeply into the most critical components of Batman's origin. In contrast, this story doesn't appear to have any interest in tying itself into continuity at this point. As will remain a tradition in this title, Batman is in his Year One (and possibly Year Two) costume, and there is no Robin, but otherwise this story could have occurred at any time. There is one reference made to there having been peace between the mob organizations for years now, but we haven't learned much about the post-crisis mobs of Gotham City outside of Tony Zucco at this point, so that doesn't really get us very far.
- Who is the boyhood friend walking with Bruce in the dream sequence? Is Morrison introducing Thomas Elliot this early on? I doubt it.
- What is "the secret no one knows" that Bruce alludes to in the dream?
- Why is Jonathan Crane in the dream sequence, perceiving Bruce's becoming Batman as Bruce becoming a teacher? Was he a teacher to young Bruce Wayne? Or are we to infer that Batman has already fought the Scarecrow at this point?
- Interesting choice to have Bruce fill his father's study with clocks stopped at 8:25 (the time when the Waynes were murdered, I presume). Seems a bit too over the top though, though. I like a Bruce Wayne who is obsessed with his mission, but not one who is clinically unstable.
- Page 13 probably includes the most blood seen in a Batman story since the Moench/Colon/Newton Monk storyline back circa Batman #350.
- What's up with the kid who gets off the bus on page 18? Some trouble maker tries to entice the character by beckoning "here, kitty. Here, kitty kitty" and then looks freaked out and says :Ah...it's okay. Nevermind. No problem." I'm assuming it's because the character, who initially looks like a girl, looks more like a boy in that last panel, but it's really hard to tell. What the heck was the point of including this scene? How is this character going to play an important role later on?
- Mr. Graziano, presumably the head of a mob family, is drawn to look like Marlon Brando in The Godfather.
- Yes, I suppose anyone can make their own bat signal. Not really clever enough of an idea to warrant the final page of the issue.
plot synopsis in one long sentence:
two thugs are beating up an underling who clearly has no information to give them, a mysterious villain distracts them with a phonograph player playing a song personifying church bells, leaves them cryptic poetry on a card, and then kills them, Bruce dreams he's a boy again, talking with a boyhood friend about "the secret no one knows" before discussing what he's become with Jonathan Crane and then discovering that his father is still alive with a stitched up mouth and an enraged look on his face, Bruce wakes up and explains to Alfred that this dream has been recurring, a mob boss and his male prostitute (disguised as a woman) receive a poetry excerpt and are killed, more mob people are killed, we learn that the killer is named "Whisper" and was thought dead years ago (still not clear how they know it's him), a time capsule from the 18th Century is about to be opened in Gotham, (Boss) Graziano is killed while watching a performance of Don Giovani, a random person gets off a bus and may be a boy mistaken for a girl (where is this going?), Batman stops some hoodlums, and the remaining mob bosses use their own Bat signal to seek Batman's help in stopping Whisper.
Last edited by shaxper; 04-07-2013 at 05:27 AM.