Alex Lynch Reviews: BATMAN BEYOND UNIVERSE #2, PENGUIN #1, SCARECROW #1 & More
I'm back again this week with your fill of 90% of this week's "Villain's Month" titles, but also, I reviewed a couple none "Villain's Month" books; Batman Beyond Universe #2 and Batman '66 #3 so check out my thoughts!
PICK OF THE WEEK -- Batman Beyond Universe #2
Batman Beyond Universe is a printing of the latest issues of Batman Beyond 2.0 and Justice League Beyond 2.0 which are available on Comixology. These stories take place in the same universe as the popular television shows Justice League Unlimited and Batman Beyond. That being said, you shouldn’t have any trouble just jumping into these books despite them taking cues from older “Beyond” titles (such as Superman now being a firefighter and changing his name to Kal Kent.) but there should be no confusion. Anyway, this book is incredible. It features a combination of two different books from two different writers (the book-to-book transition can be really odd to someone who doesn’t know about the printing process) but authors Christos Gage and Kyle Higgins are absolutely killing it and bringing these characters we knew from our Saturday morning cartoons back to life.
The first section of the book features quite a lot of comedy as Superman searches his fellow Justice Leaguers for dating advice since one of his firefighter friends is very interested in Kal (despite him being miles older than her). We then go into a somewhat-cliché montage of Superman asking each Leaguer how to go on a date practically decades after he first met Lois. Kai-Ro doesn’t know anything, Aquagirl suggests more of a nature approach, Warhawk suggests more of a combative date by pummeling things (crime fighting, you pervs) and Atom, Flash and Terry bring Superman to a club to learn how to dance. It’s a great sequence but Superman finally caves and asks someone more his age, which you can easily guess who. This comic is actually one of the few lately that actually made me laugh out loud due not only to its wonderful delivery in textboxes, but the art by Coello who absolutely nails facial expressions. Now, this art doesn’t capture the Bruce Timm-style of the DC Animated Universe, but it’s still fantastic in its own right and works for Gage’s story. Later on, Superman takes his new girlfriend, Rita to the fair and pays off the operator to get them stuck at the top when a giant robot rips their cart off the Ferris Wheel and seemingly tries to kill them. During this sequence, there’s one random narration box that’s used to get a point across which I kind of felt was unnecessary and kind of ruined the fact that this book was meant to be an episode of the tv series, but I understand that there wasn’t really any other way to get the point he was making across. Later on, we discover that the robot is Kryptonian in origin and it’s almost near impossible to learn about Krypton and its mythology so Superman goes where he rarely ever dares to go before – The Phantom Zone. All in all, the Justice League section of this book was fantastic with a great cliffhanger.
The Batman Beyond 2.0 portion of the book is also as fantastic as it can be and definitely keeps up the spirit of the animated series. In this issue, Terry is rounding up the criminals who have escaped from the new Arkham Institute (including famous villains like Inque) even though Dick Grayson, his current mentor, tells him to take a rest. Hesitantly, Terry does and that’s what I like about this book – Terry is finally an almost fully-fledged Batman. He’s not an arrogant kid anymore; he’s essentially a younger version of Bruce Wayne. He’s absorbed the majority of Bruce’s traits as Batman, and that’s awesome. Anywho, Terry wakes up the next morning and finds a mysterious message pulsing through Gotham Communications – someone, who killed the Mayor and let the Arkham inmates loose – wants Batman at an isolated location within the hour. The catch? Every minute he isn’t there, someone dies, so naturally Terry tries as hard as possible to make this date despite Grayson telling him it’s a clear trap, and boy, it’s a brilliant twist. This book also features a lot of Barbara Gordon investigating the Mayor and his murder, and Commissioner Barbara is just as good in the role as her father was. This book, ultimately, was fantastic all around with gorgeous artwork. If you’re a DC Animated Universe fan, YOU NEED THIS BOOK!
Batman ’66 #3
Batman ’66 is exactly what the title says implies, it’s a continuation/spin-off of the classic 60s Batman series starring Adam West and Burt Ward, and boy does writer Jeff Parker knock it out of the…well, park! I’ve never really intimately watched the 60s Batman series, but I have caught the occasional episodes here or there and actually found myself enjoying quite a few. I never really thought anything of it, but it was the 60s and it was hugely successful back then and honestly when you look back, this Batman series was quite the accomplishment especially seeing as it got a feature film. Adam West was a really good Batman, so I think it was time we brought his version back to life in any way possible, which is through comics. While this book may be filled with purposely bad and campy dialogue and silly over the top storylines, that doesn’t mean they aren’t well constructed! This issue features the villainous Red Hood demanding that The Joker be brought to him for destroying his life. This sounds all pretty familiar, right? Except that Jason Todd was never in this series, so who else could be the Red Hood? It’s a nice surprise! Regardless, Batman heads to The Joker in Arkham Institute for help (we also see the introduction of a classic Batman character who was created AFTER the series!) and Joker and The Batman team-up to locate and capture The Red Hood. Afterwards, hilarity ensures within the book with Joker not realizing that this was an elaborate scheme to break him out of Arkham.
Overall, I find this book incredibly enjoyable. There are a few non-costumed Dick/Bruce moments that Jeff Parker PERFECTLY captures from the original series and the dialogue and is spot-on. Alfred also makes an appearance, too! Joe Quinones’ art is fantastic and not only shows the very essence of the television series, but he pencils action very well, especially the goofy kind. The book also has a backup of Egghead having Batman in quite the predicament, but with Batman’s over-the-top detective skills, Batman figures out a way to get out of falling thousands of feet to the ground which is quite interesting. The artwork by Sandy Jarrell isn’t QUITE as good as Quinones’ but it gets the job done. This is a book WELL worth 4$ (or the 1$ chapters on Comixology).
Detective Comics #23.3 – Scarecrow
Honestly? I didn’t particularly like this comic and it came from a writer who I find to be very good at his work (Peter J. Tomasi) but this issue just didn’t work for me because it was very slow, and somewhat boring and felt like nothing more than a cheap setup for Arkham War, which it sort of was but you don’t find that out until the end. I didn’t even feel this version of Scarecrow was even THE Scarecrow because he not only acted different in Forever Evil (and Two-Face’s tie-in, written by Tomasi as well) but he barely used the fear toxin except for a few short bursts at the beginning and once during the book. Y’know what? This whole book was compromised of Scarecrow going to other “Arkhamites” and warning them of an upcoming war between Blackgate Prison and Arkham’s inmates, which honestly, I’m not digging at all. There are a few books like these which makes me unfortunately question why “Villain’s Month” exists, but universe-events need to explain everything and I haven’t read this many comics since Flashpoint.
That aside, something I enjoyed both found bad and good at the same time in this book was the artwork done by Szymon Kudranski whose line-art is similar to that of a style you’d see in an anime film or something of the sort. A few panels reminded me of that Nolanverse animated film Batman: Gotham Knight and the colors by John Kalisz were gorgeous in those scenes, but speaking of colors, I felt they were absolutely gorgeous in the beginning but then the comic tries to attempt some sort of “dark” feeling since the sun is covered but it just makes the art hard to understand and read, almost as if the colorist got lazy. Overall, I felt this interpretation of the Scarecrow was NOT what we’ve seen in earlier comics and pretty much only hurt what we’ve seen from him before. Overall, I’d actually avoid this issue if you’re a scarecrow fan but it’s a decent issue if you’re looking to collect the full “Villain’s Month” set.
Batman and Robin 23.3 – Ra’s Al Ghul
Ra’s Al Ghul is one of my favorite Batman villains and I am absolutely glad that he is received the mainstream attention he deserved thanks to Mr. Christopher Nolan, even if that interpretation wasn’t exactly 100% correct from the comics, but Liam Neeson absolutely killed in that role and it was a pleasure to see him again in Rises, but enough talk about that version, because we’re here to talk about classic Ra’s Al Ghul from the comics and what he’s up to now that the Secret Society and the Crime Syndicate have taken over.
Where does this leave Ra’s? Basically, the society send in some goons to try to attempt to persuade Ra’s to join their ranks but Ra’s ultimately declines. The leader of these men then recites Ra’s Al Ghul’s entire recorded history in front of him in some sort of attempt to…intimidate him into joining. They know almost everything about Ra’s and they threaten to actually kill him if they do not get their way, but do they? I won’t say, but this comic was actually really well done. James Tynion IV has quickly become one of my favorite writers and all though this one-shot wasn’t quite as good as Court Of Owls from last week, it still delivered on a satisfactory note. No incredibly major changes were made to the character and it was a nice, little personal story about Ra’s that we barely get. We get a look at every major component of his life so far, his rise to power, the creation of the League Of Assassin’s, creating Talia, meeting The Dark Knight for the first time ever, which had some great moments of dialogue from Ra’s and the birth of Damian Wayne to one of Ra’s’ most tragic moments – the death of Talia Al Ghul.
Anyway, this issue also showcases just how much of a genius Ra’s is, and my favorite part about the book? It was drawn by Jeremy Haun, who did The Riddler one-shot which I liked as well with gorgeous colors by John Rausch. This book was particularly really well drawn with each character having a definitive look that seemingly did nothing but wonders for Tynion IV’s writing. If you’re a fan of Ra’s or the League Of Assassin’s, this is definitely one to check out. It’s not slow or fast paced, but it’s a great jumping on point for those who haven’t read a comic in months or know nothing about the not-so-different New 52 Ra’s Al Ghul.
Batman: The Dark Knight 23.3 – Clayface
I’ve always loved Clayface, and my first introduction to the character was probably in the animated series The Batman even though they totally changed the identity of that character. Over the years, I started watching more Batman shows, reading more comics and was somewhat surprised to find out that there had been multiple Clayfaces, as it blew my mind. Regardless, Clayface is an amazing villain with a great tragic backstory and the version in this week’s comic is Basil Karlo, the former Hollywood actor.
This issue is a pretty basic one-shot, and I mean pretty basic. IT doesn’t dive deep into Karlo’s backstory nor does it provide major relevance to Forever Evil or the bigger picture of the DC Universe, but it’s a nice, well-written one-shot story about Clayface after the death of the Justice League. The book starts out with Clayface collaborating with other sewer fiends to steal some jewels, a plan that the leader’s had for months but Clayface decides that they should stop somewhere else on the way, which causes them to end up in a big disagreement and he loses his temper which has him so furious that he kills them, all. It was a really cool scene because he just stretched out his arm to become a giant spear, impaling to guys onto it with fantastic art. Speaking of artwork, Cliff Richards’ pencils are very well done in this issue and do a great job of showing off just how powerful Two-Face is and the usual three-panel shape-shift sequences are also well done. Matt Yackey brings in some decent colors for the book but I felt as though there aren’t enough shades in it, but it was still a great effort.
Overall, I wish this book was more of an origin telling of Clayface or more than just a short story about him feeling like an outsider because he wasn’t called upon by the Crime Syndicate to join their little Secret Society. It barely dove into his days as an actor, although the only reason I can see them not even diving deep into Clayface’s origin is because it was probably already told in this book or something similar, but that didn’t stop Matt Kindt from ruining Harley Quinn’s origin despite it being told in Suicide Squad. Nevertheless, Clayface’s solo book is an enjoyable book with few flaws that longtime fans should take a peek at if they have the spare cash.
Batman 23.3 – The Penguin
Let me just make it clear here and now that I was never really a huge fan of the Penguin. I thought he was always just there for comedy relief, or a punching bag for Batman sometimes when he’s down. Sure, he was cool in the animated television shows but it wasn’t really until Nolan North’s version of the character in Arkham City came along and showed just how ghoulish and sickening this guy can be and the voice North gave to the character was phenomenal. However, now The Penguin gets his time to shine in his own “Villain’s Month” book, stealing the show from the usual Scott Snyder’s Batman but was this issue actually decent?
Let me just say, it was pretty good. It focused on The Penguin’s Iceberg Casino and how he’ll do anything to make Gotham City his own now that Batman is gone. So how does he go about it? Well, let’s just say that the city’s Governor gets tangled up in something that only The Penguin can undo, but he definitely won’t. This book also has a lot of ties to Cobblepot’s past stretching all the way back to his boarding school days so it was interesting to get a little peek into that, but overall, I don’t think this book delivered anything more than a well thought-out one-shot story that shows how Penguin has taken over Gotham. It doesn’t really try to set up anything, either, which I liked. We got to see plenty of sides of Cobblepot, however the only thing I didn’t like about this book was Penguin’s female assistant who was nothing but annoying and felt like she wasn’t necessary to the story. Also, another thing to praise is the fantastic “dark” art in this issue by penciller Christian Duce whose lines are beautifully colored by Andrew Dalhouse with the perfect colors and tones for the book and the final page of the issue is absolutely killer. However, I did have a problem with that art and that was the action sequences not being clear enough. It felt as though the artist jumped ahead a little too far in the timeline in the next panel and doesn’t actually show what happened during the fight. Regardless, the pages were still superbly drawn.
To summarize, Batman 23.3 is a worthy title of your three dollars regardless and has a great linear story with complete closure that shows a definitive take on Oswald Cobblepot.
Justice League Of America 7.3 – The Shadow Thief
Wait, did I miss something? Since when was Shadow Thief a woman? Haha, I’ve missed out on so many character changes in the New 52 because I’ve only paid attention to books that piqued by interest such as Green Arrow, Batman, Justice League and other notable titles. Nevertheless, this book introduces me to the new version of Shadow Thief who I knew from only the cartoons such as Justice League Unlimited but nevertheless, it was time for me to dig in on a new version of the character and this issue quite didn’t disappoint on that.
The new Shadow Thief’s tale is told with an “begins where it ends” type story and follows the a spy who gets tangled up in an unusual situation and gets an alien suit bonded to her and now gives herself a mission to hunt down and kill aliens that may be a threat to her or the planet. Kinda sounds like a mixture of Flash Thompson Venom and Men In Black, right? Well, that’s definitely a vibe I got in this book, and it’s a great book too. What I like about this new Shadow Thief is that she isn’t necessarily a villain, but she’s doing what she thinks is right and not just for the sake of being villain, but she does kill a lot because she’s a former agent of A.R.G.U.S and has their special training. This story does go into her tragic origin and how she got the Shadow Thief suit, which is somewhat simple but it works. I also really enjoyed how her powers are portrayed in this because at first, all they state is that she can go in one shadow and out another which, at first, sounds incredibly boring but writer Tom DeFalco and artist Chad Hardin craft an awesome final scene between her and a few spies that perfectly utilizes her powers in a tortuous way. Overall, Shadow Thief is an enjoyable issue with gorgeous art.
Wonder Woman 23.1 – The Cheetah
Basically, I never really liked Cheetah until her appearance in Geoff John’s Justice League and her stint in the movie Justice League: Doom (Claudia Black was awesome, by the way) because the cartoons, such as Justice League Unlimited sort of had a poor portrayal of her, in my opinion. This book, however re-tells the origins of Barbara Minerva’s transformation into the villainous “goddess of the hunt” stringing all the way back to her unusual and deluded childhood.
This issue is really fun because even though we get more background on Barbara Minerva, it follows a U.S Marshall named Mark who is tasked with the mission of bringing in The Cheetah after her escape from Belle Reeve and gets the feeling that she may be going after her family, who appreciate nothing but the Amazonian culture, the funny thing is, Barbara’s family are completely wrong about how Amazons live and it’s very much a nice take on how religion could be fictitious. Anyway, her Aunt Lyta tells the US Marshall about Barbara’s sickening “trial” as a child and how she came to find the Godslayer Knife that eventually turned her into the Cheetah that she is. This book really shows how villainous The Cheetah is as she’s ripping hearts out of people and eating them, and her ultimate goal in this book is to make sure that Barbara Minerva doesn’t exist anymore and goes to wipe out any ties she once had with Earth. What I loved about this issue is that the artwork was stellar. I was incredibly immersed in the story and the shades of colors used were really, fantastically well done.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it made almost no mention of the tribe that we saw in the pages of Justice League and how the Cheetah relates to that. I’ve never read any of New 52 Wonder Woman yet (budget restrictions be damned!) so I don’t know if it was told within that book but would’ve been nice to see that play out a little bit in this title, but there’s only so much you can do with 20ish pages a book! Regardless, John Ostrander wrote a great book about a really interesting villain that has a believable backstory. Books like these are what make Villain’s Month fun to read, but the gimmick is slightly getting old so I can’t wait until DC Comics gets back to its regular programming.
Justice League Dark 23.2 – Eclipso
I barely know of the character of Eclipso, so I was scared going into this book and reading it because I thought I’d be bored. Well, I wasn’t. Dan DiDio did a great job of introducing this character and didn’t make me feel completely lost. Eclipso’s origin is practically told with a lot of exposition and the main character – who Eclipso ultimately possesses – is told about as well.
What did I love about this book? Not too much, other than the fantastic stylish artwork by penciller Philip Tan, whose work really captures a lot of the characters’ reactions and essences throughout the story, but pencils can only go so far without the great the ink job by Jason Paz, but even with just lines, the dark, horror atmosphere that this book goes for is very, very well done by colorist Nathan Eyring whose effort makes this book worth the read, especially in full-page panels. Overall, Dan DiDio and the rest of creative did a really good job of making a Villain’s Month book that isn’t convoluted to new readers and perfectly explains the villain’s origins and motives. I would definitely recommend checking out this book if you have the spare cash!
Superman 23.3 – H’el
I gave up on Scott Lobdell’s Superman very early on. Not necessarily because it was bad, I was just completely bored by it. It wasn’t interesting in the slightest to me and I’m a huge Superman fan, just like how Grant Morrison’s Action Comics run was pretty bad to me and I’m a fan of Morrison as well, but regardless, Lobdell’s Superman wasn’t good enough to keep me reading the book and the reason behind that? “H’el On Earth”. Yep, I had absolutely no interest in this villain AT ALL. Superman versus another Kryptonian seemed like it was done to death…so was this “Villain’s Month” issue enough to get me interested again?
Somewhat, I mean, the beginning of this issue features Jor-El examining H’el as he lay in a coma, but he’s narrating the book and using a ghost-esque essence and watching Jor-El as he try to pitch to the leaders of Krypton the beginning of the seeds of his prediction: Krypton will die, and H’el is living proof of this. Honestly? The most interesting part of this book WAS Jor-El and his encounter with Zod, because quite frankly I love these two and how the New 52 has been very good on developing and showing relations between the two. The book didn’t kick-start or get interesting until about two thirds into it when H’el awakens and causes some massive carnage which leaves us on a devastating cliffhanger, but this book does beg the question; what is time was changed and Kal-El was never born, or what if important figures on Krypton died, or what if Krypton never was destroyed? Since H’el is clearly a time-traveller, he has the tools to make all of those things happen, but what does he do? I’ll leave that up to you to find out. The only thing I didn’t really like about this book was Dan Jurgens’ art. It just felt so…bad and there are only a few select good pages (including the last one) but the coloring was very well done for the most part.
Green Lantern 23.3 – Black Hand
This issue was very good. Charles Soule excellently brought Black Hand back in a nice, little short one-shot that takes place in such a wide range of scale. In this book, Black Hand is locked up in prison after returning from the dead and quickly his memories of the past start to flood into him.
To me, what made this issue so interesting was Black Hand’s memories flooding in and him not knowing what his purpose is. All he knows is that he’s back alive again for a reason and he creates an army of zombies once he realizes what has happened to the world – it’s gone to shit and there are no superheroes around to save him. Once he has an army, he visits the grave of someone of importance to his worst enemy – Hal Jordan.
There’s not much to say about this issue really because almost nothing happens in it, it feels like an issue that’s just there to bring back Black Hand and set up another potential feud with Hal, but it works and it’s a great book. The art, however, isn’t that particularly good but some panels are quite really well done. It definitely makes the whole “apocalypse” vibe feel good. Charles Soule is a great writer and I can’t wait to read more from him.
I honestly feel that it’s unfair to review these follwing issues simply because I didn’t get it. I’m sorry, but I didn’t. Justice League: Dial E: I’ve never read Dial H or Dial H For Hero so I didn’t see a purpose in putting this on the cover of Justice League and why they couldn’t just have a “Dial H” Villain’s Month title, but I guess this was the only way to get sales, I assume. Regardless, I just didn’t understand this book. It was somewhat convoluted to me and the fact that they used like, 20 different artists (one for each page) only sort of made the book even more confusing to me, however that’s the positive thing for me about this book, was the stellar changes in art and it was interesting to see how each artist captured the page they were going for. We got some of the best in there and hell, Green Arrow and Trillium’s Jeff Lemire even did a page in his distinctive style. Regardless, I suggest that you not take my review story seriously simply because I just didn’t get what this book was supposed to be about and thought it was a waste, honestly.
This is also the case with Swamp Thing 23.1 (Arcane), I just didn’t get it. Don’t get me wrong, Arcane is an absolutely fantastic book so I’m going to praise it here for a bit. It’s a good, easy read that has a nice story about Abigail Arcane asking about her mother and who she was because Anton Arcade, her father, took it all away from her at a young age. However, what he reveals to her is the shocking truth that she never wanted to find out, which even I didn’t see coming. Regardless, I’ve never read Swamp Thing so I don’t exactly know what “The Rot” is or the “Parliament of Decay”, which is why I won’t go in-depth with a review because of this. Also, the artwork by Jesus Saiz was absolutely fantastic. Charles Soule crafted a great story so I really can’t wait for his run on Superman/Wonder Woman. I apologize to the creators if they wanted a serious review from me.
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