Top 10 Batman Villains

Top 10 Batman Villains

I’m often and excitedly critical of the Dark Knight Detective. As I’ve said on many occasions, I have more than my fair share of issues with the character and his presentation in modern DC Comics. That being said, I can’t argue that he easily has one of the best rogues galleries in comics, only challenged by the X-Men, Spider-Man, and the Flash. From psychos to geniuses to well-meaning but misguided environmentalists, Batman has to deal with an eclectic guide on his nightly searches for people to viciously beat. Plus, the Top 10 lists I did for Marvel and DC didn’t really allow me to cover as many villains as I’d like. I will likely do lists like this for other heroes and teams in the near future as well. With that being said, let’s count down my Top 10 Batman villains.

  1. Killer Croc

Waylon Jones is a pretty sympathetic character when you get down to it. He was born with a skin disorder, put in a freak show, and his problems were compounded by unnatural mutations that turned him into an anthropomorphic crocodile monster. His mental health has gradually deteriorated by the constant torment he has received during constantly during his life as well as his mutations which he has undergone throughout his life. Essentially, he was told all of his life he’s a monster, and he became a monster. I feel that it’s no irony that Waylon is an African American, and, if you spent your whole life being told you are a criminal, it makes it easier to become a criminal. Oooof, I’m on a roll this week.

Point being, Killer Croc is an animalistic villain with a great visual design and a sympathetic backstory, and I like him a lot.

 

  1. Black Mask

I have a soft spot in my heart for the classical mob boss archetype, and, consequently, I love Roman Sionis. Yeah, he is sort of the second iteration of the Penguin with a visual design that rips off the Red Skull, but, hey, he looks really nice in his white suit. That’s something, right? Yeah, I can’t defend this one too much. I just like the Black Mask a lot. He screams a lot, he’s incredibly violent, and he seems like he could be good friends with Tony Montana. He’s a Dick Tracey villain for a hero who was based heavily off of Dick Tracey.

  1. R’as al Ghul

Immortal leader of the League of Assassins, the Head of the Demon is a great antagonist to go toe-to-toe with the Caped Crusader. He has fighting prowess on par with the Bat, and he can get back up every time he’s killed. The fact that he and his order of ninjas trade in killing bad people while Batman just puts them in a place that is ill-equipped to hold them R’as them a pretty good yin to Bruce’s yang. It’s hard to argue with R’as’ logic every time Joker or Zsasz butcher an entire family.

  1. The Riddler

The poster boy for trying to overcompensate for an inferiority complex, The Riddler is really smart, but his inferiority complex prevents him from making an unbeatable challenge. This sort of predestines him to fail if you forget the fact that he is just about as smart as Batman. All it takes is one failed riddle, and the Riddler will win. That’s kind of scary if you think about it, and it means that, if anyone is going to kill the Batman, it will probably be the Riddler.

  1. Hush

Or it could be Hush. He’s really smart too, and he has insight into Bruce Wayne’s formative years. A childhood friend of Bruce Wayne, Doctor Thomas Elliot is a sociopathic surgeon with a grudge and a lot of resources at his disposal. Jeph Loeb’s original Hush storyline is a masterclass in comic book storytelling. Hush is a dangerously intelligent schemer who can play the long game and sees all pieces on the playing field. His costume design is really cool too, and I’m disappointed that he hasn’t shown up much since the start of the New 52. I’d like to see more of him in the future.

  1. The Joker

Yeah, I couldn’t make this list without name-checking the Clown Prince of Crime. He’s morbid, incredibly dangerous, and damn funny; what’s not to like? He is crazy beyond comprehension, but he’s also a schemer with plans that a normal human mind would struggle to decipher. His pseudo-romantic obsession with the Batman makes him quite fascinating, and his purple suit is timelessly stylish. He’s a villain that has stood the test of time, and he is a terrifying character study into the depths of the human psyche.

  1. Mr. Freeze

Victor Fries is a man driven by love and compassion. When his beloved Nora was almost taken away from him by a terminal disease, he froze her until the day he could save her life. His experiments made it so that he himself required low environmental temperatures to survive. Armed with a freeze gun and body armor, he is a genius with a grudge against the Batman for the many times he has been foiled by the Detective. He isn’t an evil man though. He just can’t bear to see his beloved go. Who can’t relate to that on some level?

Also, screw that New 52 retcon that made him into an obsessive stalker. My Victor Fries will always be a man who loves and was loved.

  1. Solomon Grundy

I went back and forth on whether or not to include Cyrus Gold aka Solomon Grundy on this list. He was originally a foe of the Justice Society, but, in recent years, he has gone toe-to-toe with the Batman quite often. I decided to include him as an excuse to talk about Solomon Grundy some more. He’s a rage-driven beast, but he doesn’t actually hold much malice in his heart. He is often a pawn, a puppet, in the schemes of others. Plus, f that time Batman brought him food on Thanksgiving doesn’t warm your heart, then I don’t know what would. He’s a mammoth beast with minimal intellect, but he is strong enough to throw down with Superman. What’s not to like?

  1. Deadshot

          Floyd Lawton may not harass the Dark Knight too much these days, but, when he first hit the scene, it was in Gotham trying to beat Batman at his own game. He has gone to battle with the Caped Crusader on many occasions since, and it’s always been a rough bought for Gotham’s resident hero. Deadshot is the best marksman in the world, and he never wastes a bullet. He’s also reckless, probably has a death wish, and really only does it for the reputation he has. We’ve talked about Deadshot before on this site, so I won’t go on much more. I just love Deadshot, and he will always be one of my favorite DC rogues.

  1. Scarecrow

I absolutely love the Scarecrow. From his creepy, spindly form to his obsession with exploring the depths of fear in himself and others, Jonathan Crane is a force to be reckoned with in Gotham’s underworld. His fear toxin is potent and will make you face your worst nightmares. His costume is unnerving. His intelligence is among the greatest in Gotham. All this, and he has the ability to make Batman experience the worst moment in his life on repeat.

Honorable Mentions

The Dollmaker

Tony S. Daniels introduced Barton Mathis at the beginning of his New 52 run of Batman: Detective Comics. The rogue has not shown up since with the exception of a weak appearance in Arrow, and apparently in Gotham and Batman vs. Robin. This guy is freaking creepy. He takes body horror to the David Cronenburg/Lucio Fulci level. He performs reconstructive surgeries on people, making them into patchwork monstrosities to do his bidding. He was the one who infamously cut off the Joker’s face at the behest of the Clown Prince. He posed a dangerous threat to the Dark Knight, and I hope he shows up again someday.

Poison Ivy

Pamela Isley is an individual who can see the damage we are doing to our planet, and a serum gave her the ability to communicate with and control plants. She is not an entirely malicious person; she merely thinks that humanity has done more than its fair share of damage to Earth. Due to her connection with vegetation, she favors their welfare of people, and her pheromones give her the ability to control men. She is a brilliant femme fatale and one of the coolest villains in Gotham.

Two-Face

A man with two personalities, Harvey Dent’s decisions come down to the literal flip of a coin. He can be merciful or ruthless. He can be intelligent or impulsive. He can save your life or end it. He is also a respected crime lord in Gotham, and he has carved out a name for himself despite the odds. Like I said, I like crime lord characters, and Two-Face is one of the best in Gotham.

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Daddy Issues: An Observation

Daddy Issues: An Observation

I’m going to go ahead and let you know how this article is going to end. In short, it doesn’t really have one. Where my usual op-eds have a point to drive to or a proposed solution to whatever problem we’re discussing, this one is just pointing out a comic book storytelling trend. I’m not even sure if it’s a real “problem” either. It’s just something I’ve noticed.

A vast majority of super heroes have major father issues. That is not an opinion but a statement of fact. It’s not a part of their character that points towards them having daddy issues (though that is admittedly a truth as well), it’s literally written into their backstories.

I feel that Spider-Man is actually a good character to start this discussion with. The death of Uncle Ben is the catalyst by which Peter Parker became Spider-Man, and his “with great power comes great responsibility” mantra is the compass by which Peter makes many of decisions. Now you may be thinking “daddy issues, but Ben wasn’t his dad.” Yeah, but Uncle Ben was his father figure. For all intents and purposes, Ben was his dad. No, I don’t think all that stuff with Peter’s parents being spies or Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D or whatever has any bearing on this. Furthermore, the eternally youthful Peter Parker has seemed to try to fill that void with a number of male authority figures, not the least of which have be Curt Connors, Tony Stark, and Steve Rogers. Even Captain Stacy, Robbie Robertson, and Ben Urich have arguably taken up that space at moments too.

Superman is special, because he gathered two daddies to have issues with. Jor-El and Johnathan Kent have both given Kal-El reasons to wring his hands and contemplate what kind of man he should be. This is especially true in newer comics where Jonathan Kent is dead.

Batman manages to have a similar situation with Alfred Pennyworth and Thomas Wayne. Yeah, Bruce lost both of his parents, but, whenever he singles his parents out, it usually turns out to be Thomas over Martha. Thomas is who he is trying to live up to while Alfred is the father he often ignores. This of course does not count Zack Snyder’s infamous “Marthaaaaaa” incident.

The Flash is admittedly unique because he manages to have mommy and daddy issues. Barry lost his mother to a random killer/Professor Zoom, and his father was blamed for the incident.

Thor Odinson may indeed be the king of daddy issues because All-Father King Odin Anthony Hopkins bounces between being the voice of reason and a complete freaking madman. Thor has to live up to his legacy while often having to go toe to toe with him.

Tony Stark has had to live up to the legacy of Howard Stark. Rick Remender added a drunken father backstory to the childhood of Steve Rogers. Hal Jordan’s dad was also a stunt pilot. The Robins and Terry McGuinness are a legacy of daddy issues, all of which grow to hate/emulate big daddy Batman. Clint Barton had a drunken and abusive father. Luke Cage disappointed his dad by getting into the gang world. Danny Rand’s father was obsessed with K’un L’un and ignored little baby Iron Fist. Oliver Queen has a philanthropist father to live up to. Roy Harper was abandoned by Green Arrow in his hour of need. T’Challa had a celebrated king father in T’Chaka. Guy Gardner had a celebrated police officer father that was abruptly replaced with an abusive and drunken father in the most recent issue of Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps. Arthur Curry and Black Manta gave each other father issues by killing each other’s dads. Bucky Barnes has some arguable daddy issues while trying to live up to Captain America. Sam Wilson has debatably the same thing going on with Steve as well as his own pastor father. Bruce Banner had a drunken and abusive father that he beat to death. Logan had an angry adopted father, a malicious biological father, a begrudged father in Charles Xavier, weird daddy/brother problems with Sabretooth, and then there’s whatever you call the story with Romulus. Johnny Blaze literally sold his soul to save his father. Matt Murdock has always taken the lessons given by Battlin’ Jack Murdock to heart. Star-Lord has his jackass emperor father, J’Son. Flash Thompson’s father was a mean drunk. Eddie Brock’s dad thinks he’s a bum. Helmut Zemo’s father was an actual Nazi war criminal. Slade Wilson has three kids that hate him as well as a super-powered megalomaniacal father of his own. Obsidian and his father, Alan Scott, never saw eye-to-eye. Vision was created by Ultron, meanwhile Ultron hates his creator, Hank Pym. Genis-Vel and Noh-Varr are offspring of the legendary hero, Captain Mar-Vell. Daken is the son of Wolverine. Scott and Alex Summers both thought their dad was dead when he was in reality the space pirate known as Corsair.

Hell, women aren’t exempted from this. I could go on for days about the myriad of psychological implications of the relationship between Harley Quinn and the Joker, and daddy issues are a part of them. Carol Danvers has always tried to live up to the legacy of Captain Mar-Vell too. Jessica Drew had a pretty warped father who may have also been Hydra. Katherine Kane had a strict military father. Barbara Gordon is constantly being pressed in different directions by Batman and Commissioner Gordon. Needless to say, Laura Kinney will always have daddy issues from Wolverine too. Raven’s dad is an actual Demon. Gamora and Nebula were raised by Thanos. 

Again, I’m not sure if there’s a point to all of this. It’s merely a pattern I’ve noticed. I will say there is a potential for storytelling ruts and repetition in the pervasiveness of this trend. It does say something about the mentality attributed to the super hero ideology as well as some assumptions about the audience that consumes these comic books.

Anyway, until next time, keep reading comics!

Justice League of America #1 Review

Justice League of America #1 Review

Take Two

Steven Orlando (W), Ivan Reis (P), Oclair Albert, Julio Ferreira (I),

Marcelo Maiolo (C)

Cover by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, and Marcelo Maiolo

Publisher: DC Comics

Price: $2.99

          I have discovered that some of the Rebirth issues of comic books are light on story and heavy on exposition and characterization. Justice League of America: Rebirth certainly reinforced that expectation from me. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, Green Arrow, and, most recently, Batwoman all had really fantastic Rebirth issues that used those tools to really hype me up for the series to follow.

While JLA: Rebirth wasn’t a bad comic, it didn’t really give me anything that I wasn’t expecting or didn’t already figure out. Of course Lobo was going to antagonize everyone else on the team. Of course everyone was going to be really suspicious of Killer Frost. I would expect Ryan Choi and the new Ray to be really uncomfortable in this lineup.

I’m not excusing that first lackluster issue here, but, I’ve been so excited for this series and wouldn’t shut up about it. As a result, I’m bringing it back to court to try to defend itself one last time. As such, we’re going to revisit this book with Justice League of America: #1

Really quick, can we briefly discuss how confusing the naming conventions for the Rebirth titles are? You have the Rebirth: #1, and then you have the actual #1. That’s confusing by design. Are you trying to sell the same comic twice to perplexed customers? And I’ve talked to the people who run my local comic shop (formerly Randyland, now Archaic, anyone living in the Douglasville, Georgia area should go check it out), and they have been confused by this numbering. I’ve been fine with it, but that’s because I’m obsessive-compulsive about my comics, hence the existence of this site. It just seems a bit dumb.

Anyway, on with the show.

The comic opens with Batman further explaining to Vixen why he has established this new Justice League. She’s suspicious of it due to Batman’s history with fighting his own Justice Leagues. However, the Dark Knight is stalwart about the necessity of this team.

We cut to the Ray and Black Canary trying to put out a fire in the City of Vanity and save everyone within the burning building. Then the comic goes to the Pacific Ocean, and Lobo is fighting off an attack by some sort of lava creatures. Back at the Sanctuary in Rhode Island, Atom and Frost (now dropping the “Killer”) are trying to establish this League’s crisis alert system called “Troubalert” (that name…is pretty bad).

In Saratoga, a church is just being let out. Suddenly, a bright green portal opens up outside the church, and the Extremists step through. Lord Havok explains why he is here: he wants to save our world. His world had fallen, and he does not want the same to happen to Earth. The police attempt to pacify the extradimensional team.

Frost manages to get the Troubalert working, and the situation in Saratoga is shown on the screen. Frost and Atom get ready to mobilize. Batman is notified of the situation and tells the team to get ready to teleport on-site with their JLA tokens.

Saratoga is burning as Lord Havok espouses his totalitarian ideas, blaming the fall of his world, Angor, on people being too free. Meanwhile, the Extremists have massacred the responding police officers. After he proclaims himself the new ruler, the Justice League of America arrives on scene.

Vixen and Batman move on Havok, but he knocks them back with ease. The Detective tells Ray to evacuate the civilians, which he is able to do instantaneously. Then the full League takes the fight to the Extremists. Things don’t look too great in the start, with the Atom and the Ray panicking under the pressure.

The Atom attempts to shrink into Havok’s armor, but some sort of security measure electrocutes him. Havok grabs him and threatens to kill him as an example. Batman offers himself as a sacrifice instead, and the comic ends.

Now this, this is what I was waiting for. This wacky and wild team coming together to fight off a massive and imposing threat. We get to see how the team is gonna work and…well, it needs some work. They don’t cooperate well, and the new heroes are very unsure of themselves. Plus, well, Lobo can’t stop insulting everyone because he’s the Main Man.

I forgot to mention it in my review of the Rebirth issue, but Reis’ artwork is phenomenal. He is easily one of the best artists currently working at DC, and I’m so glad they put him on this book. He brings these legendary figures to life in a way that few others can. His command of shape and shadow is frankly astonishing.

I actually kind of dug the way Batman behaved in this comic. He’s working from a weird point of both anger and optimism. He knows the way the main Justice League has gone about things isn’t going to work. He knows they need to get closer to the people they’re trying to protect. Also, as shown in his interaction with Lord Havok, Batman is tired of despots and madmen trying to dominate the people. A line of his really stuck with me, “You hurt my people—and they’re all my people. You want to know who I am? Time to find out.” I really liked that line, and I’ve written multiple long-winded articles about how and why Batman in his modern form often does not work. So you know that he must really be good in this to have caught my attention.

Lobo is Lobo, and that will always appeal to me, especially when he talks about not being able to stand to “see a dolphin cry” while fighting ocean-based lava creatures. Canary and Frost are good too, but Vixen is the one who really stood out for me. The way in which she takes charge, even with Batman’s imposing ego present, is really cool. I like her as the leader of this squad, and I hope she gets to bloom in more issues.

There is the inevitable question of “Where is the other Justice League team in all this?” A New York state city is burning after extradimensional beings invade. Heck, the Titans work out of Manhattan, you’d think they’d see this too. I feel like a meeting between the two Leagues is inevitable, especially since this one was formed in spite of the other team. It’s sort of like the Marvel Initiative-era Mighty Avengers versus the New Avengers dichotomy.

That being said, Cyborg, the Flash, Simon Baz, and Jessica Cruz are not what I would think of as out-of-touch godlike figures. They are often very human, so it is a little weird that Batman is so wary of their personalities. That being said, the likes of Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and, well, Batman himself are also on that team, and I guess their massive egos do balance out the well-meaning humility of the other four.

I’m sold on this comic now. I was excited for it, and it’s delivering. It’s a weird and wild team that’s fighting weird and wild threats. The characters are good, the pacing works, and the art is fantastic. I definitely recommend it.

Final Score: 9/10

My Review of Justice League of America: Rebirth #1

Justice League of America: Rebirth #1

Justice League of America: Rebirth #1

And That’s How They Became the Batty Bunch

Steven Orlando (W), Ivan Reis (P), Joe Prado, Oclair Albert (I), Marcelo Maiolo (C)

Cover by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, and Marcelo Maiolo

Publisher: DC Comics

Price: $2.99

          Apologies again for the lateness of this review. I definitely did not intend to have this ready a full week after the comic was released.

As you likely know, I’ve been really looking forward to this release, despite the fact that I’ve not been remotely following the Justice League vs Suicide Squad story. I like wacky line-ups in super hero teams, and this team has a lot of characters that I like, particularly Lobo, Black Canary, and Killer Frost. I’m particularly interested in seeing Killer Frost trying to become a hero. The way she was recreated as a “heat vampire” in the New 52 is an interesting twist on the character, and I saw a lot of potential for redemption in this iteration of Kaitlin Snow.

The story begins with Batman showing Killer Frost around their headquarters, located in Happy Harbor, Rhode Island. Batman tells Snow that he is putting together a team for some imposing threat, and he wants to give her a chance to start fresh. She accepts the invitation.

Next, Killer Frost is fighting Black Canary in Seattle. After a short fight, Batman appears and tells her that Killer Frost is with him. The Dark Knight tells Canary that he needs a human element to this new team as well as someone who will call him out on bad decisions. Dinah Lance qualifies for both.

Next we see Mammoth City, New Jersey, where Lobo has just gotten thrown out of a biker bar. Black Canary approaches him about the team. It’s apparent quickly that Lobo and Canary won’t get along.

At Ivy University, Ryan Choi arrives in Ray Palmer’s lab using his Bio-Belt. Lobo and Batman are waiting for him. The Caped Crusader was waiting for Ray Palmer and tries to leave. Lobo convinces him to stay and accept Ryan onto the team.

At City of Vanity in Oregon, the Ray is out in the city. Ryan arrives through his phone. The Atom invites the Ray onto the new team, and he accepts.

In Manhattan, Vixen stops a crime being committed by someone called Roxy Rocket from robbing a museum. Afterwards, a police officer shows Mari a bizarre weapon, but she leaves when she senses Batman nearby. He extends an invitation to her as well, and, after some convincing, she joins the team.

Back at the headquarters, the team is having its first meeting, and Lobo, of course, is antagonizing everyone. Batman stands up for Killer Frost after Lobo starts harassing her for her past. Batman restates his intent to form a team of humans, and the comic ends with the new Justice League of America in action.

This comic was…serviceable. It wasn’t particularly exciting, but it set up the team well enough. It’s a peculiar lineup, but this book brings them together in a believable manner.

Batman shows a bit of humility in this issue, and that’s something that you rarely see from the Dark Knight. I enjoyed that. The Atom and the Ray seem like they are going to have good chemistry. Canary and Lobo seem like they are going to fight a lot. Then again, Lobo will probably pick a fight with everyone.

“Human” seems like a very odd word with which to describe Lobo. I can see it being used to describe Black Canary, the Atom, Vixen, and Killer Frost in this situation. Even the Ray I can see, but Lobo? The Main Man what smacks down with Superman regularly? Maybe, in this case, Batman means a bit of a bastitch.

That being said, this comic doesn’t do anything all that exciting. It tells enough story to fill out the pages, but I feel like this could have frontloaded a different story if it were shortened a little. Maybe this could have been a mega-sized first issue at four or five-dollars.

It wasn’t a bad book. It was alright and enjoyable enough, and I definitely look forward to seeing where this comic goes. However, this first issue wasn’t one of the best openings to a book. I have confidence that the series will be good, but I’m not reviewing the series. I’m reviewing the first issue, and the first issue is just serviceable.

Final Score: 6/10

#5 Worst Comic Book Character: Batman

#5 Worst Comic Book Character: Batman

Banner Art by Tony S. Daniel

This list is not exclusively for characters that I do not like, as I said before. It’s for characters that I think have negatively impacted modern comics in a significant way. Batman has assuredly negatively impacted modern comic books.

That being said, I won’t pretend to be the biggest Batman fan. I like him well enough. However, I think the more interesting parts of his character aren’t explored that often, namely the dichotomy of Bruce Wayne and Batman being more of a literal identity disparity and could arguably be multiple-personality disorder than other heroes like Superman and Spider-Man. I also feel that his hardcore and brooding persona does not line up with the fact that has never and will never take a life in modern continuity, resulting in him seeming a bit like a moody goth kid living in a frigging mansion.

Many of my issues with Batman and why he is on this list have been covered in my first Batmanification article and supplemented with the other editorials in that series. I will recap that for those who have not read them though.

Essentially, Batman managed to permeate every aspect of mainstream DC comic book in recent years. Up until the Rebirth initiative, much of DC’s offerings had become thoroughly dreary, “edgy,” and attempted at being something akin to hardcore. While Scott Snyder’s Batman is highly revered, and I personally enjoyed Tony S. Daniels’ and Jason Fabok’s work on Batman: Detective Comics a great deal, this aesthetic lens and storytelling style does not aptly fit onto other characters like Superman, Green Arrow, Supergirl, the Teen Titans or most of DC’s characters.

I have nothing wrong with dark stories. I mean, hell, I count Remender, Parker, and Bunn’s Venom with Flash Thompson, Remender’s Uncanny X-Force, and Bunn’s Magneto among my favorite comic book titles of all time, and they dabble in some pitch-black ideas. The problem comes when dark stories have no emotional variance or, to put it more simply, when dark stories are all you tell. Your stories become one-note, and, if you don’t balance the downs with some ups, that “darkness” begins to lose its impact. You need to have some moments of levity to maintain the narrative weight.

Problems also come when you try to turn characters like Superman into bland and dreary characters. Yeah, you can try to counter this with the bizarre Superman propaganda rags from the 40’s and 50’s, but there is a reason that those aren’t remembered fondly. I’m not saying you can’t have a dark version of Superman, but it is going to be inherently difficult to do because there aren’t a lot of well-established precedents for this idea except for Kingdom Come, Superman: Red Son, and maybe All-Star Superman. (no, Superman in The Dark Knight Returns does not count). It helps have the potential for darkness built-in to your characters to begin with.

The overall make-up of your comics’ offerings is also a consideration. For a decent amount of time before Rebirth, the Flash and Green Lantern were the only mainstream comics offered by DC that weren’t nigh-depressing. Hell, Hal Jordan was on the lam, the Corps was missing, and there were stories that dealt with all-too-real depictions of terrorism, and Green Lantern still managed to be less moody than New Teen Titans.

This obsession with their top-selling character also resulted in a lot of less famous characters like Hawkman, Firestorm, Captain Atom, Vixen, Zatanna, Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, Mister Terrific, the true Justice Society, Hawk and Dove, and a lot of other great characters from dropping off the radar completely. As the B-List Defender, I cannot abide by that.

Thankfully, DC has been made less moody and dreary by Rebirth. Books like Titans and Green Lanterns have brought some light to the dark depths of the DC Universe. Green Arrow has more personality now. The bland and brooding New 52 Superman has been replaced by a more classical rendition of the Man of Tomorrow.

However, this has not stopped DC from making sure you can’t be free of the pointy-eared bastard for too long. I have expressed my excitement for Justice League of America, but the looming figure of the Dark Knight in the background of the cover has not escaped my notice. There is an upcoming Green Lanterns story with Batman that has stirred my concern. Also, there is no reason for him to be a main character in the Justice League Dark animated feature.

And I hate being exasperated with Batman. As I said, I do like him, and he can be a great character. I do feel that there are some problems with the character. The focus on his brooding nature makes him a tiresome character, and his “no killing ever” policy makes him a character who is dissonant with his own personality and reputation for brutality.

That being said, I love the Batman: Arkham series of games. Batman: Hush is one of my favorite stories. However, his omnipresence in DC’s recent history has made me absolutely done with freaking Batman.

Batmanification Revisited: DC Rebirth

Batmanification Revisited: DC Rebirth

So, here we are about half a year into DC’s big Rebirth push, a redesign of the DC Universe intended to endear itself once more to longtime readers and fans. Things were to be lightened up a bit, old and unused characters were to make a return, and everything was the Watchmen’s fault. In a way, that last part is very true, though I would blame a good bit of it on The Dark Knight Returns as well.

On the whole, I would say that Rebirth has indeed fulfilled its promises. I’m enjoying DC’s offerings more now than I have in some time. Aquaman and Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps are both on par with their counterparts when Geoff Johns was writing each book. Green Lanterns, Green Arrow, Titans, Cyborg, and Nightwing are each pretty incredible titles in their own right. I had the pleasure of reading the two-issue homage to Darwin Cook in Superman, and the Man of Steel has returned to his classic, heroic form. Batman: Detective Comics showed an interesting and radical redesign based around something of a Justice League for Gotham. The Death of Hawkman has been a fantastic story based around B-List characters that DC hasn’t touched in at least a year. Despite its myriad of flaws, the Blue Beetles have their own book again, and that is something DC wouldn’t even consider a year ago. I admit I haven’t touched Justice League or the Suicide Squad, the latter of which I feel is for pretty obvious reasons. As a result, I can’t really vouch for their quality.

All this amounts to DC Rebirth being a success. The whole is not flavorless and gloomy like it once was. Not everything seems to be based around Batman with every other character’s book being made to resemble Batman. I’m genuinely interested in seeing where the Watchmen sub-plot is going, and I hope to see more characters make a long-awaited return in the coming year. I’m particularly excited for the new Justice League of America, and I’m glad the Main Man himself, Lobo, is back to his 1980’s biker gang self. I look forward to seeing what they do with Killer Frost as well.

That being said, the soft reboot of Rebirth hasn’t been without its flaws. Despite many comics being only $2.99, many of them come out twice a month, so that’s technically a price hike of $2.00 to get every instance of your comic’s story in a month. This increase in releases has shown some degradation in some issues of otherwise quality books. It kind of shows that these writers may not be used to such a stringent schedule, and the need to pad stories out because they simply do not know how long they’ll be left to their own devices becomes evident. Case in point, despite my love for Green Lanterns, issue 12, despite fleshing out the characters of Jessica and Frank, doesn’t really go anywhere in terms of plot.

Then there is the Young Animals line of comics. This cache of titles is desperately pandering to young alternative culture. We’ve already gone over the train wreck that was Doom Patrol here, but with titles like Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye, and Shade, the Changing Girl, despite how daring and unique I will admit they are, they are laser-focused on teens and twenty-somethings who like to think themselves above “regular super hero” comics. I do still intend to try Mother Panic though, as that does that looks pretty cool.

A lot of promises have yet to be fulfilled or are simply like a carrot being held in front of a mule. The Watchmen involvement hasn’t been mentioned since DC Universe: Rebirth itself, and the promise of a Justice Society title hasn’t been acknowledged in some time. Again, no, Earth 2 Society does not count, and for my reasoning there, go back and check my review of its #19.

Of course characters like Batman and Harley Quinn are being pushed to obnoxious degrees. That hasn’t changed, but even I’m not so righteously indignant to demand that DC turn away those cash machines.

The final concern for me is the potential for DC to renege on all of this and go back to what it was doing half a year ago. They have shown that kind of non-commitment before with the New 52 itself. A myriad of unique and interesting titles were given the axe at issue 8 because they weren’t selling as well as books they were never going to compete with. I loved Mister Terrific and Omac, but they were never going to sell like Batman and Justice League. It just isn’t going to happen, but these books were selling. They had to have been making a profit off of them.

With this in mind, it is entirely possible that, in two or three months, we are going to see mass cancellations. If so, books like Blue Beetles and some of these Young Animal comics will probably be up first for the executioner’s axe.

Or maybe they won’t. Maybe the past won’t determine the future here. I certainly hope so. We’ll just have to wait and see.

All this being said, Rebirth has been a true return to form for DC Comics, and the books have been mostly enjoyable. Series like Green Lanterns and Blue Beetles would not be remotely possible only a year ago. They feature lesser-known characters, and at least the first of those is high-energy, fun, and unique. Older and more mainline books like Aquaman, Green Arrow, and Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps (yes, for name’s sake it is a new title, but it is, for all intents and purposes a Green Lantern book) are better than they have been in quite some time. Even the tent pole titles like Superman and Detective Comics have gotten better. And, as I said, I’m really interested in seeing where this new Justice League of America title goes. I’m more optimistic than I was those months ago when I wrote the first “Batmanification” article, but I’m still in a “wait and see where this goes” mind set. Hopefully it will only get better from here.

As I said yesterday, my Worst 5 Comics of 2016 article will be up tomorrow, and I’ll see you then. The Best 5 will be live on Friday.

Until next time, keep reading comics!

Original Batmanification Article

The Batmanification Addendum

My Review of DC Universe: Rebirth

Earth 2 Society #19 Review

Earth 2 Society #19 Review

How many planets are they going to run through?

Dan Abnett (W), Bruno Redondo (P) and (Layouts), Juan Albarran (I), Vicente Cifuentes (P) and (I), Rex Lokus (C)

Cover by Bruno Redondo and Alejandro Sanchez

Publisher: DC Comics

Price: $2.99

          First off, apologies for the lateness of this posting. I didn’t plan too well and family obligations got in the way of finishing this earlier in the day.

The story of Earth 2 in the New 52 as well as Rebirth has been a complex one, both in terms of quality and content. When Earth 2 first started in 2012, I was rather excited for the series. However, it failed to grab my dad and I with its apocalyptic, dreary tone and its lackluster characters, and we did not continue to get it from there. We picked it back up later on when Tom Taylor took over the series and continued it for a time. However, we dropped it once more when we heard about Earth 2: World’s End because we are both vehemently against weekly series. We have checked back in a couple of times since Dan Abnett took over as writer, and I picked up the newest issue this week for curiosity’s sake.

My main dilemmas with the saga of Earth 2 in the New 52 is that it really does not resemble the tales of the Justice Society beyond character names. Alan Scott is more arrogant and stoic than the older iteration. Jay Garrick is a little more unsure and Spider-Man esque than the Flash of old. The new Doctor Fate, Hawkgirl, Huntress, Power Girl, Al Pratt, Commander Steel, and Sandman are more in line with what the characters once were, but they are more often than not pushed to the background. That’s to say nothing of Mister Terrific outright disappearing after Future’s End and the lack of Society classics like Wildcat, Jessie Quick, Johnny Thunder, Obsidian, Jade, and Atom Smasher. There’s also Hawkman, Shazam, and Stargirl, all of which have been restricted to Prime Earth and never appear in the series.

I understand that this is supposed to be the younger versions of the characters, but being the old vanguard has been such a central part of their narratives for so long now that giving them youth loses a lot of the things that made the Justice Society unique. The constant apocalyptic scenarios and dower tone also prevent the book from delving into the old-fashioned heroics which are hallmarks of the Justice Society. That being said, I have neglected the main problem that has prevented this book from being the return of the Justice Society that many people are craving.

This book wants to be about Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, and it’s really frustrating. The series has made itself focus on the Big Three with the new Superman, two Batmen, and Fury/Wonder Woman. Don’t get me wrong, I did kind of dig Thomas Wayne as Batman, Val-Zod the pacifist Superman is a pretty cool concept, and at least they allow Fury the dignity of having pants. However, that is not what many people are looking for in a book called Earth 2 Society. That name implies something akin to the Justice Society, and the book has not been that and only hints at it at times.

To move onto the current story, Earth 2 has been remade once again by the Pandora Casket, and the Wonders have just arrived into the new world created after facing duplicates of Sandman in some kind of phantom dimension out of sync with their own. In one location stands Superman, Power Girl, the Flash, Fury, Red Tornado, and Hawkgirl. In the other is Batman, “Boy Wonder,” and Huntress, these three having just been hidden away by someone calling himself Sergeant Steel while the others stand in a park in Metropolis.

The first group reside themselves to blending in while Sergeant Steel informs the second group of the state of the current world. It’s a near-perfect utopia controlled by an organization calling itself Central Command. They apparently fear Wonders coming from other dimensions to meddle with the world. To this end, they created Sergeant Steel, but they considered him a failure and moved onto creating the Sandmen. Steel distrusts this government and recognizes Batman, Huntress, and Boy Wonder as the extradimensional beings that Central Command fears.

Meanwhile, we get a look at Central Command and its army of Sandmen. Its led by a shadowy figure in armor reminiscent of Lex Luthor. He is aware of the arrival of the Wonders and wants them dealt with.

Back with Steel, Boy Wonder becomes aware that they are being tracked. Steel discovers it too with his technology, and he becomes distrustful of the three of them. A fight ensues, and Batman is apparently shot.

The first group is next shown being ambushed by the Sandmen, and we are shown the identity of the leader of Central Command (spoilers): Ultra-Humanite. The comic ends with that reveal.

This book has some real pacing issues. Much of the comic consists of the Wonders reiterating what is already known to the followers of the series. I understand wanting to be inviting to new readers, but this exposition could have been covered in far less space. The rest of the bulk is made up of information from Sergeant Steel which could have been greatly condensed too.

The plot is admittedly high-concept, and it does need some explaining. Even I felt a little confused at times, but that mostly comes from what I knew about previous points in the series and how different things are now. Where are Green Lantern, Atom, Doctor Fate, and Mister Terrific? Dick Grayson is Batman now? Who and what is John “the Boy Wonder” exactly? Did they really lose another Earth?

None of that is necessarily needed to understand the current story, but it is indicative of the creative team shifts and no one knowing what exactly they want to do with the series beyond imitating the Justice League.

That being said, I didn’t hate this comic. It was just so bogged down with exposition. No action. No interesting character moments. It’s all just explaining things. There’s a bizarre amount of detail devoted to them changing into disguises which becomes completely unnecessary when the Sandmen attack. They even say that the “disguises were pointless.” So what was the point? The plot could have been constructed differently to move this stuff along more efficiently.

The art is pretty good. The characters look striking and detailed. It is a bit overly glossy, and there isn’t a whole lot of physical expression going on. There is a funny visual gag with Fury being visibly disgusted at a Hello Kitty-esque shirt. Beyond that, the art is good, but not extraordinary.

If you’re already hooked on this series, you will likely be bored by the slow pace and constant exposition. If you’re a newcomer, you will get some grasp of what’s going on but only because the comic won’t stop explaining things. If you’re a returning reader to see what the comic is like now, it barely resembles the series as it has been and will be a bit alienating. It won’t likely win back readers.

Like I said, I didn’t hate this comic. It is playing with some interesting, if redundant, concepts. It’s cool seeing less used characters like Huntress, Ultra-Humanite, and Jay Garrick. However, the pace is very slow and results in a dull comic. I can’t recommend it. Check back later when things have picked up again.

Final Score: 5/10