Monday, 13 February 2017

Batman: Detective Comics, Volume 1: Rise of the Batmen Review (James Tynion IV, Eddy Barrows)

Oh Rebirth, Rebirth, Rebirth, why art thou so pants? Fie my disappointment, Detective Comics dost verily sucketh! I don’t know why I’m talking this way. Maybe Rebirth’s broken me brain? I’ll stop now. Verily. 

Detective Comics Rebirth takes the title back to its original issue numbering, which is pure fan service to the NEEEEERRRRRRDDDSSSS!!!! who care about that sort of thing, as well as further underlining the New 52’s death. The relaunched title does veer away from tradition though in turning Detective Comics from a less superhero-y Batman solo book with an emphasis on sleuthing into a Bat-family team book where Batman is an incidental background character. It’s not a change for the better.

Motivation and set-up are poorly written throughout. Batman wants to unite the various Gotham vigilantes into a group – why and why now? And what aren’t they achieving acting alone that they could be achieving as a group? They seem to be a pretty effective crime-fighting force operating independently. There’s no strong case made for the benefit of a team.

Batman’s group is: Batwoman (Kate Kane, Bruce’s cousin) as the de facto leader, Red Robin (Tim Drake aka Robin #3 – while he’s ditched the Red Robin outfit and gone back to his classic Robin threads, he’s holding onto the name), Spoiler (Stephanie Brown aka Robin #4), Orphan (Cassandra Cain), and Clayface. Huh. Why Clayface? No idea. Just a totally random, bizarre inclusion that makes no sense. And when did Tim and Stephanie start dating?!

I’ma have to go into spoiler territory now (and I don’t mean Stephanie)!

The story is so poorly conceived. Colonel Jake Kane, Kate’s dad, suddenly has a completely different character in this book – he’s basically written as Marvel’s Thunderbolt Ross, “General SirYesSir McArmyMan”. Like Kate, he also admires Bruce’s work as Batman except he’s gone and trained up an army of Batmen! But he also believes – without a shred of evidence – that the League of Shadows exists and is planning something big and terrible in Gotham and that it’s up to him to stop them.

Alright – but why then is he attacking Batman and co.?! They’re on the same side! Besides having a totally different personality now, is he also just utterly insane too?! He’s such a terrible villain with the least convincing motivations.

The only part of the book that gripped me was when Tim decided to take on Colonel Kane’s army of drones single-handed to save his friends and hundreds of innocents. The scene builds up strongly as Tim becomes more tired, more beaten, until he realises he can’t go on – he’s about to die. He says his goodbyes, the drones shoot him, Batman arrives too late, heartbroken once again. It’s powerful stuff, really – a noble, if contrived, death.

And then the emotion of Tim’s sacrifice is COMPLETELY UNDERMINED in the next few pages as we find out that actually he didn’t die but was teleported into the cell of some mysterious person’s prison – maybe one of the Watchmen’s, a reference to the ending of DC Universe Rebirth #1? Tynion couldn’t even commit to Tim’s death for a book, it had to be immediately fixed – awful! Why do any of the preceding stuff then?! It’s so shitty.

Tynion is a protégé of Scott Snyder’s who’s adopted some of Snyder’s worst traits like overwriting – the book is full of chatter, most of it worthless and dull - and yet with the abundance of writing the story remains underdeveloped; the sign of a weak writer.

Martian Manhunter artist Eddy Barrows continues to produce great art – this book is very good-looking with strong colours, though I hated Batman’s new cape which in some scenes looks feathered for some reason? Bats don’t have feathers! Unless it was webs, but again, what do webs have to do with bats!?

Batwoman is essentially the main character so if you’re a big fan of Kate’s you might enjoy this more, but unfortunately I found the newly relaunched Detective Comics to be underwhelming. There were just too many missteps - it lacks a strong villain and setup and could really use more focus on the story it wanted to tell. Ho hum, another low quality volume – the Rebirth standard it seems! I’m baffled as to what readers are responding to with this line.

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