Hello, welcome to the Bat Casebook, where I take the bat-comics that came out during the week and review them. Sound simple enough, right? Hopefully so–because last week ended up not being so. I think I got this whole “WordPress” thing down, though, so hopefully this is good.

BRAVE & THE BOLD #33
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist: Cliff Chiang
Cover: Jesus Saiz

First off, let me get this out of the way–this easily has the best cover of the week. Gotta love Wondy acting all pimp like that. Second, yes, I know this isn’t REALLY a bat-book, but when it involves Batgirl, and frequent bat-supporting character Zatanna in it, and I covered previous issues when it dealt with Batman trying to avoid teaming up with Brother Power, I had to count it. Plus, this book has frequently been just a FUN comic, and I wanted to talk about it.

However–this book wasn’t so much “fun” this issue. It was well done…but so freaking SAD. I got a lump in my throat, I ain’t gonna front. Without spoiling it, this issue starts as three young superheroines letting their hair down for a night out club-hopping, and ends  in tragedy. It’s very possible I might have to relinquish my Man Card after this, but considering how good this issue was, it don’t bother me none.

What I most liked about this was how real our three leads were. Diana was a competent, powerful superhero while still feeling real and human; as well as someone who you can tell is from another culture while still experienced and aware of ours (you KNOW this Diana can figure out how to pump gas into her car!) and is in the same vein as the “regal but funny” interpretation that Gail Simone has perfected over in Wonder Woman. If this is how JMS will handle WW after #601, minus the “ball-breaking” bit (works for Power Girl, not so much with Diana), then we’re definitely in for a treat. Zee’s sorrow over what she finds–again, without trying to spoil–felt very real. Barbara was the shy, geeky wallflower who’s able to cut loose when her friends get her comfortable. They are great, competent heroes, but you can still see their flaws and humanities.

I also loved the plot and twist of the whole issue. Again, without spoiling, it brings up a lot of interesting ideas about prophesy and predetermination, and brings up a lot of questions about whether these characters really would do what they do–it’s not completely out of character, but it’s something that stays with you. Plus, it has something that will make every femslasher squee with glee:

Awww yeah, girl-on-girl! Sorta.

AWW YEAH girl on girl! ...Hey, let a fella dream.

As you can see from the subtext (sort-of) becoming text, the art in this issue is flipping gorgeous. Chiang was a perfect fit for this issue–his style pops and fits with the quansi modern/silver age hybrid that JMS is going for, and, as you can see, he draws gorgeous women without having to give them silly putty spines, waists the size of their forearms and elongated torpedo tits. In other words, he’s not Rob Liefeld, and we need more artists in superhero comics who aren’t Rob Liefeld.

If I can find one nitpick about the book, it’s this–JMS seems to have but a few formulas in his bag for this book. So far, most of his issues have had two stories: one where a modern hero meets a forgotten silver age character, or where the heroes try to battle fate. It’s not a real bad thing, per se, and it looks like after this issue he’s going to really switch it up (and with a two-part story, no less!), but still, that kind of thing can potentially get formulaic and boring fast, and I don’t want to see this book turn formulaic, because it’s a really good series. I highly recommend picking this book–I also recommend getting some tissues while you’re out, just in case.

BATMAN: STREETS OF GOTHAM #11
Writer: Paul Dini
Artist: Dustin Nguyen

FINALLY. At long last, the Zsasz plot is over. After many, many delays and sidetracks, this storyline that’s been bubbling since the first issue is done. I really liked this issue, and I’ve liked the book in general, but if there’s one problem this book has had, it’s been the delays on Dini’s part.

And this is a really good issue too–here we have Damian almost down for the count, when Colin, the kid who was kidnapped and pumped full of Venom in Heart of Hush, now able to will the transformation and fights crime as Abuse, team up to stop Zsasz’s child fighting ring. It’s a hard, brutal bout, which tests Damian’s mettle as a hero, where he has to choose whether he’ll kill or not (which was kind-of already established in Batman & Robin, but it’s Dini, so I’m willing to give it to him). It also has this great moment:

Gaze upon the badassery and DESPAIR.

That is Damian Wayne making a make-shift domino mask out of his own blood, y’all. It’s not the most practical disguise, I’ll grant you that, but you can’t deny the sheer METAL of this moment. Seriously, this is up there with the Gods of Metal. Ozzie Osborne ate a bat on stage? Get out a here–any circus geek can do that–only the most surpreme of ninja–METAL NINJA–can dig into their shoulder wound and use their own blood as war paint. METAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLL–

…Sorry, got a little carried away there. Trying  to pump up my masculinity again after putting heaps of praise on the superhero chick flick (I say with love), I guess.

Anyway, so this is a story about Damian figuring out the whole “not killing” thing (granted Zsasz would be dead regardless because of what Damian did, but hey, it’s not the first time that’s happened), and his teaming up with Colin/Abuse. Abuse is another bit I love about this book–here’s this character who you thought was just a throwaway, a plot point of Hush keeping Bruce out of Gotham long enough to put his plan to action in Heart of Hush, and Dini not only brings him back as a big deal, but does so in a way that makes him very fresh and unique. Abuse is a very cool idea–like Batman’s the darker, more human Superman, Abuse is like the darker, more human Captain Marvel. Putting him up with Damian was also very cool–it’s a team-up I hope they keep around, because they kick a lot of ass together.

I also loved that Dick was not only planning a night off here, but was going to see a jazz club. Don’t ask me why, I just think that’s a perfect place for the smooth playa that is Dick Grayson.

So this wasn’t a bad issue…but I do think we should have gotten here a lot sooner. So far, Streets of Gotham‘s reminded me of the first year or so of Dini’s run on Detective Comics, in that the issues Dini actually does are good, but he seems to disappear a lot, which diminishes the quality a bit. To me, it wasn’t until Nguyen became the regular artist, and Dini started doing issues every month, that his run started to really shine. However, the advantage that those early issues of Detective had was that each issue was a done-in-one, so there weren’t any dangling plot threads. With this, we’ve been waiting almost a year to have this plot that’s been established from the beginning happen, so this great finale comes out with more of a whimper than a bang.

But I still have hope–now that most of the threads are done, we’ll have some one-shots for a bit, and then in the summer we’ll have the sequel to Heart of Hush–which I will be on like white on rice. So while it’s had some problems, I’m still looking forward to this book.

So that’s all we have for this week. Tune in next week, April 28, when we’ll review Detective Comics #864 and Gotham City Sirens #11.

Detective Comics #864Gotham City Sirens #11