Hello, and welcome to the Bat Casebook, where I review the Bat-Comics that came out during the week for you–usually. Right now I’m going to do something a little different, and do last week’s books. I didn’t do it last week, because the “big book,” Birds of Prey #2, was unavailable on my side of the Union. So I’m going to talk about that, go briefly on Azrael #9, and then talk about the Joker’s Asylum books that came out in the past two weeks, including the one from this week, Killer Croc. This will be a bit shorter, so I can also get this week in, so let’s dig in!

Birds of Prey #2

BIRDS OF PREY #2
Pencils by Ed Benes & Adriana Melo
Inked by Ed and Mariah Benes
Colored by Nei Ruffino
Lettered by Swands

Birds of Prey #2–or, as I like to call it, “Where Shit Hits the Fan.” Basically, by the end of this issue, the Birds of Prey just got their asses kicked by the White Canary, are wanted by the police, framed for a murder they didn’t commit, are being played by a mysterious force that’s threatening to kill everyone they know every hour until they comply, and have already started by beating the former spy Savant to death, with his partner Creote video-calling Oracle, telling her, and then committing suicide on camera. The Birds are being hounded down, Black Canary’s identity is officially revealed to the public–which I was sure it was already, but she even admits that it was the worst-kept secret at best–and their only alley on the ground is The Penguin. Things look grim, but Oracle has some plans, and we end on her planning to strike back against their foes, as we see events from Brightest Day on her monitors.

So this was a pretty solid issue–they’re making me really curious to find out just who this White Canary is, and why she seems to hate Dinah so much, and I’m curious to see how Oracle and co. will get out of this situation…if they’re even able to completely. Between this “framed for crimes they didn’t commit” thing, the fact that they know so much about the rest of the superhero community, and their tag-line with each issue, I’m thinking they’re going to become sort of the A-Team of the DCU. That would be pretty cool–a good way to make them different from other teams, and perhaps try to wipe out some of the preconceived notions about this being a simple girl power book.

One thing that I was surprised to see in people’s reaction for this book in the past week was the outrage over the deaths of Creote and Savant, saying that it was in the same vein as the trend of “white-washing” across the DCU, and the death of Creote in particular meant it was one less gay character in the DCU. While I would like to see more GLBT characters in the DCU, I think with Gail’s record, I’m willing to see where she’ll go with it–plus, it’s not like we actually see what happens to Creote, and neither does Oracle…

Either way, I’m eagerly anticipating seeing what will happen next.

Azrael #9

AZRAEL #9
Written by Fabian Nicieza
Art by Ramon Bachs & John Stanisci
Cover by Francesco Mattina

So I was really looking forward to this issue, because the last issue was pretty good, and because this is the last issue of Nicieza’s run on the book–and I think maybe that excitement was too high. I can pretty much sum up the issue like this–Michael accepts becoming part of the cult, placing himself as the avatar for the Eighth Sin of Man, Faith. Then, White Ghost captures Michael, and tells him that he has to quit the cult and says there is good examples like faith–like trusting  the mass murderer Ra’s al Ghul in his telling Michael about the Suit of Sorrows and how Michael might be able to break the curse within it. Somehow, this convinces Michael, so he goes out to kill the rest of the cult, and he starts to wait for answers that he believes will someday come.

So, this book has been in a tremendously grey area before, but I dunno, something about this issue and this situation just didn’t feel right. Part of me wonders if Nicieza had to leave this book so he could do Red Robin on time, because this just felt like a rotten place to end his run, pretty much right back where he started, if not lower. It’s also possible I might have missed something in my reading of it, but overall this run ended with a massive whimper. Hopefully David Hine’s able to do good with this book, because it does have a lot of potential to do interesting things.

Joker's Asylum: Harley Quinn

THE JOKER’S ASYLUM: HARLEY QUINN
Written by James Patrick
Art by Joe Quinones
Cover by Claudio Castellini

Okay, I gotta get this off my chest–I’m very surprised that DC allowed this cover to be published. The continual problem I’ve seen with pin-up pieces, especially with trademarked characters like Harley, who’s extremely popular, if not a complete icon, is how much they can show of these corporate characters, and I’m surprised this one didn’t step over the line. Maybe I’m just a male chauvinist pig, but the first thing I thought when I saw this cover, after wondering if Joker’s forcing her to fast, was, “Is…is that a camel toe?”

Anyway, the rest of this issue was certainly not as perplexing. The story is a bit basic, with your standard device of Joker narrating and setting up the piece. This time he sits in a comfy chair with a little puppy in his lap–if you’re worried about what’s going to happen to the puppy, don’t worry, that means you’re still humane and sane–telling the story, when Harley broke out of Arkham on Valentine’s Day, so that she can make the perfect day with her Puddin’, leaving mayhem in her wake. It’s a pretty standard story for Harley, but well done, and how Batman solves the problem was pretty clever. The art was pretty good as well, with just enough of a cartoony edge to sell up the cartoony aspects of the script. Overall not a bad one-shot.

Joker's Asylum: Mad Hatter

JOKER’S ASYLUM: MAD HATTER
Written by Landry Quinn Walker
Art by Keith Giffen & Bill Seinkiewicz
Cover by Bill Seinkiewicz

This one I will call, “The Saga of the ‘Nice Guy.'” Basically, this deals with Jarvis, released from Arkham for good behavior, trying to avoid the tea that apparently turns him into the Hatter, who starts to obsess over the woman who works at his local grocery store, having grand illusions that she is his Alice. When he finally gets the courage to ask her her name, see if she really is Alice, he becomes angered that her name isn’t Alice and drinks the tea, becoming Mad Hatter once more. So, Hatter goes after her, and Batman catches him, sending him back to Arkham.

Again, this isn’t a completely new story for Tetch–wanting to do horrible things to the women he figures is his Alice isn’t an altogether new story for him–but what does elevate this is the way that Walker writes it, putting us deep inside this broken, messed up mind that is Tetch, and the great, angular pencils by Giffen that are finished by Seinkiewicz. Would have been nice if Seinkiewicz did the whole issue, but can’t complain about Giffen layouts.

JOKER’S ASYLUM: KILLER CROC
Written by Mike Raicht
Art by David Yardin & Cliff Richards
Cover by Francesco Mattina

In essence, this is about Killer Croc escaping from Arkham, in a move that instantly establishes him more as a lizard then a man, and he’s saved by a mysterious couple, who want to use him as an enforcer to become higher ups in the mafioso of Gotham City–and that’s all I’m going to say about this issue. I was very pleasantly surprised by this issue–I would almost say that this is the best issue of this series so far. The reason I think this is because the other stories, while good, are stuff you’ve probably seen before with these characters–with Croc, I don’t think we’ve seen this story done with him before, and if they have, I’m certain it wasn’t this good. Again, without getting into spoilers, the first and only real line from Croc at the end was almost heart-breaking.

So, why am I talking about these three issues? Because while they do not offer a lot in terms of progressing the over-all story in the Bat-verse, but they are at least solid stories that you can get and enjoy, often about characters that don’t get the spotlight as often, and typically by new or classic talents–so should you ever have a light week, I’d definitely suggest finding these, look for the villain you like the most, and giving them a shot.

And that’s it–fairly soon you should see the article for this week’s books, so until then!