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Review: Batman #51

After last month’s polarizing (not really a) wedding issue, writer Tom King reunites with his Batman/Elmer Fudd collaborator Lee Weeks and atmospheric colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser for a courtroom drama with a bit of twist ending in Batman #51. Bruce Wayne chooses to make a mockery of the legal system over awkwardly revealing his secret identity and sits on a jury where Mr. Freeze is being tried for the murder of three women, and, of course, was apprehended by Batman. It’s a fairly thought provoking look at how Batman fits into the larger legal system of Gotham, and at times, may do more harm than good. And far from being a mere procedural, King and Weeks use the contradiction of Bruce Wayne sitting on a jury in a trial connected to the actions of his alter ego (Or real personality.) to probe into the anger and guilt buried in Bruce/Batman. Never has a quick restroom visit been so chilling in Weeks’ violent pencil and ink strokes as he blurs the boundaries between billionaire playboy and creature of the night, who definitely isn’t an impartial juror.

King and Weeks juxtapose the relatively restrained setting of the courtroom and jurors’ quarters with dynamic, brutal beatdowns and classic chiarascuro lighting from Breitweiser in Batman #51. It starts with the relatively mild mannered Bruce Wayne arriving at the courthouse for jury duty and the Frank Miller-channeling fists on face beatdown that Batman gives Mr. Freeze, one of the more sympathetic members of his rogue’s gallery. The flashback sequence crescendoes into a close-up of Freeze’s face in anguish, his goggles flying that takes up the whole middle of the page. Lee Weeks is truly a master of pain and gives him a furrowed brain and slobbering mouth. All the while, Bruce Wayne is calmly lying about his connection and thoughts about the Batman to the district attorney in measured, almost sterile dialogue from Tom King. However, this calmness turns into guilt beginning with a darkly framed silent scene in Bruce’s hotel room where it seems like he might slip into his costume and play Dark Knight until court in the morning. It hits a breaking point when Bruce breaks a sink off in the bathroom as he is wracked by the fear that his actions as Batman might have doomed an innocent man.

Until the end of the comic, King and Weeks portray Batman as a hypocrite and even insert little asides like Jim Gordon’s testimony and the jury deliberations that show the city of Gotham gives his violent vigilantism too much of a pass. Mr. Freeze’s defense attorney makes the point that the women were considered to have died of natural causes until Batman did his own autopsy and connected them to Freeze because their brain stems were “cold” in a true leap of logic setting up a darkly humorous nine panel grid of Gordon squirming and finally stating that Batman doesn’t have the authority to conduct autopsies in whatever state Gotham is in. Batman basically framed Mr. Freeze and coerced him into making a confession, but the jury is already convinced that Freeze is an evil villain and Batman is a perfect hero so who cares about the laws of the land. There isn’t really time to do a 12 Angry Men and develop all of the personalities of the jurors in Batman #51, but King does the next best thing and has them share quick personal stories about how Batman helped them instead of evidence to decide a verdict.

Many arguments for vigilantes, Batman included, state that they can execute justice in a more effective way than the legal and judicial system. However, Batman #51 shows that this isn’t all the case as the deaths of three women from natural causes has turned into a full blown murder investigation and has probably taken the place of more pressing matters. Tom King, Lee Weeks, and Elizabeth Breitweiser venture into the real world a little bit in this issue and go into the actual court systems while still having stylized moments like Batman dangling Freeze off the roof top.

In Batman #51, King, Weeks, and Breitweiser go beyond inserting Batman into the court room drama genre and use the trial of Mr. Freeze to probe into his anger and pain and the roots of Bruce/Batman’s sense of justice. Lee Weeks’ naturalistic approach to figures and faces really helps as most of the denizens of this book are ordinary citizens and not superheroes or villains.

Story: Tom King Art: Lee Weeks
Colors: Elizabeth Breitweiser Letters: Clayton Cowles

Story: 8.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Preview: Batman #51

Batman #51

(W) Tom King (A/CA) Lee Weeks
In Shops: Jul 18, 2018
SRP: $3.99

The honeymoon’s over for Bruce Wayne as Gotham City’s most prominent citizen gets selected for jury duty in a chilling court case involving Mr. Freeze! Freeze claims the charges should be dismissed because Batman used excessive force; cue the outrage and media circus. While doing his civic duty, Wayne’s forced to take a hard look at the Dark Knight’s methods. And hey…what is Dick Grayson doing running around the city dressed as Batman?

Review: Batman #50 is a Beautiful, Tragic Romance

If you thought that Batman and Catwoman were going to have a happy wedding with the usual supervillain attack to keep things interesting, then you’re pretty naive. On that confrontational, Batman #50 is a climactic moment in Tom King’s run on Batman, and Mikel Janin and June Chung are onboard as well to show all the romance, heartbreak, and kicking Kite-Man on the face. But the real highlight of this issue is the unleashing of some of the best living Batman and Catwoman artists to tell the love story of Bat and Cat all framed in love letters to each other. Beginning with the great Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez showing them swaddled together in a loving embrace and concluding in a pure negative space, movie poster style page from upcoming Batman artist Lee weeks, this is a wonderful encapsulation of Batman and Catwoman’s relationship done in Tom King’s signature tone poem way.

The letters that Batman and Catwoman write to each other in Batman #50 are a form of psychological probing, which makes sense because Batman is the World’s Greatest Detective and Catwoman is a skilled thief and con woman. They read people basically for a living, but are vulnerable and have huge blind spots. Especially Batman. King writes some beautiful lines where Batman and Catwoman both say that each other’s eyes is what led to their initial attraction. Batman was struck by how complex Catwoman’s eyes were, and that she could be more than a one-off animal themed villain while Catwoman realized how simple and childlike Batman’s were: pure blue. These thoughts come during Tim Sale and Paul Pope’s pages showing Catwoman in her 1990s purple costume pursuing and aggressively flirting with Batman like he’s an innocent boy and not a skilled crime fighter drawn in heroic, stealthy poses by Neal Adams and Lee Bermejo. He’s lost control and maybe has a chance to find happiness like the totally adorable page drawn by Amanda Conner of Catwoman and Batman enjoying a date at the zoo, or this issue’s sexiest moment where Mister Miracle’s Mitch Gerads shows them under a cape blanket with all the accoutrements of crime and crime fighting strewn about. Batman and Catwoman have serious chemistry, which has been boosted by King, Gerads, and Janin’s work on the current series, but are they really marriage material?

One person who shares the idea that getting married would make Batman less miserable and lose his edge is Holly Robinson, Catwoman’s long time friend, who she springs out of Arkham for one night to be her maid of honor/witness. This is a bit of a crazy plot point because the last time she appeared, Holly was fleeing the country as Batman was trying to apprehend her for 237 murders that Catwoman tried to take the fall for. The inclusion of Holly in Batman #50 makes the story a little more twist-filled than a simple case of cold feet (Eat your heart out, X-Men Gold #30), especially the final page that puts a new spin on a famous 1990s Batman storyline. As Selina’s friend, who she saved from child prostitution, Holly has been around Batman since Year One when she stabbed a less than intimidating, fake scar sporting Bruce Wayne partially leading him to choose a costume to strike fear in the heart of criminals. (As a sidenote, it’s pretty epic to see Frank Miller’s lumbering Batman on the page when Catwoman talks about how angry and graceful he was during his early crime fighting days.) But is she a pawn or a mastermind in a larger scheme?

Batman #50 seems to be an inciting incident in a larger Tom King story centered around the breaking of Batman’s heart and not his body. Batman is always surrounded by Gothic elements, like secret passages, large empty mansions, and gargoyles, so adding a doomed romance to the mix makes sense. King and Mikel Janin are working in a larger tradition of Batman getting in the way of Bruce’s happiness, and a couple of DOA romances from other mediums come to my mind. (Vicki Vale from 1989’s Batman, Andrea Beaumont in Mask of the Phantasm, Rachel Dawes in the Nolan trilogy) However, this relationship is different because King has consistently written Batman and Catwoman as equal crime fighting partners and shows this through the symmetry in the composition of their letters (Clayton Cowles’ word bubble placement is impeccable. and even similar poses in the final pinups from Greg Capullo and Weeks. Those two crazy kids had some great, but unfortunately it didn’t work out.

Batman #50 definitely will be a fanbase breaking comic book, and the spoiler-y New York Times article didn’t help matters. However, throughout his run and in homage to Batman and Catwoman’s relationship, Tom King has seeded doubts that the Bat and Cat could settle into a quiet marriage. Bruce is as comfortable with as he is in the tuxedo that Alfred said reminds him of his father. Speaking of Alfred, Mikel Janin crushes a silent sequence where Bruce asks him to be his witness, and all dialogue and narration stops for a four panel hug that segues into aforementioned dreamy page from Mitch Gerads. King and Janin pinpoint these little emotional stingers into the narrative, like Holly complimenting Catwoman’s dress or a symmetrical double page spread where Bat and Cat embrace and kiss one, unfortunately last time. The use of symmetry and formalism in the way Batman #50 is constructed hint at a couple that’s on the same page, but that’s sadly not the reality.

In Batman #50, Tom King, Mikel Janin, June Chung, and a talent group of guest artists craft the ultimate, tragic Batman love story and show the chemistry between Bat and Cat while also showing how their marriage ultimately wouldn’t work out. This definitely isn’t a big, guest star heavy special, but an intimate story of a man, who decides to work out his pain and sorrow dressed as a bat instead of finding love and peace with an enigmatic woman, who dresses like a cat.

Story: Tom King Art: Mikel Janín
Guest  Art: David Finch, Joëlle Jones, Mitch Gerads, Rafael Albuquerque, Neal Adams, Andy Kubert, Becky Cloonan, Ty Templeton, José Luis Garcia-Lopez, Frank Miller, Lee Bermejo, Trish Mulvihill, Jason Fabok, Brad Anderson, Alex Sinclair, Hi-Fi, Tony S. Daniel, Tomeu Morey, Amanda Conner, Paul Mounts, Tim Sale, José Villarrubia, Paul Pope, Clay Mann, Jordie Bellaire, Jim Lee, Scott Williams, Greg Capullo, FCO Plascencia, Lee Weeks
Colors: June Chung Letters: Clayton Cowles
Story: 8.0 Art: 10 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Batman #50

It’s the wedding you never thought you’d see! The Batrimony is real as Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle are set to tie the knot in a can’t-miss, extra-length milestone issue that will reshape Gotham City. All their friends (and a few enemies?) will be party to a comic book coupling for the ages.

The build up has been coming for a while now and with Batman #50 writer Tom King answers the question as to whether Batman and Catwoman tie the knot.

The issue is done in an interesting way with what amounts to two page spreads with generally half dedicated to Batman’s preparation for the day and the other half for Catwoman’s. In between these normal panel pages, there’s full page images by some top art talent on top of which we’re presented the two’s thoughts about their meeting and what they’re about to do.

While the “will they or won’t they” has been spoiled the comic is interesting as it delves into the thought process of two individuals who are clearly nervous about tying the knot and if they do what it means.

Catwoman isn’t a hero, she’s a criminal.

Batman is a hero. He’s a hero driven by his pain.

If they were to get married, what does that mean for each of them? Can Batman be happy? These are the types of thoughts that run throughout the comic as the two characters explore their love for each other. And that’s the impressive thing, Tom King convinces you that these two love each other. By the end, you’re convinced there’s no one else for these two.

And that spoiling? Well, not quite. There’s a twist but you’ll have to read the comic yourself and go elsewhere.

The issues with the comic is the hype and a build up that doesn’t pay off. The quality of the narrative is excellent, it all just doesn’t quite live up to the lead up and the end result is rather predictable. A single panel does not make a comic and this one relies heavily on that final panel.

The art duties are mainly handled by Mikel Janin with colors by June Chung and lettering by Clayton Cowles. The art is solid and there’s some fantastic page layouts. The way some of these pages are laid out is impressive with very creative visual storytelling. What’s also interesting is the use of pin-ups to tell the story as well. There was a similar thing done in Action Comics #1000 and here it sort of works. The artwork is fantastic, there’s some talent. But, it breaks up the story a bit and after a while becomes a little tedious. When the big picture comes in to focus, the choice is an interesting one and adds a poetic aspect, somewhat appropriate considering what’s happening.

This is a chapter in King’s larger story. There’s much more to come as things weave together and that final panel indicates we’ve got a hell of a lot of excitement to come. As a single issue, this one has its good and its bad but as a piece of the larger puzzle it fits like a perfectly crafted piece of the larger picture.

Story: Tom King Art: Mikel Janín
Pin-up Art: David Finch, Joëlle Jones, Mitch Gerads, Rafael Albuquerque, Neal Adams, Andy Kubert, Becky Cloonan, Ty Templeton, José Luis Garcia-Lopez, Frank Miller, Lee Bermejo, trish Mulvihill, Jason Fabok, Brad Anderson, Alex Sinclair, Hi-Fi, Tony S. Daniel, Tomeu Morey, Amanda Conner, Paul Mounts, Tim Sale, José Villarrubia, Paul Pope, Clay Mann, Jordie Bellaire, Jim Lee, Scott Williams, Greg Capullo, FCO Plascencia, Lee Weeks
Color: June Chung Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 7.5 Art: 9.0 Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Read

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

The Final covers for Batman #50 and Catwoman #1 are Revealed!

The Batrimony is real! Batman #50 HITS SHELVES IN TWO WEEKS! DC Comics has revealed the final covers for Batman #50 and Catwoman #1, both on sale 7/4/18, for immediate release. Will the Joker succeed in stopping The Bat and The Cat from finding happiness? Be sure to read Batman #50 first, or you’ll spoil the big moment.

BATMAN #50

It’s the wedding you never thought you’d see! The Batrimony is real as Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle are set to tie the knot in a can’t-miss, extra-length milestone issue that will reshape Gotham City. All their friends (and a few enemies?) will be party to a comic book coupling for the ages. Superstar scribe Tom King officiates the sure-to-be-offbeat nuptials, joined by an all-star lineup of guest classic Bat-artists doffing their hats to the lucky couple in a series of pre-wedding flashback scenes sure to set the romantic mood.

CATWOMAN #1

The wedding night’s barely over, but Catwoman’s back on the streets, this time to expose a copycat who’s pulling heists around Gotham City. As Selina cracks the whip on her former criminal cohorts, she’s attracting unwanted attention from one of Gotham’s most dangerous groups. The mob? Nope. Try the GCPD. And as if the Bat-Bride didn’t have enough problems, don’t miss the debut of an all-new villain determined to make trouble for all nine of Selina’s lives. Don’t miss the start of an all-new monthly series written and illustrated by Eisner Award-nominee Joëlle Jones!

Review: Batman #49

Now it’s up to Catwoman to rescue her one true love. It’s the Cat vs. the Clown in one exciting showdown that sets the stage for our giant anniversary issue-and the biggest union in comics!

If there’s two villains who have really defined Batman, to me it’s the Joker and Catwoman. The former is the mirror image in a way, the chaos to the order and the latter is a spin on Batman himself (depending on the version). And the two in their different ways vie for Batman’s affection. In the lead up to the wedding of Batman and Catwoman, writer Tom King has been diving into how the Joker has been handling it and it’s become clearer and clearer in his own twisted way the Joker loves the Bat and is jealous.

Batman #49 involves the fallout from the last issue with Batman knocked out it’s Catwoman to the rescue. And while you think this is a drag out fight, that aspect is quick and vicious as the two draw blood and begin to bleed out. Much of the comic is just Catwoman and the Joker talking as they both deal with their wounds. Those wounds are so severe neither are able to do much else. This is a talky one with an interesting back and forth between the two characters as they talk about their relationship with Batman as well as with other villains. It’s fascinating and eye opening in many ways giving us a good look at the two. This is a character study in every way and you could easily see this staged in some theater somewhere.

King takes a dive into relationships here and it’s all fantastic. It gets you to think about the relationships of Batman and his rogues and what they mean to them and what role they’ve played in the Bat-verse. Here, we get two of his most intimate villains and much like Batman and Joker are opposite sides of a coin, Catwoman and the Joker are too in a way. What’s clear though is that in King’s version of Batman, the Joker needs Batman and he thinks Batman needs him. We get some motivation and we question some of his actions.

The art by Mikel Janin is solid. The story is really two individuals laying on the ground trying not to bleed to death. There’s not much more than that. Janin uses that to get us to focus on the minute details of the characters’ movements and the rubble surrounding them. Much like King’s work with Mitch Gerads, Janin uses the art to add a bit more to the delivery of dialogue. Again, you can envision this on a stage easily.

The issue is an interesting one that’ll get you to think about the relationship between the Joker and Batman and with its ending, it’ll be interesting to see the impact on both Batman and Catwoman. This is one I’ve been thinking about and the quality is solid. This isn’t a comic you pick up for the action, this is a character study of two of Batman’s greatest villains.

Story: Tom King Art: Mikel Janin
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Preview: Batman #49

Batman #49

(W) Tom King (A/CA) Mikel Janin
In Shops: Jun 20, 2018
SRP: $2.99

“THE BEST MAN” part two! Now it’s up to Catwoman to rescue her one true love. It’s the Cat vs. the Clown in one exciting showdown that sets the stage for our giant anniversary issue-and the biggest union in comics!

Tom King’s Sanctuary is Now “Heroes in Crisis”

At the DC in DC event, writer Tom King teased a new project dubbed “Sanctuary” that focused on the trauma experienced by superheroes. That project now has a name, Heroes in Crisis the newest “Crisis” event to hit DC Comics. King will be joined by artist Clay Mann on the series.

A former counterterrorism operations officer with the CIA, King has explored how we graple with war, conflict, and traume in various series such as The Sheriff of Babylon, The Omega Men, Batman, and Mister Miracle. Heroes in Crisis explores similar themes against the backdrop of a murder mystery involving Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Harley Quinn, Booster Gold, and the rest of the World’s Greatest Super Heroes.

King said in the announcement:

I feel like I’m part of a rolling generation of people who spent their twenties overseas fighting terrorism. Millions of people cycle through that machine and come home to America. And I think that sort of experience of violence is shaping who we are as a culture, and as a country. And I want to talk about that. I want to talk about that experience, the experience of what violence can do to a person, to a community, to a nation, to a world.

These pressures and internal conflicts can impact superheroes just as hard, if not more. To that end, King created a sanctuary within the pages of the comics he’s writing—a crisis center for superheroes who spend their lives fighting villainy and protecting others.

Heroes in Crisis is not a tale of universes colliding and dying. Instead this is a story centering on the humans and superhumans under the mask; this is about what allows them to get up and fight when it appears they can’t ever get up and fight again. When it’s too much, and it’s often too much, heroes go to Sanctuary—created by Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman—to find a moment of safety before returning to a universe of violence. Heroes in Crisis is also about what happens when Sanctuary fails, resulting in catastrophic consequences for the DCU.

The premiere issue of Heroes in Crisis, written by Tom King with art by Clay Mann and Tomeu Morey, lettered by Clayton Cowles, and edited by Jamie S. Rich and Brittany Holzherr, will reach comic book stores and be available digitally on September 26.

Review: Mister Miracle #9

Only Scott Free could go to Apokolips…

After war comes peace. The bloody battles that waged across New Genesis and Apokolips have come to an end, and now Mister Miracle and Kalibak must sit down and discuss a truce. Can Scott Free trust the former minions of Darkseid to keep their word? Not likely, but a leader sometimes has to take a risk in service to the greater good. Perhaps the more pressing question, though, is whether Big Barda can make it through the negotiations without beating the life out of the assassin Kanto.

There’s so many instances of comics having weird timing with real world events despite their lead time in creation. We’ve seen comics timed with the mortgage crisis, Cambridge Analytica, and now a negotiation with a brutal dictator.

Written by Tom King, Mister Miracle #9 focuses on the negotiations towards peace for the forces of New Genesis and Apokolips. On one end is Scott Free and the other Kalibak negotiating.

This is the Michael Mann of comics with a focus on discussion and characters instead of a action. Every word used, every situation, every movement of a character goes deep into the situation. Every detail matters. And it’s one to read through a ponder.

It’s also odd to read as President Trump meets with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, who, much like Darkseid, is a brutal leader who enslaves his people, warmongers, and has the deaths of unknown amounts on his hands. The criticism of legitimizing such a leader echoes here for the better.

Artist Mitch Gerads continues his amazing work and Gerads and King are a writer/artist combo that I hope continue for years to come. The movement of the characters, the look of an eye, the position of where they are, the framing of a scene, all enhance the storytelling and can tell the story without lettering. The use of reds throughout the comic emphasizes the blood that has been spilled up to this point.

Clayton Cowles‘ lettering is key too giving the delivery a live action performance brings to such a story. The emphasis of words, the layout of speech bubbles, every detail here too adds to the story.

While the end is a bit predictable the overall read is amazing and is a comic that blends entertainment, socio-political themes, a reflection on real world events, and drama, with a dash of philosophy. It’s an amazing issue for an already amazing series.

Story: Tom King Art: Mitch Gerads Lettering: Clayton Cowles
Story: 9.75 Art: 10 Overall: 9.75 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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