This book is a series of mini-arcs giving a glimpse of a world where Bruce Wayne’s Batman doesn’t exist. It asks: “Wh...moreCrossposted at The Bibliosanctum.
This book is a series of mini-arcs giving a glimpse of a world where Bruce Wayne’s Batman doesn’t exist. It asks: “What kind of ripples would’ve been made in the world if Bruce had been the one to die in that alley and not his parents?” Initially, I read “Batman: Knight of Vengeance,” and that was it. That's all I wanted to read, I said vehemently. However, I finally decided to dive into the rest of the story and see what Bruce’s death changed beyond his parents lives.
In “Batman: Knight of Vengeance,” Thomas Wayne has taken on the mantle of the bat, and he is far more brutal, unforgiving, and decisive than Bruce. While Thomas subscribes to hyper-vigilantism and toes the line of being crime boss, Martha’s response to Bruce’s death is far more extreme than Thomas’. This story was heartbreaking in so many ways. From the Waynes to Selina to Commissioner Gordon, it was so poignant and painful to read. I have to say that this is my favorite story in the book.
“Deadman and the Flying Graysons” answers the questions of what happens to Robin (Dick Grayson) if there is no Batman. Dick’s parents live and they continue to tour with the circus. However, Aquaman and Wonder Woman war violently with each other, and the circus travels through war-ravished Europe, eventually finding itself on the receiving end of Wonder Woman’s fury. This was an okay story. Loved the basis for it with Wonder Woman and Aquaman’s war, but it wasn’t fully realized, in my opinion.
“Deathstroke and the Curse of the Ravager” follows the dread pirate Deathstroke who plans to profit off the turmoil that Wonder Woman and Aquaman have created, but first, he has to rescue his daughter, Rose, from his rival. To do any of this, though, they have to sail to Aquaman’s angry seas. What could go wrong there? I liked this more than I thought I would to be honest. It made Deathstroke very likable.
The last story “Secret Seven”… was maybe a little beyond my frame of reference. All I know is that a team is being formed to deal with the chaos on earth. I don’t want to call it a terrible story because it wasn’t… I don’t think. I just don’t have much experience with the character(s). It was a little offbeat, which I definitely don’t mind, but because I don’t have any real point to fix these characters, too, it was just… I’m not really sure how to describe it to be honest. I had way too many questions after reading this one, and I blame this on my ignorance of the characters.
Some would argue that these stories have no real connection and deal so little with Batman, but I disagree. They show that Batman, Bruce’s Batman, is both a blessing and a curse to the villains and heroes of the DC universe. It shows how his existence/non-existence shapes that world in broad terms. For instance, many of the villains lead drastically different lives. Some of them are already dead by Thomas’ hand. Some of the heroes are hardly what you’d call heroes at all. I do think that there needed to be more meat to this. The idea of what the world would be like without Bruce Wayne is a very fascinating question that this series only half-answered. However, I still mostly enjoyed this book.
Full disclosure. I stopped reading the New 52 after four comics. I read Mister Terrific #1, Justice League #1, Detective Comics #1, and Swamp Thing #1. Out of those four comics, I was only impressed with Detective Comics and Swamp Thing. Justice League was only “meh” and didn’t feel like it was worth the trouble of continuing at that point, and Mister Terrific was terrible when it had so much potential to be great. Even though I did enjoy Detective Comics and Swamp Thing, I still put them on the back burner in favor of other comics that I wanted to catch up on. Admittedly, I was one of those people who wasn’t that excited to see Barbara assume the Batgirl mantle again. I love Barbara. I really do, but I always felt that she was a more formidable hero as Oracle than as Batgirl. That’s neither here nor there now, and there’s no point in rehashing old thoughts. Moving on...
I decided to try Batgirl for two reasons. I wanted to try another comic from the New 52 to see how I would enjoy it, and I wanted to read more Gail Simone after sort of shying away from her writing because of a volume of The Atom I read that made me want to run away screaming. Friends and fans of Gail assured me that I would enjoy either Birds of Prey or Batgirl much more than I enjoyed The Atom. After some resistance, I finally decided it was time to close my eyes and step off this cliff again.
The Darkest Reflection follows Barbara Gordon who has made her return as Batgirl after an experimental—or at least it sounded experimental—medical procedure returns her ability to use her legs. For those of you not quite familiar with what happened or only have a vague idea of what happened to her, refer to The Killing Joke pre-DCnU. After some downtime rehabbing while living in her father’s home, Barbara decides that it’s time to spread her wings, move out of her father’s house, and take up the mantle of the bat again. What Barbara didn’t count on was her survivor’s guilt and PTSD (which is triggered when she’s faced with guns) making her return to crime fighting more difficult than she’d expected. I enjoyed this much, much, much more than I did The Atom.
At first, I was a little afraid that I might have to put this book down because it started a bit campier that I like. Actually, no, I should explain that better. I love when writers use campy writing to their advantage, but sometimes, I feel like writer’s try too hard with it. In turn, that turns me off because it comes off feeling so artificial and forced and makes it hard for me to enjoy the story. This was one of the main problems that I had with The Atom. There were points in the beginning of this story where I worried I might be traveling down that road again, but after a while, the story found its footing and turned into an enjoyable read.
Barbara is a survivor struggling with the thought of having her legs back. She struggles with conflicting feelings that make her feel blessed for this miracle, but questions why did she, out of all the people in the in the world, deserve such a miracle. After thwarting a murder attempt on a family, Barbara’s next foe challenges her miracle as well and brings out deeper psychological fears.
I really enjoyed the portrayal of Barbara’s struggle. She’s of two minds for most of this comic. She’s a superwoman and a frail all in the same breath. One minute she’s praising herself for her strength and smarts, and the next minute, she doubts herself and if she’s even doing the right thing. She wonders if she’s squandering her miracle by pushing herself too hard, but then she feels that this miracle wasn’t given to her for her to sit by idly. A brief confrontation with Nightwing shows the feelings she stills hold for him while punctuating that she doesn’t want the others to believe that she’s not capable--to the point that she lashes out at him in order to show that she isn’t helpless. She doesn’t want their help. She wants to prove herself, her strength and ability to overcome, to the bat family.
Let me talk briefly about the ending of this comic. No real spoilers, but just some thoughts. When I realized that Barbara’s threat was eliminated in the fourth issues but there were still two issues left in this arc, I was thinking, “Okay?” It ended perfectly, and I was thinking that things were about to get odd since what could you possibly accomplish in two more issues? I was pleasantly surprised. You can say the next two issues in the arc were a mini-story, but still tied into the “reflection” theme showing Barbara what she could’ve been if she hadn’t had family and support.
The first part dealt with accepting that miracles happened to people whether they deserved them or not and that there’s no one who can decide that someone is undeserving of such a miracle, even if it’s a personal miracle. The second part dealt more personally with the idea that not everyone may see his or her miracle as a miracle. It showed how fragile the line between miracle and damnation is in some people’s mind, and it showed a thing about compassion and understanding, as well
Overall, this was entertaining. There were some hiccups for me, and I’m back to questioning why it’s so easy for some people to find out who the bat family is over other more intelligent criminals. That's a general annoyance of mine with Batman and the bat family, not something that's limited to Gail herself. However, I still enjoyed the story and appreciated it for showing Barbara’s return as a struggle that she’s working to overcome for physical and psychological reasons. I’ll definitely read more of the Batgirl books.(less)
Just read this to my kiddos. It took everything in my power to not make a crack about Superman hearing Batman's distress all the way in Gotham. I'm so...moreJust read this to my kiddos. It took everything in my power to not make a crack about Superman hearing Batman's distress all the way in Gotham. I'm sorry, Wonder Woman, but you were infringing on the magic. (less)
I'm finally getting around to reading the Knightfall saga. I'd read the novelized version last year, but was a little put off by the writing and didn'...moreI'm finally getting around to reading the Knightfall saga. I'd read the novelized version last year, but was a little put off by the writing and didn't know if I'd enjoy the comics since I didn't enjoy the novel that much (and the comics and novel share the same writer). However, just as I speculated in my review of the novel, Dennis O’Neil is a much better comic writer than novelist.
This book is a prelude to the Knightfall story. We're introduced to Jean Paul Valley who has just found out that he's part of the secret Order of St. Dumas. Unbeknownst to him, his father has been prepping him to take over after his death by imprinting him with subliminal conditioning. Jean Paul is a Computer Science student in Gotham when his father fails at an assassination attempt against a former member of the order, a man named Carlton LeHah, who happens to be in Gotham at that time.
Near death, Jean Paul's father finds him and instructs him on what to do upon his death, and Jean Paul finds himself catapulted into this secret fraternity, taking up the mantle of the "avenging angel."
Now, this wouldn't be a Batman story without Batman, so I'll get to his role in all this. The failed assassination attempt captures the attention of Batman due to the fact that it happened during a very large celebration in Gotham. The fallout from the failed attempt caused causalities during the festivities. Batman's interest is piqued when he finds part of Azrael's costume and learns a little about the Order through Barbara's research.
So, when Lehah reveals that he has plans to go to Europe to where the Order is supposedly based, Batman decides to follow. Why? I guess Batman can't pass up a good mystery. Jean Paul just so happens to be in Europe as well per his father's final instructions. He's gotten a new teacher in the form of Nomoz who unlocks the subliminal teachings and prepares him to take on the role of Azrael.
To make a long story very short, LeHah goes a little nuts and decides that he’s a servant of Biis, Azrael’s greatest demonic foe. Nomoz decides that Batman is a demonic foe, as well, but learns better when Nomoz and Jean Paul have to team up with Alfred to save Batman from LeHah.
At first, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this because there’s just something about a story that starts out with Batman knowing everything that gets to me a little. And apparently, not only does Batman have heating filaments in his suit, but he also knows how to make high quality snowshoes out of tree limbs. Go figure. Not that I actually have a problem with any of that, but I just think things like that could be written better to not seem so worthy of eye-rolling.
However, once I got over that, I did enjoy story. While Batman is certainly a big part of the story, this is basically an origin story for Jean Paul. He seemed to easily give in to the fact that he was part of some order of assassins. Maybe this was part of his conditioning. Maybe he was just too intrigued to question all of it. It was interesting to read him try to hang on to who he was before Azrael while becoming Azrael.
He does lose himself a little in the persona. At one point in the story, Alfred asks him who is he outside Azrael. He answers that he no longer remembers. Nomoz pushes Jean Paul to give up his sense of compassion and helpfulness because Azrael only avenges. Jean Paul fights with this notion a bit, and by the end of the comic, he decides that, despite the costume, he isn’t willing to abandon what makes him human.
I’ve made my peace with O’Neil’s writing, so I’m sure that I’ll be able to finish the rest of this without flinching every other sentence. (less)
**spoiler alert** Things are still spiraling down as Gotham's heroes try to keep things under control in Gotham. With Batman no longer around to scare...more**spoiler alert** Things are still spiraling down as Gotham's heroes try to keep things under control in Gotham. With Batman no longer around to scare the criminals, they've declared themselves the new rulers of the city.
Robin is increasingly pulling himself thin trying to help keep the crime down while telling Dick that Gotham needs a Batman to keep it from destroying itself. Dick resists the idea that they need to take up Batman's cape and cowl to bring Gotham back to some sense of order.
Because of the dire situations they're in, other heroes from different parts of the world come together in Gotham to create the Network. Together they try quell the crime that threatens to eat Gotham whole.
Then, a mysterious, murderous Batman starts a killing spree, taking down Gotham's criminals ruthlessly, breaking "the bat code" of not killing, forcing Tim to make a drastic decision. (And it's no surprise who it turns out to be in my opinion.)
It was nice to see other heroes coming to Gotham's aid, especially Knight and Squire, and you can really just feel Gotham's pain as it continue to sink deeper and deeper. I think Tim's desperation and exasperation of the situation shines through the best, though. You watch him fall deeper and deeper into an angry sadness.
Three people assume the identity of Batman in this book, but only one victor emerges. (less)
Slight spoiler warnings. I’m not even sure how to sum this one up, but don’t take that as a bad omen for this story. I enjoyed it very much, but there...moreSlight spoiler warnings. I’m not even sure how to sum this one up, but don’t take that as a bad omen for this story. I enjoyed it very much, but there’s so much going on here that it’s not easy to try to sum it up in a few words. However, I’ll try. Basically, this chronicles Batman’s descent into madness and his “death.” Batman has always led a troubled existence where he’s sometimes struggled with whether his actions as the caped crusader really do more harm than good.
Those feelings seemed to have come to a head in this arc where we read about his quest to understand madness. Batman becomes obsessed with a wealthy crime organization known as The Black Glove led by Dr. Hurt—who unbeknownst to Batman implanted a trigger word deep into his subconscious that would turn him into a madman. When the trigger word is finally used against him, Batman withdraws from life, living on the streets in a seemingly mad state, leaving Gotham prey to a crime spree orchestrated by The Black Glove.
I wouldn’t recommend this for the casual reader. You need to have a little knowledge of Batman and his world before diving into this. I read a few stories leading up to this arc, and I still had to feel my way around with the story a little bit. However, even though I still have some questions about the events leading up to this arc, I enjoyed this.
I’m a sucker for this kind of psychological mind trip, and it was fascinating to watch Batman go through this madness while still trying to be Batman. And the funny thing was that Dr. Hurt kept saying that Batman was done, that with his sanity gone he was just a shell of a nightmare. However, Batman said that sanity, which he equates with his “Bruce” personality, was the only thing keeping Batman in check.
The story also centered partly on Robin and Spoiler (in a tie-in Robin #175 and Robin #176) with some supporting scenes from Nightwing and faces familiar from Batman Inc. Robin realizes that something is wrong, that Bruce has been brainwashed in some way, and he sets out on a personal journey to find out the extent of the damage in order to know what his next move should be. We learn about Batman’s 49 days of solitude leading up to these events through Robin’s story. Spoiler helps and hinders him in some ways, which she reveals her reasons for at the end, and the tension between Robin and her is palpable due to her not revealing that she was alive all the time Robin thought she was dead.
The Joker was a break out performance for me. I have to say this is one of the creepiest ways he’s ever been depicted. He reminds me of Jack Torrance from The Shining as he appeared in the picture at the end. He also seemed to be channeling Pyramid Head in some ways with his body apron and knives. In his own sick, twisted way, he seems to be Batman’s biggest adversary and his greatest advocate. He’s chillingly disturbing here, maybe even more so than he was in Batman: Arkham Asylum.
Of course, the arc ends with Batman being aware of everything that has happened to him. Part of my beef with Batman was how he just seems to know everything. I know he has to stay one step ahead of the game, especially since he’s a non-powered hero, but there was little mystery left after you realize that Batman has played the game better than The Black Glove. However, it was spun in such a way that it didn’t come off forced or silly, just typical of Batman. The arc also ends on an ambiguous note. Did Batman really die or didn’t he? We all know the answer to that question, but it still makes for an interesting read.(less)
Before watching Under the Red Hood, I knew very little about Jason Todd. I knew there was a Robin that had died, but being as I was never a big DC fan...moreBefore watching Under the Red Hood, I knew very little about Jason Todd. I knew there was a Robin that had died, but being as I was never a big DC fan growing up, I never read about his death or even had much insight on the character. I enjoyed the movie Under the Red Hood, and it prompted me to read more about the history of the character and find out about his return.
I'm not a fan of comics bringing back characters whose deaths have such a strong impact on the other characters involved. To me, that cheapens a character's death and the changes that he/she brought about in this fictional world. But I'm going on a whole different tangent.
This comic chronicles the years leading up to Jason Todd's return to Gotham. He's found barely alive by Talia al Ghul who has an unhealthy obsession with Batman and at first sees Jason as a means to getting to Batman. After being put in a pit by Talia to be made whole (an overall bad decision), Jason spends the rest of his years training for his return and his revenge, acquiring new skills that he hadn't learned during his time as Robin, funded by Talia.
Jason is an interesting character. I don't think he can be called a true villain. He does things that go against the "good" standard, but in his own twisted way, he is trying to do what Batman taught him. However, unlike Batman, he feels that a hero has to serve the same cruel punishment as the scum they fight, that doing the things they do doesn't make him any less "heroic." He believes it makes him "realistic."
Jason can't be called a true hero either because of his actions that go beyond that "good" standard. He's also not afraid to take out anyone who stands in the way of his goals of wiping out the criminal element. For him, it's less about protecting the people who need protecting and more about getting rid of the criminals using their own tactics. It's better to sacrifice a few to the greater cause than allow these criminals to hurt the masses.
I'm still not sure how I feel about Jason coming back, but the stories that are written about him show a character who obviously still wants to impress Batman and still has strong familial ties to the Bat Family and vice versa. He annoys them, but they still care about him and treat him like the wayward son that needs saving.(less)
Thanks for the rec, Wendy B. You can tell that O'Neil is more of a comics writer than a novelist. Interesting story that seemed to read in the more st...moreThanks for the rec, Wendy B. You can tell that O'Neil is more of a comics writer than a novelist. Interesting story that seemed to read in the more straightforward manner of a comic than a novel. There was too much telling and not enough showing. Batman came off way more condescending than I typically think of him as, and I don't know how everyone in Gotham didn't know his identity. He should've just been handing out cards and introducin himself as Bruce Wayne. Early tensing problems made it a little hard to get into at first, but once that was corrected, things got better. Fun story all the the same. Can't wait to dive over in the comics for this arm. This makes me want to go back and read Stern's Superman book to see how it stands the test of time.(less)
This seemed to go on way longer than 320 pages. Started a little too stilted and factual for me (I know it was needed, but still), but it got better a...moreThis seemed to go on way longer than 320 pages. Started a little too stilted and factual for me (I know it was needed, but still), but it got better as it went on and added more human elements to the story. Some of the side stories were completely a waste of time (I'm looking at your Ra al Ghul), but they started to find better footing with combing this sense of urgency with chaos and personal stories. (less)
This was fantastic. This story left me satisfied unlike The Hiketeia. Now don't get me wrong, The Hiketeia was very well written, but just felt abrupt...moreThis was fantastic. This story left me satisfied unlike The Hiketeia. Now don't get me wrong, The Hiketeia was very well written, but just felt abrupt and like it could've benefited from being much longer. Did not get this feeling here. I'm still a novice in the DC world, but Rucka created another great starting point for learning about another character in the DC universe. In fact, I think she may have just become my favorite character. (less)
More like a 4.5. Some of the art bugged the hell outta me, which is part of the reason for the deduction. I think Cry for Blood was a much stronger st...moreMore like a 4.5. Some of the art bugged the hell outta me, which is part of the reason for the deduction. I think Cry for Blood was a much stronger story than this. But the history geek in me loved the backstory so much. Full review later.(less)
Reread. Perhaps one of the darkest Batman stories I have ever read. Took such an interesting, morbidly dark take on characters that are often viewed a...moreReread. Perhaps one of the darkest Batman stories I have ever read. Took such an interesting, morbidly dark take on characters that are often viewed as goofy and laughable by most. Highly recommended, but not for those easily disturbed.(less)
You know what? With all the Batman comics that I've read lately, I think I'm burned out on Batman. So, I'm going to put this on hiatus for a bit and c...moreYou know what? With all the Batman comics that I've read lately, I think I'm burned out on Batman. So, I'm going to put this on hiatus for a bit and come back to it. (less)
**spoiler alert** I watched Batman: Under the Red Hood recently thanks to Netflix’s streaming option. I enjoyed it for so many reasons, but that’s ano...more**spoiler alert** I watched Batman: Under the Red Hood recently thanks to Netflix’s streaming option. I enjoyed it for so many reasons, but that’s another post. After watching the movie, I wanted to read the source material that led up to the events in the movie. Admittedly, I’m more of a Marvel girl than a DC girl, but I do try to read the “iconic” comics on both sides of the fence. A Death in the Family is the arc that clears up what happens before the movie. I think the movie did a good job of giving the condensed version of previous events, but the arc fills the story out more.
I’m not sure how to say this, so I’m just going to say it. I don’t think that this is the best story ever—or rather, the story isn’t executed well. It’s just not as well written as other pivotal Batman arcs, such as The Killing Joke. It had plenty of potential, but was marred by the shaky writing and questionable plot direction at best.
Some of the word choices and phrases would have you believe that this was a comic written before its time. But that’s only when it wasn’t coming off as awkward and contrived. I asked myself plenty of times, “Who talks/thinks like this?” Too many of the scenes were just too convenient as if they couldn’t think of a better way to get important parts of the plot moving. I know a big part of storytelling in comics is how convenient certain things are, but they didn’t have to be so obvious. There was too much telling or retelling of the story in many of the panels where information could’ve been craftily revealed through dialogue between characters, action sequences, or not at all.
It wasn’t completely terrible, though, and pieces of it seemed to move beyond being just all right. I won’t pan it and say that it doesn’t deserve to be seen as a crucial story in Batman’s career. It had such a major effect on him that it would be silly for me to say that it isn’t important in the Batman mythos. The writing just hampered it greatly.
Writing aside, I liked how conflicted Batman was painted in this story. Batman is always so focused on stopping crime that it’s sometimes hard to see the humanity in his character. Often, it’s just about his struggle with good versus evil, but this arc gave him a new, different dilemma. In this story, his struggle with doing what’s right for the people and doing what’s right for his family (Jason) caused such a rift in his psyche. I loved how disjointed his thinking was as he tried to focus on the Joker, but ultimately having his thoughts drift to Jason, his issues, and how he (Batman) feels his actions factored into all this.
And Jason… I’m still not fond of his character. I didn’t care for him much in the movie. I thought I would feel more sympathetic for him after reading his story. I do in a way, but I think I feel more understanding toward him as he was portrayed in Under the Red Hood, but even in the movie, my heart wasn’t exactly bleeding for him. However, it was nice to have more details about what he was dealing with, and the death scene did tug at me a little. But while I understand his reasoning behind much of what he did in the comics and in the movie, he was just a hard character to sympathize with, and left me feeling like, in the end, his death was probably the best thing that ever happened to him.
Overall, this was an okay story. Not really the sensational arc I was expecting given how impressed I was with Under the Red Hood. I would like to say that I shouldn’t have set the standard for this so high after watching the movie, but I expected something on par with the movie, not a story that seemed amateurishly pieced together. I know some time had lasped between these comics and the movie, but I don’t think it was wrong for me to expect something much less clumsy.
Would I recommend this story to people? Yes and no. I’m a bit split. I think it is important for the impact that it had on Batman, but the writing is rickety and distracting.(less)