Martin Deer reviews the latest issue of Batman…
“In the wake of the loss of Robin, Batman begins to lose control of his rage, when a new ally helps to bring him back to the world. “
If you lived on say a desert island, and had your comics air shipped to you, you would be quite confused by the events of Batman #18. Last we saw Batman in his title book, the Bat-family had “fallen out” and The Joker had fallen to his death (although we know that’s not going to happen). Personally I felt ‘Death of the Family’ was a let down once the final issue was revealed, however if you were reading Batman Incorporated #8 you were likely happy or distraught at the events of that book – the death of Robin. Damien Wayne, the child of Talia al Ghul and Bruce, had fallen. Had you been on that desert island I mentioned you wouldn’t know this from reading Batman #18 however, but the story in this month’s issue takes place a week after Damien’s death and deals with the fall out for Bruce.
Actually, it doesn’t so much, as this issue is more about Harper Row, the young teen we were introduced to back in ‘Court of the Owls’ who saved Batman’s life. Harper has noticed that in the past week Batman has been working non-stop – even coming out during the day. He’s attacking low level thugs with the same ferociousness that one would usually only see when battling Joker or Two-Face, and it’s not ending up pretty for him. He’s losing his technique as he focuses on aggression. One encounter sees him in a lot of trouble, however Harper comes to the rescue; she is able to track Batman via his electric footprint, and so she follows him. Batman isn’t thankful for this, as you’d probably expect. In fact Batman crosses a line here: he breaks Harper’s nose in a rage that he doesn’t need her help. End of Chapter One.
Greg Capullo is on a brief hiatus before the next big arc and is replaced by Andy Kubert in Chapter One, and being totally honest, Andy Kubert’s art is much more enjoyable. His drawings seemed more real, and Batman in particular was drawn in a much more classical way. It seems very much like a cross between Jim Lee and Lee Bermejo, and I really enjoyed watching his Batman. There are some great visuals to enjoy too, as Batman suffers from the loss of his son, and the second Robin to die under his watch (although I guess it’s the first since Todd is back now) and it affects him greatly as the rage which he once was able to keep under check boils over.
Chapter Two is shorter, and sees Harper visit Wayne Enterprises to pass a message to Batman via Bruce. Meeting on a rooftop Bruce apologises for the way he behaved the night before. The chapter ends with Harper’s message displaying itself onto the face of Wayne Enterprises: a message to resolve. Alex Maleev takes over on the pencils for Chapter Two; for the main chapter it wouldn’t have been as impressive, however for the second chapter I enjoyed it. The art is very much in the style of the 30/40s prints; I was really reminded of my Greatest Joker and Batman Stories books, with colours by Nathan Fairbairn. It is much lighter in tone, which matches the more upbeat and far less intense second chapter.
Chapter One was an interesting read in places. Seeing Batman unleash and suffer was particularly thrilling, however the issue just didn’t really resonate with me. This may be due to me not finding Harper that interesting of a character, and I am very cautious about where this heading. Snyder has stated that she will not be the new Robin, which is a relief, however I am wondering where Dick is? The fallout in ‘Death of the Family’ felt very weak to me, and I would much rather have some Bruce and Dick interaction here building on that relationship even further. I had two major issues with DOTF: the first was the hype and subsequent letdown, and the second was that it brought nothing new to the table. I’m fearing the same for Harper and this upcoming ‘Zero Year’ arc. Harper thus far seems like an amalgamation of other characters from the Bat universe and I’d rather they focussed on existing relationships as opposed to bringing in new ones. We shall see where it goes, but at the moment I am not all that interested.
What about you readers – are you enjoying Harper’s addition? Feeling the run is becoming stagnant? Am I a boring pessimist? Let me know below…