14 July 2011

DC Comics: The New 52 - Batman Spotlight

Recall last month when DC Comics announced their forthcoming relaunch?  More details have come to light, and now all 52 #1 issues are posted on DC's website.  I'm going to take a look at the whole lot of them in this blog over the next few weeks, but I wanted to start with Batman and characters related to him.  Not surprisingly, Bats represents the largest percentage of the relaunched DC Universe.  Synopses are taken directly from the solicitation text published by DC Comics.  Titles link directly to DC's webpage for that issue.

Going into the relaunch, here's what was up with Bruce Wayne.  Many years ago, he knocked up Talia (daughter of Ra's al Ghul) in some graphic novels and that whole thing was promptly forgotten until recently when the son of that union, Damian, was introduced to the comics pages.  Damian became Robin to Dick's Batman in Bruce's absence, and then when Bruce resurfaced (it's best not to ask where he was), he decided to franchise out the Batman persona.  Bruce would become Batman-at-large and there would be various other Batmans across the globe in the operation, "Batman, Inc."  If you were hoping this relaunch would make all this information unimportant, I'm sorry to say that's not the case.  Because Batman sales were satisfactory to DC, most of this is still in play.

$2.99 - 21 September 2011
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion
Cover by Greg Capullo
A series of brutal killings hints at an ancient conspiracy, and Batman learns that Gotham City is deadlier than he knew.

Batman and Robin
$2.99 - 14 September 2011
Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Art and Cover by Patrick Gleason and Mick Gray
Battling evil with his own son, Damian, at his side, Batman now realizes that the hardest part of the job may be trying to work together!
As Batman and Robin try to adjust to their new partnership, a figure emerges from Bruce Wayne’s past: His name is NoBody, and he’s not happy that Batman Incorporated is shining a light on his own shadowy war against evil…

$2.99 - 28 September 2011
Written by David Finch
Art by David Finch and Richard Friend
Cover by David Finch
As a mysterious figure slinks through the halls of Arkham Asylum, Batman must fight his way through a gauntlet of psychos, and Bruce Wayne faces the unexpected legal ramifications of Batman Incorporated!

$2.99 - 7 September 2011
Written by Tony S. Daniel
Art by Tony S. Daniel and Ryan Wynn
Cover by Tony S. Daniel
A killer called The Gotham Ripper is on the loose on Batman’s home turf – leading The Dark Knight on a deadly game of cat and mouse.
The Sidekicks: Robins

Alright, this subset is rather convoluted.  Dick Grayson was the first Robin, but then he grew up to become Nightwing.  Dick was succeeded by Jason Todd, who was killed when fans dialed a 1-900 number to vote in favor of his death at the hands of the Joker back in the 1980s.  Jason resurfaced within the last several years, having been resurrected by Ra's al Ghul's Lazarus Pit but was now crazed enough to become the villainous Red Hood.  Tim Drake was the third Robin, who in recent times has re-branded himself Red Robin.

$2.99 - 21 September 2011
Written by Kyle Higgins
Art and Cover by Eddy Barrows and JP Mayer
Dick Grayson flies high once more as Nightwing in a new series from hot new writer Kyle Higgins (BATMAN: GATES OF GOTHAM)! And as he embraces his destiny, Haley’s Circus, the big top where Dick once performed, returns to Gotham City – bringing with it murder, mystery and superhuman evil. Nightwing must confront his past, among former friends and enemies from his circus days, while uncovering a much greater evil!
$2.99 - 21 September 2011
Written by Scott Lobdell
Art and Cover by Kenneth Rocafort
No sooner has Batman’s former sidekick, Jason Todd, put his past as the Red Hood behind him that he finds himself surrounded by a posse of modern day outlaws: Green Arrow’s rejected sidekick Arsenal, the damaged soldier of fortune. The alien Starfire, a former prisoner of intergalactic war who won’t be chained again.
As a loner, Jason has absolutely no interest in this motley crew of outlaws. So what’s he going to do when they choose the Red Hood as their leader? Find out in this hot new series from writer Scott Lobdell (WILDC.A.T.S, Uncanny X-Men), featuring art by rising star Kenneth Rocafort (ACTION COMICS)!
Dick is still Nightwing, obviously, and clearly his costume design is evocative of the Batman Beyond design so we can assume he's still part of the Batman mythology.  The solicitation text for Red Hood and the Outlaws makes clear that Jason Todd was already Red Hood, so we can assume he used to be Robin (since his Red Hood persona was a reaction to how he felt his death as Robin was handled by Batman).  Tim Drake is now the leader of the Teen Titans (covered in the Young Justice spotlight) and it's clear that he used to be Batman's sidekick.  So all three original Robins are in play in the relaunch, and all three still used to be Robin.

The Sidekicks: Other

Barbara Gordon, daughter of Police Commissioner James Gordon, became Batgirl until she was shot and crippled by The Joker in Batman: The Killing Joke.  Since then, she's been the wheelchair-bound Oracle.  As Oracle, she's been part analyst/part director and she's also been one-third of the Birds of Prey (along with Black Canary and The Huntress).  Kate Kane is Batwoman, whose biggest claim to fame thus far is that she's DC's first out lesbian super-heroine.  Cassandra Cain has been Batgirl, and has amassed a dedicated following.

$2.99 - 7  September 2011
Written by Judd Winick
Art and Cover by Ben Oliver
Africa, a land of beauty – and of great horror. A land of creation and conflict. It is in desperate need of a defender, and from the ranks of Batman Incorporated comes a soldier to carry on the legacy on The Dark Knight in the most tumultuous region on Earth. Meet Batwing, the Batman of Africa!
Note: DC Comics is not currently offering subscriptions to Batwing.

$2.99 - 7 September 2011
Written by Gail Simone
Art by Ardian Syaf and Vicente Cifuentes
Cover by Adam Hughes
Yes, it’s really happening!
Barbara Gordon is back as Batgirl – and she’s going to have to face the city’s most horrifying new villains as well as the dark secrets from her past. You won’t want to miss this stunning debut issue from fan-favorite BIRDS OF PREY writer Gail Simone!
$2.99 - 14 September 2011
Written by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman
Art and Cover by J.H. Williams III
In “Hydrology,” part 1 of 5, Batwoman faces deadly new challenges in her war against Gotham City’s underworld – and new trials in her personal life as Kate Kane.
Who or what is stealing children from the barrio, and for what vile purpose? Will Kate train her cousin, Bette Kane (a.k.a. Flamebird), as her sidekick? How will she handle unsettling revelations about her father, Colonel Jacob Kane? And why is a certain government agency suddenly taking an interest in her?

Batwing (the Batman of Africa) may at first seem absurd, but relatively speaking he's pretty easy to digest.  Catwoman seems pretty traditional: the thief who enjoys being pursued by Batman.  It's not hard to imagine this is about how Selina Kyle will be portrayed in next year's movie The Dark Knight Rises (where she'll be played by Anne Hathaway).

Fans are furious over Barbara Gordon being healed and back as Batgirl.  Babs fans feel she's had a far more meaningful existence as Oracle, and Cassandra Cain fans feel their favorite character has been unnecessarily shafted (note that she's nowhere to be found in any of these issue synopses).

The Villainesses

$2.99 - 21 September 2011
Written by Judd Winick
Art and Cover by Guillem March
Meet Catwoman. She’s addicted to the night. Addicted to shiny objects. Addicted to Batman. Most of all, Catwoman is addicted to danger. She can’t help herself, and the truth is – she doesn’t want to. She’s good at being bad, and very bad at being good. Find out more about what makes Catwoman tick in this new series from writer Judd Winick (BATMAN: UNDER THE HOOD) and artist Guillem March (GOTHAM CITY SIRENS)!
$2.99 - 21 September 2011
Written by Duane Swiercynski
Art and Cover by Jesus Saiz
One is wanted for a murder she didn’t commit. The other is on the run because she knows too much. They are Dinah Laurel Lance and Ev Crawford – a.k.a. Black Canary and Starling – and together, as Gotham City’s covert ops team, they’re taking down the villains other heroes can’t touch. But now they’ve attracted the attention of a grizzled newspaper reporter who wants to expose them, as well as a creepy, chameleon-like strike team that’s out to kill them.
Even though she's not named in the solicitation text, that's clearly Poison Ivy on the cover of Birds of Prey #1.  Is Pamela Isley supposed to ensure that the title continues to appeal to Batman readers in the absence of Barbara Gordon?  The most straight-foward is Catwoman as a thief who enjoys being pursued by Batman.  It's not hard to imagine this is how she'll be portrayed in next year's movie The Dark Knight Rises (where she'll be played by Anne Hathaway).  Also note that Harley Quinn is a member of Suicide Squad, featured in "The Dark" Spotlight.

For a relaunch, there's an awfully strong reliance on previously published Bat-stories.  Given that Batman is also a member of both Justice League and Justice League International titles, it seems daunting at best to see how all this will jive with "new for the first time" stories about the rest of the DC Universe.  After all, Superman was prominently featured in "A Death in the Family" when The Joker killed Jason Todd.  So that story still "happened," but Superman is appearing to the world for the first time in the relaunch.  Yeah, have fun reconciling all this continuity cherry-picking.

Since posting these remarks, it has come to my attention that DC Comics is not currently offering subscriptions to nineteen of the New 52.  Presumably, these are titles on a very short leash in which DC has little confidence and are probably on the chopping block from issue #1.  Batwing is the only title in this spotlight for which this applies.  So if you're interested in Batwing, know that whether or not you buy it will directly influence whether or not it keeps getting published.

Other DC Comics: The New 52 spotlights
Green Lantern
Justice League
Superheroes (Captain Atom, Mister Terrific, Hawkman, Firestorm)
Young Justice
The Dark

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