Let's take a look at what's in store for our man in the cape and cowl this week at the shops.
Detective Comics #870
Gotham City is besieged by ranks of impostors from both sides of the aisle, as an Impostor Joker goes head-to-head with an Impostor Batman, all while the real Batman fights to keep control of the city with doses of Joker Toxin being spread throughout the city. Trying to maintain order alongside the GCPD becomes increasingly hard for the Caped Crusader and Commissioner Gordon when members of the police force decide that vigilante justice is the proper route to deal with the Joker mobs. All the while, Batman searches for definitive proof that Winslow Heath, a young man permanently scarred (both physically and mentally) by the Joker, is in fact the Impostor Joker orchestrating the chaos in the city.
The real problem with this story is that DC press releases have rendered it something of a lame duck. Much like the waning days of a Congress or a presidency, the incoming new blood makes the final acts of a book’s outgoing creator seem less than relevant. Scott Snyder, of American Vampire fame, and Jock (famed mostly for his eye-catching covers) takes over Detective Comics next month, a change that’s been much-publicized.
The hoopla surrounding Snyder’s takeover makes the end of Hine’s run seem like a non-event, which is unfortunate (even if this particular story has just been so-so), since Hine is a solid writer of street-level stories.
In a theme that carries throughout literally all of the Bat-books this week, it’s hard to give this book a definitive “must-buy” rating. If you’re already reading, then by all means, finish up the story. Otherwise, wait a month until Snyder takes the reins.
Bruce Wayne: The Road Home: Oracle, Ra’s Al Ghul
Putting that concern aside, this week’s seem weak on the surface, but the creative teams would seem to save the day.
The Oracle issue deals with how exactly Barbara Gordon and the Birds of Prey will cope with the changing dynamic of the Bat-family now that Bruce is back and there are two Batmen. The saving grace here, given that the previous sentence more or less describes the high concept for pretty much all six previous issues of the event, is that Marc Andreyko is writing.
On the Ra’s Al Ghul front, where one could absolutely be forgiven for not caring (considering you can probably imagine pretty easily a Batman villain’s reaction to Batman’s return, even one as sympathetic to the Dark Knight as Ra’s), the key factor to bear in mind is that it’s written by Fabian Nicieza. Over on Red Robin, Nicieza has done a nice job of integrating the League of Assassins and Ra’s into the ongoing narrative of Batman’s apprentice.
Time Masters: Vanishing Point #4
As Darkseid’s Omega Effect tossed Batman back into the distant past of the DC Universe, it also made him unstable at a molecular level, supercharging him with cosmic energy that will be released should he ever succeed in returning to his home era (making him, quite literally, a time bomb). With heavy hearts, a group of heroes have set out to find their lost comrade and prevent his return for the sake of the greater good.
This is a hard one to categorize. On one hand, it’s technically associated with the Bat-family, in as much as it purports to deal with the story of the heroes (Superman, Green Lantern, Rip Hunter, and Booster Gold) who are searching the timestream for Bruce Wayne. On the other, it’s hard to see how this book is even remotely necessary to understanding the Return of Bruce Wayne storyline.
Three issues in and there hasn’t really been a strong connection to the main storyline. Yes, Superman’s group are bouncing around through time…but they’ve spent most of it in the timeline of Klaw the Conqueror, fighting an evil sorcerer, his apprentice, and some rock- and ape-men. It’s the kind of stuff that makes you read it, blink twice, and ask yourself, “Wait, this is connected to BATMAN?”
On top of that, it seems to be as much a tie-in to the ongoing Booster Gold series as it is anything related to the Batman franchise. There are references every issue to personal matters in Booster’s life, almost none of which are really explained. Presumably, one would understand these if one was already reading Booster Gold…but that seems to be asking a bit much out of this book’s average reader, which you have to think DC knew was probably a Batman fan, first and foremost.
At the end of the day, with the mini half over, you’re probably not going to stop now if you’ve made it this far. That aside, if you haven’t started reading, it’s probably best to wait and see how it all shakes out before you do. There seems to be a better than fair chance that this one is completely superfluous to your understanding of the current Batman storyline.
Next week, unfortunately, we don't get the final installment of Batman: Return of Bruce Wayne, but we do get the next best thing, as Grant Morrison’s final issue of Batman & Robin ships. While most fans of the Bat-family would probably prefer to see the now-painfully late core mini wrap up, Batman & Robin has been great, so it’ll tide you over. Additionally, the 50th issue of Batman Confidential, the final issue of the Red Hood mini, and a Batman/Catwoman one-shot all ship.
See you then.