Well, it is quite the week this week. On two fronts (ongoing books and collected editions), we’re looking good. The only thing lacking is an appearance by a mini-series or two, but you can’t have it all (and if something had to be missing, it’s a safe bet that most fans would pick the minis).
To say that Grant Morrison is famous for big, crazy ideas is like saying Charlie Sheen is famous for speaking his mind; it’s quite an understatement. Having said that, one critique frequently leveled at Morrison is that he produces some of his best work when he isn’t doing creator-owned material. It’s almost as though, left to his own devices, Morrison’s grandiose visions are too much for many fans; put more succinctly, some of that stuff just doesn’t seem to make much sense. When he works on corporate-owned, franchise titles (such as his run on Marvel’s New X-Men or DC’s JLA, Batman, Batman and Robin, and now, Batman Incorporated), he seems to rise to the challenge of taking those characters as far as editorial dictates will allow…and that frequently produces some great stories.
Batman Incorporated has been no exception so far. The previous two issues took Batman (along with Catwoman, which was great for all the subtle and not-so-subtle sexual overtones) to Japan, establishing the first of his Batman franchises that the Batman Incorporated concept was designed to create. This month, the Dark Knight and his femme fatale cohort travel to South America to rendezvous with Gaucho. However, Gaucho is currently caught up in a feud with Papagayo and the dangers of…thousands of explosive blue scorpions. And let’s not forget hot air balloons.
The book is like a showpiece for Morrison’s ability to work inside the structure of a character (and a corresponding universe) that really cannot be changed in any substantial way for the long-term. Gaucho is himself a character from way back in the early days of the Silver Age, when he was originally a member of the “Batmen of All Nations,” which later became the “International Club of Heroes.” As he has done before, Morrison took that goofy ‘50s concept and managed to not only make it something that was able to be taken seriously, but made it actually quite cool.
And let’s be honest: the Yanick Paquette art doesn’t hurt things either.
After last month’s pleasant diversion with Klarion the Witch-Boy, Batgirl returns to the ongoing plotline that writer Bryan Q. Miller has been establishing for the past several months. The conflict in question is that between Batgirl and the Order of the Scythe, which originated when the Order framed Batgirl for murder on campus at Gotham U. While the previous confrontations with the Order have mostly been limited to scuffles with the robed-and-hooded line members of the group, Batgirl has also had evidence of a speedster who is operating in some semblance of a leadership capacity.
This month, that villain finally gets a name (Slipstream) and an official first encounter with the Girl Wonder. It’s common knowledge (and common sense) that every good hero needs a good archenemy. In fact, one of DC’s greatest strengths is that their heroes not only have great villains, but they have villains that enhance the best qualities of said heroes. Frankly, a legit archrival is the only thing Batgirl is lacking as a series (and as a character). Miller has done a bang-up job so far crafting a superhero yarn that’s all ages-appropriate without feeling sanitized and new reader-friendly while still making every issue count in the big picture. Readers should have faith that he’ll make Slipstream worthwhile as well.
This week also has Birds of Prey #10, which resolves the promising “Death of Oracle” storyline and All-New Batman: Brave and the Bold #5, where the all-ages book based on the Cartoon Network series features the Dark Knight teaming up with Guy Gardner to do battle with the Manhunters. On the cancelled books front, The Outsiders #37 ships; its stab at relevance is the tie-in to the “Reign of Doomsday” crossover taking place with JLA and Superboy, among others.
Not featured above, but also clearly of note is Batman and Robin #21, which doles out the second part of Peter Tomasi’s “Dark Knight vs. White Knight” story arc. If you’re on the fence, take a look at the preview pages that DC has published online; Patrick Gleason drops a stunner of a splash page in the opening sequence. It might be worth the purchase for the art alone (and the story’s been decent as well).
In terms of collected editions, we’ve got the same series, different volumes, different formats. The series is the criminally underappreciated Gotham Central, a book that featured crime comic masters Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker writing together, along with art primarily by the fantastic Michael Lark. This week, Gotham Central Vol. 1: In the Line of Duty ships in paperback, collecting the first ten issues. On the other side of the format, Vol. 4: Corrigan also hits the stores, albeit in hardcover. They’re both amazing reads, although obviously it would be recommended to read Vols. 2 and 3 before 4.
Next week is slim pickings compared to this week, although what is shipping is good. We’ve got Batman and Red Robin, along with the final issue of the Knight and Squire mini-series. See you then.