Written by Joel T. Lewis
In the past I have expressed that I avoid following massive comic book events in general. In fact, I have never followed one month to month. The time, finances, and publisher loyalty required to read everything in the Flashpoint storyline or World War Hulk for instance are not available to me. That being said, when they announced the DC Rebirth event I was intrigued by the idea that the DC Universe would become intertwined with the Watchmen Universe, but I didn’t rush out to buy every Rebirth issue. Actually, the reason I picked up All-Star Batman was that it had very little to nothing to do with the Rebirth storyline. But now months later, (20 issues of Batman later) author Tom King and artist Jason Fabok have finally begun unravelling the mystery at the heart of the Rebirth event: where did the Comedian’s button come from, and how did it wind up in the Batcave?
I’ve been really curious to discover how the creators at DC plan to bridge the gap between these two comic universes so I bit the bullet and jumped on issue 21 of Batman. I was sold on the storyline, but the super-cool holofoil cover didn’t hurt either! That being said what I found inside issue 21 more than delivered on the promise of the holofoil cover. Issue 21 begins with Batman watching a Gotham vs Metropolis hockey game. He’s in the Batcave running an analysis on the button he found embedded in the wall of his lair and when he tosses the button onto his desk it sparks in reaction with another artifact. As a result, the Thomas Wayne Batman from the Flashpoint alternate reality appears and calls out to Bruce. Batman contacts the Flash to help him investigate the disruption this causes in the Speed Force. The Flash is in the midst of a huge brawl and tells Batman that he’ll be there in a minute. One second later, a speedster appears, but it’s not the Flash. Reverse Flash, who died along with the rest of the alternate reality characters from the Flashpoint event, appears and attacks Batman. He notices the note Thomas Wayne wrote Bruce from that alternate timeline and mocks Batman as he rips it to shreds.
Now, I’m not an advocate of Batman killing anybody, but after that heart-rending panel I would’ve looked the other way if Bruce were to beat the speedster till his costume resembled the normal Flash’s crimson tint. The fight that follows Reverse Flash crossing that line is one of the best I’ve ever seen in comic books. Now I have little to no interest in the Flash or his villains, but I imagine one of the difficulties that arises when illustrating a super-fast character in a comic book would be avoiding making every feature blurry and stretched to convey how fast that character is moving. This issue masterfully conveys the speed with which Reverse Flash beats the hell out of Batman by dividing each panel into one-second-long intervals with a simple timestamp at the bottom. Batman knows he has to play for time waiting for the arrival of Flash so the only weapons he can fight Reverse Flash with are delay tactics.
At one-point, Batman uses a Batarang to pin Reverse Flash’s foot to the floor of the Batcave and proceeds to even the score of what had been a pretty one-sided fight. As the minute ticks down to zero Batman eases up momentarily in anticipation of Flash’s arrival but the speedster is late and Reverse Flash lands a furious final blow. Leaving the crumpled Dark Knight on the floor, Reverse Flash picks up the button and is transported out of the Batcave. When he returns, the villain’s side is burned down to the bone and he screams 'I saw God!' The Flash finally arrives to find both Batman and Reverse Flash collapsed on the floor of the Batcave.
Like I said, I’m not a Flash fan, but this issue’s storyline is said to continue in issue 21 of the current Flash series and you can bet that I’ll be picking that one up the day it comes out. This is an outstanding issue and a great jumping on point for the 2017 Batman series though it would be helpful to have some familiarity with the Flashpoint storyline. That being said, you can get the general plot points of that event from the DC animated movie 'Flashpoint' instead of tracking down every issue in that massive arc. Until next time, Geek On!
Written by Joel T. Lewis
Over the past 8 months I have praised Scott Snyder’s ability to effectively synthesize and showcase Batman villains whether it’s over the course of a large story arc or a single-issue feature. His five issue storyline 'My Own Worst Enemy' brought new depth and intimacy to the relationship between Batman and Harvey Two-Face, and as he’s gone on to feature a single villain per issue with this current run the results have been outstanding. But as Snyder attempted to connect all the threads he had set up in the 3 previous issues of the 'Ends of the Earth' arc, I found that he may have miscalculated the time necessary to do his final villain justice. We find in issue 9 that the man responsible for the near-cataclysmic disasters of the previous 3 issues is none other than Ra’s al Ghul and his scheme for cleansing humanity is all over the place. I feel that this issue was rushed, bloated, and convoluted, and let me stress that I don’t like saying that! Let me attempt to summarize the plot of this issue and you’ll see what I mean.
The Blackhawks have captured Duke and have threatened to end his life unless Batman takes out Ra’s al Ghul and stops his master plan. Ra’s is celebrating his victory at the top of the Washington Monument in D.C. as Batman speeds towards the Monument on his Bat-Cycle. As the time limit set by the Blackhawks trickles away, the Bat-Cycle is destroyed sending Batman into the reflecting pool which separates the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. Ra’s continues to gloat and is struck over the head with a champagne bottle by someone he assumed to be one of his goons. We find out that the person that just flew into the reflecting pool was Selina Kyle in Hatter-tech camouflage and that Bruce Wayne was similarly disguised as one of Ra’s followers.
Brandishing a revolutionary musket, Bruce demands to know what Ra’s master plan is and here’s where things really get out of hand plot-wise. Over the course of the last three issues, Ra’s orchestrated the near-disasters that Batman prevented in order to show Bruce how the world might end if left to its own devices. This has all been a way to distract the Dark Knight from the fact that Ra’s has slipped a technology into nuclear reactors and similar sensitive areas around the world which will allow him to cause meltdowns, confusion, and ultimately war on a global scale. Ra’s pontificates on how Batman is more of a detriment to society than Ra’s ever could be because he’s allowed humanity to escape his past schemes and accelerate towards a disaster of their own making. Ra’s then shoots Batman through the head and revels in his victory.
But we discover that it’s not a victory after all as Batman reveals that when he hit Ra’s over the head with the bottle of champagne he stuck him with a Mad Hatter tag which convinced Ra’s of a false reality. While Ra’s was monologuing Batman traced the nuclear meltdown signal and stopped the countdown. At the end of the issue we are unsure of whether the Blackhawk team was indeed a distraction as Ra’s al Ghul claimed or an actual strike team in reality and the ominous cell phone which blacks out at the end of the issue seems to indicate that Batman didn’t stop Ra’s plot, he may have only slowed it down.
Now this is not a bad Ra’s al Ghul scheme, and I’m not unhappy that Batman was able to counter it. However, the number of bait-and-switch moments in this issue with both Selina and Bruce disguised by Mad Hatter-tech, the Hatter Tag used on Ra’s, and the quick introduction and nearly instantaneous resolution of Ra’s nuclear plot made this issue feel rushed and clunky. I don’t dislike Ra’s al Ghul as a villain, I enjoy this issue as a commentary on the social and political unrest that is very palpable today, and I adore anytime I get to see Jock work on a Batman comic (and his Ra’s al Ghul is amazing!), but this conclusion to the 'Ends of the Earth' storyline just felt like Snyder tried to cram too much into one issue, which was disappointing since he paced his Two-Face storyline so well. Also, I have to say that the set up at the beginning as Ra’s describes the issue as 'not a Batman story' is brilliant and the clash of fundamental ideologies between Batman and Ra’s is really interesting, it’s just an issue that is too crammed with content. Though I was really harsh on this month’s issue, the next chapter of All-Star Batman is supposed to feature an Alfred origin storyline and a brand new villain. This intrigues me and I’m too optimistic about Snyder’s ability to bounce back to give up on All-Star Batman now. Until next time, Geek On!
Written by Joel T. Lewis
In preparation for this month’s issue I went into the Moon Knight back-catalog and pulled every appearance of the villain Raoul Bushman that I could find and read it again. I took notes on the history of the character and cataloged his atrocities. I tracked his evolution throughout Moon Knight’s history from his start as a vicious international mercenary to his stint as a New York drug lord, from his days as an African Dictator, to his last appearance as a faceless zombie. I had planned to use this research to show how Jeff Lemire’s Bushman fits into the greater history of the character. While this issue does introduce Raoul Bushman and shows the iconic confrontation scene that leads Marc Spector to become Moon Knight...the effect is underwhelming. This is not how I wanted to describe this issue. I was really excited but Lemire’s Bushman falls a little flat for me.
Let me explain: this is a character who in his first appearance (Moon Knight (1980) #1) revels in the violence he and his gang of mercenaries bring to the freedom fighters in the Sudan. His face is a tattooed death mask which rivals Darth Maul’s heebie-jeebie factor and to top it all off he brutally murders Marlene’s father by biting out his throat. Now, in issue 13 Bushman does murder Professor Alraune, and he does it by gutting him with an efficiency that is chilling, but the matter-of-fact way he does it is more controlled and removed than Bushman has been in the past. I can’t help but feel let down that I didn’t get to see Greg Smallwood and Jordie Bellaire’s interpretation of Bushman’s filed down teeth taking the life of Professor Alraune the way he does in his first appearance. Now I can think of a number of reasons why Lemire chose to tone the Bushman down for this series, and chances are that we will see the mercenary return in the series finale, but when you pick up an issue with Smallwood’s terrifying Bushman on the cover, the last thing you want is to have that character be underwhelming on the inside. Now that I’ve had my nerd rant, I must say that if this is the first Moon Knight series you’ve ever read, or you came aboard for the 2014 Warren Ellis run, this first introduction to the Bushman isn’t a bad one, nor does it completely mischaracterize the villain.
While the flashback storyline follows Spector’s last mission as a mercenary and the introduction of Marlene, not much happens as we follow present day Spector on his journey to confront Khonshu. Marc receives an ominous warning from Anubis as he bids him farewell and Marc sends Crawley to Gena’s diner to protect him from the final showdown with Khonshu. We follow Marc as he makes his way to the subway station where he encountered the Mummies in issue 3 and eventually back to the asylum. Khonshu tempts Marc with the promise of a pain free life if he remains trapped inside his own mind which Marc rejects as he bursts out (rather messily) from a brain-shaped prison. While I have been ragging on this issue, and in all honesty it is a bit of a filler issue, seeing Smallwood trap Spector in a giant brain and a few pages later show him carve his way out with a crescent dart was really cool.
Another redeeming aspect of this issue was the way that Marc insulated Crawley from the final showdown with Khonshu. Throughout the history of Moon Knight, Marc has treated his friends and supporting characters the way he treated his different identities, donning each personality and using each friend to accomplish Moon Knight’s goals. In the past, Marc has been a parasitic influence in the lives of Frenchie, Marlene, Gena, and Crawley and it’s a nice subtle touch for him to take on this final battle alone. It’s not as dramatic as acknowledging his separate identities was in issue 9, but it is a great way of showing Marc’s healthier way of interacting with those closest to him.
This is it! We’re nearly at the end of this amazing run and while this issue was a bit of a disappointment for me I cannot wait for next month’s finale. Moon Knight VS Khonshu 2017 promises to be epic, intimate, and totally insane. Until next time, Geek ON!