REVIEW: Batman #73 has giant implications for Tom King’s run

By Alex Batts — “The Fall and The Fallen” story arc continues in this week’s issue of Batman, and while at first glance it might not seem like that much is going on, the developments seem likely to have gigantic implications for the final chapters of writer Tom King’s run on the title. Batman #72 saw Batman beaten and broken (again) at the hands of Bane, while his father Thomas stood idle, brooding. This issue picks up with the Wayne duo in the desert, Bruce unconscious and being secured to the back of a horse, while Thomas nonchalantly sings the classic….

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REVIEW: Tom King’s Batman #69 is a gorgeous ending to an audacious story arc

By Zack Quaintance — This is it, everyone, the six-part largely separate Knightmares story arc has now come to an end. This has been an audacious set of stories, each illustrated by a different artist and designed to explore a different part of Batman’s psyche, revealing as they did that our hero was suffering some form of torture. Remember those old campy and elaborate death traps Batman always got stuck in back in Batman ‘66? Well, this arc has been like that, but the booby trap is Batman’s own…

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REVIEW: In Tom King's Batman #66, a major new artist rises

Batman #66 is due out 3/6/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — The ongoing Knightmares story arc—which picks up here after a two-issue interlude that doubles as a Heroes in Crisis tie-in and a crossover with The Flash—is a tough one to review, at least on a monthly basis. The main trouble is that it’s really hard to contextualize the literal nightmare torture state our hero is trapped within without knowing what the payoff will be. We’re even lacking some basic info here, like who’s doing this to him (we can maybe safely assume it’s his father from the Flashpoint timeline), how long he’s been trapped, and, perhaps most importantly, why?

This all makes it a bit tricky to gauge whether this story is working on a larger narrative level. With that in mind, I think it has to then be evaluated on the past merits of this run written by Tom King, as well as on whether it provides an entertaining individual reading experience. Let’s start with the latter: I think this issue most certainly does entertain.

This issue is entertaining for two main reasons, and we’ll start with the first one since I have a bit less to say about. This is the most we’ve seen writer Tom King portraying Catwoman since Batman #50 ended with her leaving Bruce at the altar/on a rooftop, worried as she was that a content Batman would be bad for the world and for Gotham. This issue sees the as-of-late underutilized Question interrogating her about the Bat-Cat relationship and, in a broader sense, her wedding decision.

If there’s one thing King has excelled at throughout this run it’s writing big Bat-Cat moments (with Batman Annual #2 standing out as the pinnacle of this run to date, with the possible exception of the Cold Days arc, which could be the best multi-part Batman story of the past decade). I for one have always found Catwoman the more interesting and less explored member of the pairing, and what this issue does (even if it’s not real real) is give us her more interesting perspective as she drags out a sultry cigarette like a character in a Golden Age Hollywood movie. It’s a great premise.

What makes this issue really pop, so to speak, is the artwork. Jorge Fornes is a superstar artist waiting to happen, and, more precisely, a perfect fit for illustrating noir stories within the extant DC world. He doesn’t quite fit with the publisher’s house style, but he’s squarely within the lineage of the sorts of cartoonist they like to tap when they deviate from the photorealistic, think Shawn Martinbrough’s Detective Comics run with Greg Rucka, or Phil Hester and Ande Parks work on Green Arrow with Kevin Smith and later Brad Meltzer.

It’s the type of Bruce Timm-esque cartooning that really accentuates the classic designs of the characters, we get so many glorious scenes of it here, bet it Catwoman tangling upside down in front of a diamond from a wire, or The Question leaning in with intensity splayed all over his (or her) expressionless facade. It’s truly special work, and if Fornes hasn’t already been tapped for more noir DC Universe cartooning, well that’s a missed opportunity.

The last point I want to make is that in the context of the longer run, this faux reality Knightmares run asks readers for a pretty sizeable leap of faith, and I think that’s just fine. It’s the kind of ask the writer and his collaborators have earned after 66 issues, all but three of which I’ve liked (The Gift) and most of which I’ve absolutely loved. It’s an experimental take on Batman, compared to traditional depictions, and this is nothing if not an experimental arc. I say let them tell the story, give them the benefit of the doubt, and let’s talk again in six months.

Overall: Jorge Fornes steals the show in this issue as Tom King’s experimental dream-state arc of one-shots resumes. In addition to Fornes drawing some of the best noir DC scenes in recent memory, we get King exploring the Bat-Cat relationship yet again. This story might not be actually happening, but the quality with which it’s being told is 100 percent real. 9.0/10
Batman #66
Writer:
Tom King
Artist: Jorge Fornes
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

TRADE RATING: How Mister Miracle by Tom King & Mitch Gerads Defies Escapist Entertainment

Mister Miracle by Tom King and Mitch Gerads is out 2/13/2019.

By Brandon Evans — The collected edition of Mister Miracle by Tom King and Mitch Gerads released this week, giving us all the change to read it collected in its entirety. I, like many others, first read this book at a pace of pretty close to once a month, with a few agonizing delays. Although, in retrospect, I think this periodical format may have added to the experience, helping me to better sympathize with Scott Free, aka Mister Miracle himself, who is unsure of his circumstances and surroundings, just like I was unsure what was happening in the overall narrative of the story at each chapter’s conclusion. That disorientation felt right in a way, given that Scott as a protagonist is unsure what the days he’s experiencing mean to the story of his overall life, or anti-life.

I could easily write a piece all about the qualities that make this 12-issue maxiseries so amazing, but I’m hesitant to go through that boom tube because I’d hate to spoil the series for the fortunate souls who get to read it with fresh eyes. To them I say just be ready to look at the mythic components of the Fourth World with a surprisingly fresh perspective—the Life and Anti-Life Equations are explained in such a simple, yet profound ways—you’ll see. It’s really hard to understate how well Tom King writes these concepts and characters. He shows us the atrocity of war and the toll it takes on those who are on the front line, via the graphic violence in the fire pits of Apokolips juxtaposed with the family lives it interrupts. Thanks to the beautiful art of Mitch Gerads, a conversation about redoing a condominium is entertaining and thrilling, even at the expense of many unfortunate parademons. Gerads grueling adherence to a mostly nine-panel uniformity is impressive, and after awhile you realize how strong his sequential storytelling is. His art pairs incredibly well with the story, a union enables the book to be, dare I say, miraculous.

Mister Miracle does something that is unusual for the comic book medium, it takes the idea of escapism entertainment, and inverts it. Instead of a man trying to escape the monotony of normal everyday life, we see a superhero and celebrity escape artist doing his best to escape his life. A cliched phrase that the tired and bored often use is, “I’m dying to escape this place.” Well, what Tom King literally gives us is an escape artist who attempts dying at the start of the story to escape his life of escapism. While we as the readers are trying to get into his world, Scott is actively trying his best to get out, to get a piece of our normal lives. It is on the epic battlefields that Mister Miracle truly looks bored, but when changing diapers, he seems…happy.

Scott Free is arguably every new dad trying to be better than his father as he battles falling victim to the same impossible choice his own father did. Will Scott give up his son to a life of torture on Apokolips or will he damn every fellow New God to continue the endless war that has been plaguing Scott and Barda their entire lives? This story culminates in Scott making the impossible choice. There are no easy answers in life, and Scott’s actions show that he understands this. Fortunately, he isn’t alone. The series features Big Barda too, Scott’s wife, and in all the ways that Scott fails, Barda picks up the slack. She is the strength to his weakness, the reason against his insanity, but most of all Barda is the decisive confidence to his indecisive insecurity. Any fan of Barda will love her strength in this book, watching Scott benefit from it as he battles his depression and makes his eventual escape.

From Mister Miracle by Tom King and Mitch Gerads.

The reason that King and Gerads’ Mister Miracle is such a touching tale is because it is the very embodiment of us, the reader. We’ve grown up to find lives not as the superheroes or celebrities we so desperately wanted to be when were children, but as parents and normal people we swore we’d never become. We endure the scars of perceived—or actual—childhood traumas and live in a world that we don’t exactly recognize every day. While we may not see the embodiment of our doubts and/or depression in quite the same way as Scott—Darkseid is.—we do contend with our own doubts, worries, and fears.

As a new father, myself, it has been clear to me throughout that Tom King and Mitch Gerads really infused this book with their own very personal insights into the heroic business of parenthood. Raising children is exciting and scary, but at the end of the day, far more important than interstellar wars on Apokolips, or any other planet for that matter. Though we may throw ourselves head first into those conflicts, we know the best things are at home with our wives, children, families. Those are the things that keep us going. We can’t forget the problems we face, even when we are on the couch playing with our young children. The dread of the real world is there. We can never really deny that Darkseid is, we merely use it as a footstool and focus that much more on our own little New Gods.

If you’re looking for a comic book that is truly grown up, then this collected work belongs on your shelf.  

Brandon Evans is a freelance writer and comic book lover from St. Louis, MO. He is currently working to find his way into the comic book industry. You can find him on Twitter as @writingbrandon

REVIEW: Tom King’s Batman #63 enlists Mikal Janin for Bat-Cat wedding redux

Batman #63 is out 1/23/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — There’s a very familiar feeling to the start of Tom King’s Batman #63. Mikel Janin, King’s primary collaborator from July’s infamous Batman #50 Bat-Cat wedding issue, is back providing the artwork. Moreover, what’s actually happening on the page is familiar too. Bruce is on a rooftop in a tuxedo as the sun comes up, just as he was during the wedding, flanked by Alfred and a tipsy officiant. There’s a quick cut to the goodbye letter Catwoman left on his pillow, and then our hero steps to the edge of the building prepared to jump off...we’ve seen all this before.

Before he can go fully over this time, things begin to change. This time Catwoman is there, telling him to wait. This time things are different, better—until they suddenly aren’t. Thus is the premise of Batman #63, the third part of the ongoing Knightmares story arc for this title (and before you protest about spoilers, everything I just described happens on the first page of this very compressed issue, which is an idea we’ll return to a bit later...).   

Knighmares continues to be an arc of unreality. Readers don’t know what’s real and what’s not. The last issue saw Batman battling Professor Pyg, who at the very end removed his mask to reveal himself as Damian Wayne, Bruce’s estranged son and Robin. Essentially, Batman #61 planted the seeds that Batman was trapped in some sort of hallucination via the Bruce Wayne murder kid character (which I’m pretty ambivalent about, but that’s another thing all together…), Batman #62 confirmed it, and now Batman #63 builds on the concept further, doing so by replaying what so far has been the headling moment of Tom King’s Batman run—the wedding.

I won’t go too far into specifics, but this issue uses John Constantine as a mechanism for both tormenting Bruce (telling him this happiness is fleeting) and giving some narrative clarity to the reader. Constantine (whose own reality we are left to wonder about for most of the proceedings) keeps telling Bruce what we pretty much know, that this is all fake and will end badly. This is all setup in the start, and I don’t want to go too far into the plot what happens. What I do want to talk about, however, is whether this issue and this larger arc is good.

Let’s look at where the arc started, or, to be more precise, what it started after. In Batman #60 Alfred is assaulted in the Batcave by Thomas Wayne, Flashpoint Batman, who we knew was in this reality and assisting Bane from the last panel of Batman #50. He also gets the jump on Bruce, leaving us to wonder what happens next. What does happen next? Well, we’re plunged into the fakery of Batman #60. In some ways, this arc is one meant to stall, to keep us wondering what’s up with the Flashpoint Batman without giving us too many answers.

In other ways, it’s meant to give the creators a chance to delve further into the psyche and humanity of Batman, which is what this run has been about from its very first issue. King knows that cliffhanger has fans on the hook, and now he’s basically saying let’s slow down (in entertaining and relevant ways) to look at the emotional effect on our hero. King has done this previously with other lesser-known superhero characters, mainly Mister Miracle and The Vision. Mister Miracle in particular played with perceptions of reality, with a case to be made that any action in any of was happening entirely in Scott Free’s head.

Given the prominence of the character, King doesn’t seem to have (or maybe want) that same luxury with The Bat. As such, he ends up giving us more compress Knightmares (as it were) and tipping his hand sooner. Does it work? I absolutely think it does, and on the whole I enjoyed this issue and its functions within both the longer story arc and run. Basically, a little bit a clarity about what’s actually happen goes a long way, bringing what the writer is trying to do into focus and engendering us with the trust and patience we need to stick with it. This lack of clarity, in my opinion, has hurt portions of a couple of other recent Tom King comics: the ending of Mister Miracle and the beginning of Heroes in Crisis.

Someone like David Lynch might get all the rope in the world to confuse the daylights out of us, but David Lynch is making arthouse cinema. In superhero comics, it’s almost always the case that writers most artful form-bending inclinations are best served by being reduced just a bit in the service of accessibility. It’s like if you were baking a cake—experiment with ingredients all you want, but you’re still going to need the sponge and taste and texture that make what you set out to do recognizable. I think Batman #63 most certainly delivers in that regard.

One last note: I think Tom King’s voice and stylistic flourishes work better with some characters than with others...Constantine is without question a good fit for King, and I’m suddenly intrigued to read more of his work featuring this character, even if it’s just a cameo here or there.

Overall: A little bit of clarity about what’s really happening goes a long way in Batman #63 mixing with the Bat-Cat wedding redux motif to result in the strongest issue of this arc so far. Also, Mikel Janin’s impeccably-clean linework is always welcome on this title. 8.5/10

Batman #63
Writer:
Tom King
Artist: Mikel Janin
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as
BatmansBookcase.

Top Comics to Buy for January 9, 2019

By Zack Quaintance — Ah, after a few weeks with a lesser volume of new comics releases, it’s nice to get back to full strength. Yes, this week’s Top Comics to Buy for January 9, 2019 involves a far higher volume of books than the last two weekly installments, once of which fell the day after Christmas and the other a day after New Years (side note: already shaking my head about next year, when both Christmas and New Years will actually be on a Wednesday, leading to a rough two-week new comics hiatus, I reckon).

Anyway, this week was great for quality as well as quantity, especially as it pertained to creator-owned comics. I think I read more Image review previews this week than I did in the past three weeks combined. So many of the series from that publisher that launched late last year continued this week, and you’ll see many of them present on our list below, along with some of the usual mainstays.

So with all that in mind, let’s get to that list of Top Comics to Buy for January 9, 2019!

Top Comics to Buy for January 9, 2019

Batman #62
Writer:
Tom King
Artist: Mitch Gerads
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
Now features the Story solicited for #61 written by Tom King with art by Mitch Gerads. The Eisner-winning creative team behind MISTER MIRACLE is back together as artist Mitch Gerads rejoins the Bat team for a special issue! Professor Pyg is loose in Gotham, and you know that means things are going to get weird... and bloody!
Why It’s Cool: When this run is on, it’s one of the best long-form superhero stories in comics. This week, regular series writer Tom King is joined by his Mister Miracle/Sheriff of Babylon collaborator Mitch Gerads (one of comics biggest artistic talents right now), and you know what the result is? That’s right: this run is on. Since really catching the broader industry’s attention with a 12-issue Vision maxi-series for Marvel Comics in 2015, King has had a fast rise, powered in part by his fearlessness when it comes to experimenting with comics form. This issue sees him back at it, trying a new device (second person) that to my knowledge shows up for the first time in his work here. This Batman run aspires to humanize one of the most inscrutable characters in comics, and King’s use of second person here creates an interior familiarity that is often elusive in comics. Up there with the Cold Days arc and Batman #54, this is one of the best issues of this run.

Bitter Root #3
Writers:
David F. Walker & Chuck Brown
Artist: Sanford Greene
Colorists: Rico Renzi & Sanford Greene
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
With violence erupting on the streets of Harlem and his cousin possessed by a demonic force, Cullen Sangerye reaches out for help from an estranged family member. Meanwhile, in Mississippi, Ford Sangerye fights for his life at the gateway to Hell.
Why It’s Cool: Holy cow, this is the issue where all hell breaks loose, almost literally. As we noted in our Bitter Root #1 review, this is a well-constructed comic that looks amazing. It’s also moving at a brisk pace, with this being only the third issue and so many of the conflicts that were foreshadowed early on coming to a head. It really speaks to the confidence the creative team has in this story. They know they’ve built it well, that they have the audience hooked, and so it’s time to deliver on early promises. We’ll have a Best New Image Comics of 2018 piece coming later this week, and you can damn sure expect Bitter Root to be on it.

Euthanauts #5
Writer:
Tini Howard
Artist: Nick Robles
Colorist: Eva De La Cruz
Letterer: Neil Uyetake
Publisher: IDW - Black Crown
Price: $3.99
Thalia has learned that you don't get to the afterlife without breaking a few eggs and planting a few seeds. In this issue-people die. Some of them stay quiet about it. When the ego is destroyed, what remains? Find out in the final issue of our first arc, Ground Control.
Why It’s Cool: This comic has just been such a gorgeous tryst through blurred lines of life and death, and with a solicitation that promises characters will die (duh), we expect big things from the finale of this first arc. There’s been an ominous morbidity hanging over every last issue of this comic (it is called Euthanauts, after all), and if fourth issue is any indication, it’s in this chapter that the creative team will likely deliver the demise that has been foreshadowed. The only question is which member of the cast is likely to go. One last point: writer Tini Howard and artist Nick Robles both landed in our Top Comic Book Creators of 2018, and we highly recommend getting on board with their work now. There’s still time (just barely) to say you were here before they blew up.

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #1
Writer:
Tom Taylor
Artist: Juan Cabal
Colorist: Nolan Woodard
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $4.99
Spider-Man is the worst neighbor EVER! There are always crazy villains and property damage and drama and...and he CATCHES the villains. And he tries to fix the damage and he helps carry your groceries and actually that property damage keeps the rents down. You know what? Spider-Man is the best neighbor ever and this book will give you a closer look at Spider-Man's (and Peter Parker's) neighborhood than any book ever. Also, it wouldn't be a Spider-Man adventure without a threat that could destroy not only Spider-Man, but all his neighbors.
Why It’s Cool: Writer Tom Taylor keeps getting comics that are adjacent to Big 2 flagship titles (the third X-Men book, an alternate reality Superman/Batman comic, etc.), and he in turn keeps absolutely crushing them. I fully expect his localized Spider-Man comic to be yet another example of this. I also continue to call for Taylor to get a chance to write a more prominent Marvel or DC comic, bordering on outright begging at this point.

Self / Made #2
Writer:
Mat Groom
Artist: Eduardo Ferigato
Colorist: Marcelo Costa
Letterer: A Larger World Studios’ Troy Peteri
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
With Amala's true nature revealed, her creator has just one night to figure out how and why this miracle occurred... before Amala is lost forever.
Why It’s Cool: Even though the debut issue came out at the end of last year, Self / Made by newcomers Mat Groom and Eduardo Ferigato (edited by Kyle Higgins) is my pick for best new title of early 2019. This book is just so good. The first issue was entertaining and high-concept, reeling readers in with a standard high fantasy war scenario that quickly gave way to something more complex: the characters were actually—hey! No spoilers! Anyway, this issue extends the surprise twist of the debut further, pushing it to a place where it questions the very nature of existence without sacrificing any forward plot momentum to do so. Yes, it’s only two issues old, but this book is rapidly becoming something special.  

Gunning for Hits #1.jpg

Top New #1 Comics

  • Barbarella / Dejah Thoris #1

  • Captain Marvel #1

  • Criminal #1

  • Gunning for Hits #1

  • Turok #1

  • Young Justice #1

Others Receiving Votes

  • Avengers #12

  • Cemetery Beach #5

  • Deathstroke #39

  • Die #2

  • Dreaming #5

  • Freeze #2

  • The Green Lantern #3

  • House Amok #4

  • Justice League #15

  • LaGuardia #2

  • Martian Manhunter #2

  • Outer Darkness #3

  • Prodigy #2

  • Thor #9

  • Unexpected #8 (final issue)

See our past top comics to buy here, and check our our reviews archive here.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

Tom King's Batman: Should We Keep Reading?

By Zack Quaintance — I got a call the other day from a friend, asking if I planned to keep reading Tom King’s current run on Batman. The series is currently on #58 (out this week) of what King has said will be 104 total issues. To be quite frank, before that call I hadn’t even considered quitting. So, the question caught me off guard. My friend had also previously written about King’s work, heaping praise upon it. Yet, there he was, ambivalent about continuing.

But you know what? By the end of our conversation, I could see his point. The shine has indeed faded just a little bit from this Batman series, which is why today I’d like to talk about the big question—Tom King’s Batman, should we keep reading? I think there are valid cases to be made either way, and so I’d like to look now at both sides, starting with…

The Case Against Tom King’s Batman

Something has changed with this Batman comic.

Maybe it was the wedding, hyped by many (from DC marketing to the creators) as a pivotal moment in the long history of a classic character, until...it wasn’t. But no, that’s not it, The Cold Days arc that followed (in which Bruce Wayne finagles his way onto a jury to successfully make a case that his alter ego is flawed) was one of the best Batman stories in many, many years.

Well then, maybe it was that recent KGBeast arc? After all, Nightwing was shot in the head for some reason, which I guess was maybe kind of justified by Bruce and the aforementioned Beast having liked the same gross children’s book as kids? I don’t know. The whole thing felt a little disturbing, mostly based on (excuse the pun) the execution (although I did love Batman #54, which preceded it). This shot in the head thing, however, has been worse for the current Nightwing comic (they ran off Ben Percy!), than it has been for Batman.

The gritty themes in Heroes in Crisis have some readers wondering if DC has given up on the hope that made Rebirth popular.

Or maybe the reason was and continues to be Heroes in Crisis? The mini-series has, after all, upset many fans (perhaps purposefully), brutally murdering beloved and long-tenured characters in swift and unceremonious fashion, one of which (Wally West) was a pretty literal embodiment of the hope that defined the publisher’s most recent line-wide shakeup, Rebirth.

I think that last one is having a bit of an impact on readers, so let’s talk about it. Heroes in Crisis is a 9-part series purported to be a combination of commentary on an American PTSD epidemic resulting from the war on terror, plus also a murder mystery starring superheroes. Two issues in, it’s been utterly grim and fairly cold, literally slaughtering and autopsy-ing several young characters. It also seems to be indicative of a larger grim turn for a publisher that had its biggest success this decade with Rebirth, which, again, was built on hope.

Heroes in Crisis, in other words, hasn’t been a crowd pleaser, and Tom King is the one behind it. I’m still hearing the majority of readers (both online and off) say things like This is Tom freaking King, he knows what he’s doing, but for others, confidence in King’s ability to deliver has been slightly rattled. Meanwhile, King is also a writer whose style often feels non-conventional, relying as it does on voice-heavy tricks such as repetition of key words or phrases to re-enforce meaning, novel uses of form and structure, and quotations from poems and literature. These are all things that really standout in today’s corporate superhero comics malaise, which is part of what helped King so quickly rise to prominence. The flip-side to all of that, however, is that stylistic flourishes tend to yield diminishing returns. The poetic quotations in King’s breakout 2015 series The Vision, for example, landed much harder for me than those in this week’s Batman #58. Batman, it should be noted, is a twice monthly title on a white-knuckle creative schedule, and so, really, it’s hard to fault King for going back to some of his most trusted tools here and there.

All that said, I’m not personally at the point where I’m ready to even consider dropping this title, which brings us to our other section…

The Case for Tom King’s Batman

Overall, I’ve liked King’s run, with the highlights for me being the double date issue (Clark/Lois, Bruce/Selena), the much-loved and Eisner Award-winning Batman Annual #2 (Rooftops), and the recent Cold Days arc, wherein Bruce Wayne finagles his way onto a jury and makes a case that his own alter ego is flawed (a premise so nice I rehashed it twice…sorry). And on the whole, I’m still enjoying this comic’s writing. I have a bit of Batman fatigue, but I’ve had that for at least a decade and yet still I soldier on.

Could Tom King’s Batman run be a direct play on the classic Knightfall storyline?

To me, King is engaged in a deep character study, taking apart and rebuilding Batman in an in-depth way not attempted since Knightfall. In fact, my deep suspicion here is actually that what King is trying to do with his 104-issue run is craft Knightfall for a new generation, creating a sequel of sorts in which primary villain Bane takes a less-overt and more-cerebral approach to breaking The Bat. And if that’s the case, I’m there for it.

In the original early ‘90s Knightfall, Bane weaponizes Batman’s rogues gallery against him by freeing them all from Arkham and laying back as they exhaust the Cape Crusader, pushing Bruce to place of shaken weakness after he spends several sleepless days rounding them all up. Afterwards, Bane storms Wayne Manor/The Bat Cave, and literally breaks Bruce’s back over his knee. Why? Because he wanted to prove that he could and because, of course, he’s evil.

After the failed wedding, we learn Bane has returned to his old tricks and is trying to once again break The Bat, perhaps as revenge for an earlier story arc and all the other indiginities he’s suffered through the years at the hands of Batman. Here’s where this sequel idea really becomes interesting to me. Bane’s efforts are evolved, more subtle and more cerebral than the last time he gave it his all. He’s now manipulating Bat foes into having direct incentives to complicate and terrorize Batman, be it KGBeast’s assassination attempt of Nightwing, or Catwoman being guilted into leaving Bruce at the altar. My guess is that this all could lead up to another (or different) broken back scene soon.

I find this intriguing because it strikes me as an essential update on the Knightfall story for our times. Knightfall was published in the early ‘90s, when real world foes, like Bane, were more overt. The Soviet Union had just fallen, but for years prior we’d known them as our rival, our enemy. We’d watched out for their machinations. These days, however, we seem to be involved in a Cold War sequel, rife with speculation about what Russia may or may not be doing to move against us, as well as tertiary and internal actors seemingly being motivated to aid their cause. Casting Bane as a similarly-improved tactician is sharp and heady stuff.

If that kind of metaphor is what King’s engaged in here—phew, count me in, I’d like to see where it’s all going, even if Heroes in Crisis continues to land with a thud (although I’m still hopeful that there’s something larger in play there than the first two issues would suggest…). Moreover, even with King’s style becoming more familiar, it continues to stand out as a smarter approach to the work. The meaning isn’t always as powerful as it was in his early superhero books, but King is still on a marquee title and trying something new, an increasing rarity in this age of editorial oversight and careful guarding of would-be billion dollar movie franchises. I think that entitles him to a slightly longer rope, one I’m still personally happy to afford him.

Check out more of our analytical writing on comics.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase. He also writes comics and is currently working hard to complete one.

Top Comics of September 2018

By Zack Quaintance — This month is one that has the potential to be infamous, in that it ended with an event—Heroes in Crisis—that saw one of the Big 2 (DC) embrace a sort of grit and darkness that feels outdated. Word is now coming out that in addition to being a viscerally uncomfortable book, Heroes in Crisis also undersold expectations. Really, it almost feels to me as if the larger line itself is working like an antibody to reject Heroes in Crisis, purging its anachronistic themes from a shared superhero universe that is now bent on being brighter.

But, hey, this isn’t a piece about Heroes in Crisis! This is, instead, a piece about the comics from last month that I really liked, and within it you will find talk of some of my usual favorites—Wasted Space and Immortal Hulk—as well as some discussion of comics I haven’t written as much about, including The Seeds and Supergirl. And because I can’t help myself: yes! Okay, fine. I found Heroes in Crisis disappointing, but I still enjoyed September holistically as another great month for comics.

Let’s take a look at why!

Shout Outs

Snotgirl #11. I’m just so happy this book is back. The art is phenomenal, even if the story has seemed to search for direction. Still, there’s nothing else quite like this comic, one of the most singular today. It’s like reading a guilty pleasure Instagram feed.

While I thought the opening arc of Jason Aaron’s Avengers run was maybe two issues longer than it needed to be, Avengers #7 & #8 are two of my favorite standalone Avengers stories in years, Avengers #7 for its biblical qualities and #8 because of its deep focus on team dynamics.

Relay #3. I’ve been enthralled by this book from its start. It’s, to be reductive, mind-expanding sci-fi brought to life with illustrations that oscillate from detailed and realistic to totally psychedelic. It’s a complex read, one I’m doing my damndest to analyze via reviews.

I’m all in on the SuperBendis run these days, and I liked Superman #3 and Action Comics #1003 quite a bit. Supergirl #22, however, was a fantastic surprise. This is a smaller title, but it’s bringing a welcome additional depth to Bendis’ larger aspirations.

September’s Wonder Woman #54 & #55 teamed one of my favorite rising comics writers, Steve Orlando, with one of my favorite underrated art teams, Raul Allen and Patricia Martin. The results were (unsurprisingly) to my liking.

DC Comics is in a bit of holding pattern in a couple places, waiting for new superstar runs to start (Aquaman, The Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, etc.), but Justice League #8 & Justice League Dark #3 continue to establish its team-up book as a true flagship.

In Black Hammer: Age of Doom #5, some of this series’ mysteries become clear, and the team of Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormstron have more than built a satisfying resolution.

I continue to be impressed with the world-building going on in Skyward, a charming comic that’s clearly lasting for a long haul. Check out our review of Skyward #6.

Not to give too much away, but the last panel in The Wild Storm #17 is well worth your time, provided you’ve read The Authority...

Tom King and Mitch Gerads work in Mister Miracle #11 is once again excellent, featuring action, a future classic nine-panel grid of Darkseid double-dipping a carrot, and a promise that mysteries will be unraveled next month (maybe).

Top Comics of September 2018

5. Wasted Space #5 by Michael Moreci, Hayden Sherman, Jason Wordie, & Jim Campbell

This month saw the conclusion of Wasted Space’s first arc, and what a doozy. What I find most compelling about Wasted Space is that it lives a double life, both as a slapstick space opera and as a deep ideological exploration of culture and society. I’ve said this before but it’s worth reiterating: there’s a David Foster Wallace-esque quality to the ideas and concerns in this book, one that is especially evident in some of the lengthiest bits of dialogue as well as in the intelligence woven throughout.

Aesthetically, it’s a bright and vibrant comic with a quick plot and jokes that feel surprising yet never inappropriate. I’m a vocal proponent of Vault Comics, and, as such, I’m often asked where new readers should start. After this issue (and arc), my answer is now Wasted Space.

4. Doomsday Clock #7 by Geoff Johns & Gary Frank

This issue caught me off guard. In Doomsday Clock #7, there is more plot and action than in the first half of this maxi-series combined. Indeed, the first six issues here were almost introspective in nature, carefully building the individual concerns of different Watchmen characters as they moved from their world into the proper DCU.

In Doomsday Clock #7, our principals start to slam together, with a good deal of direct involvement from usual DC heroes as well. The result is a comic that almost serves as a mission statement for this entire event. It’s an entertaining read that has me more excited for the final five issues. There is a little bit of a bittersweet tinge to it, in that one can only imagine what it would have been like had this book kept to a monthly schedule, as well as what it would have meant for the larger DCU, too. Sigh.

3. Immortal Hulk #5 & #6 by Al Ewing & Lee Garbett

September brought us two new issues of my favorite Marvel comic, Immortal Hulk, and so I’m including them here together. It seems to me like these two books together took a deeper turn into the supernatural, opening the door for the titular undead Hulk to explore some darker, perhaps even supernatural spaces.

The glowing red visage of Banner’s demon father is the MVP of this new scary turn. Designed to horrific perfection by usual series artist Joe Bennett, the face is memorable and terrifying, a fitting personification of this book’s ambition to be a different, unnerving sort of Hulk story. I also like that this book is seemingly separate from the usual cash-grabby fray of crossing over Marvel titles. Indeed, it’s starting to feel like the publisher is actively separating prestige titles from gimmicky cash grabs, and discerning readers are better for it.

2. Batman #54 by Tom King, Matt Wagner, Tomeu Morey, & Clayton Cowles

Batman #54 was a comic that made me emotional. As I wrote in my Batman #54 review, I found this issue to be an all-time great Batman story, a father-son take on one of the most famous duos not only in comics but in the entire world. It’s also largely indicative of what I’ve liked most about King’s run so far: its humanity.

I think I’m far from alone in saying King’s Batman has been one of peaks and valleys, and I attribute this to a two steps forward, one step back journey he has Bruce on. King is trying to slowly humanize and grow a character whose owners have everything to gain by keeping him static. His solution seems to be a series of small pushes in lieu of any major leaps. This issue is one of the most blissful small pushes forward so far.

1. Seeds #2 by Ann Nocenti & David Aja (read our review of Seeds #1)

I didn’t know what to make of Seeds’ first issue. It was a blatantly creative comic, one that intrigued me and seemed to have something much deeper to say beneath the compelling visuals that made up its veneer. The first issue, though, withheld much about what the book intended to be about, and, as such, I withheld a bit of enthusiasm. After reading the second issue this has changed. I’m all in on The Seeds, to the point I now suspect that when the four-issue series concludes, it is likely to be praised as one of the best comics of the decade, if not longer.

This is a story that feels both impossible and real, that feels of our moment and also forward-looking. It’s thematic interests are disparate at first glance, ranging from sex between humans and aliens, the environmental death of the earth, and the bludgeoning impact of human reliance on technology. Look closer, though, and you’ll find a creative team that is almost unnervingly prescient. This is a comic book story that in my opinion is clearly laying out what should (or soon will be) easily the most pressing concerns of our time, and doing it with some of the finest art in the industry. Simply put, if you’re not reading this comic, you are making a mistake.

Check out our Best New #1 Comics of September 2018 plus more of our monthly lists here.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

Top Comics to Buy for September 19, 2018

By Zack Quaintance — This was an especially strong week, with the penultimate issue of Mister Miracle sort of headlining the books I’m looking forward to. It kind of seems like that book has been going on for years (even though it launched in August 2017) and like we’ll have it for the rest of our days (the last issue is currently due out on Oct. 24...although if recent issues are an indication it's probably likely to slip).

The book has just been so so good, and we will most definitely be sad to see it go. That said, we’re also enjoying the heck out of these final few issues. Tom King is one of the best and most introspective superhero writers, and what he’s done first with The Vision and now with Mister Miracle is work that seems likely to find a wide audience for a good long while. It’s been really rewarding to follow it in monthly issues, even with these minor delays.

Oh hey, and also there’s a lot of other good stuff, too! Let’s take a look...

Top Comics to Buy for September 19, 2018

Crude #6
Writer:
Steve Orlando
Artist: Garry Brown
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: Thomas Mauer
Publisher: Image Comics
Price:
$3.99
Piotr has fought his way across Blackstone to avenge his son's death. Now he faces off against the biggest bastard of them all, and only one will walk away.
Why It’s Cool: This is the finale of a fantastic book about closure, violence, secrets, acceptance, and fathers and sons. If that sounds like a lot, it’s because it is. Creators Steve Orlando and Garry Brown, however, streamline their many powerful themes into a cathartic and powerful story.

Harley Quinn #50
Writer: Sam Humphries
Artists (In Order of Appearance): John Timms, Whilce Portacio, Agnes Garbowska, John McCrea, Kelley Jones, Jon Davis-Hunt, Brett Booth, Norm Rapmund, Scott Kolins, Dan Jurgens, Guillem March, Mirka Andolfo, Babs Tarr, Tom Grummett, Cam Smith
Colorists (In Order of Appearance): Alex Sinclair, Gabe Eltaeb, John Kalisz, Michelle Madsen, Andrew Dalhouse, Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99
In a special anniversary story, "Harley Saves the Universe!"-no kidding! While reading a mysterious Harley Quinn comic book, H.Q. accidentally breaks all of reality. And you know the saying: if you break it, you bought it! Now it's up to Harley to travel through both time and space to fix all the continuity errors she created. Luckily, she'll have a little help, 'cuz riding shotgun is none other than special guest star Jonni DC, Continuity Cop! Good thing, too, because if Harley fails, it means her own mom will be lost forever. Gulp! That doesn't sound very funny!
Why It’s Cool: Listen, I’m not a big fan of Harley Quinn stories. The zany superhero books (ie Deadpool) don’t usually do it for me, but this one takes a gigantic and meta idea, using it to tell a poignant story about the nature of superhero franchises, sprinkled liberally with fun deep cut nods to DC continuity. It’s a must-buy for long-time DC readers.

Ice Cream Man #7
Writer:
W. Maxwell Prince
Artist: Martin Morazzo
Colorist: Chris O’Halloran
Letterer: Good Old Neon
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $3.99
"MY LITTLE POLTERGEIST"
Another sullen, sequential short! Here, a little girl's best friend comes back from the dead. Or does she? It's hard to say, ghosts being an unreliable sort.
Why It’s Cool: Ice Cream Man #6 was one of my favorite books of 2018 so far, accomplishing some really impressive feats of comic-making craft. It did, however, leaving me wondering if this book was becoming a bit nihilistic...until this issue put that question at rest. This is the most heartfelt issue yet of one of the best comics on the stands, and I highly recommend picking it up.

Immortal Hulk #6
Writer:
Al Ewing
Artist: Lee Garbett
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99
"THE GREEN DOOR" STARTS HERE! Bruce Banner is alive - and everyone knows it. Now he's hunted by the government, Alpha Flight, the mysterious Shadow Base...and the Avengers. And someone's going to find him first. But Bruce has bigger problems. Something terrible has infected him. Something with unspeakable plans for humanity. And the only one who knows about it...is the IMMORTAL HULK.
Why It’s Cool: I’ve liked Immortal Hulk quite a bit from its first disturbing issue, but last month’s Immortal Hulk #5 introduced a new villian that in my opinion gives this story a chilling new sense of direction, one that stands to make it an even more powerful book. This is, quite simply, my favorite comic at Marvel right now.

Mister Miracle #11
Writer:
Tom King
Artist: Mitch Gerads
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher:
DC Comics
Price: $3.99
If there's one thing popular fiction has taught us by now, it's: never make a deal with the devil! And yet Mister Miracle is still listening when Darkseid approaches him with just such a devilish proposition-if Scott sends his newborn son to Apokolips, there will be peace on New Genesis. Since when has Darkseid been famous for his honesty?! It'll be a miracle if this doesn't blow up in Scott's face.
Why It’s Cool: Our site and many others have spent the past year or so heaping praise upon Tom King and Mitch Gerads Mister Miracle, and that’s not going to stop now that we’ve reached the penultimate issue. This is a series filled with equal parts introspection and misdirection. Expect some answers here, but also expect to wait for Mister Miracle #12 to really get a clear idea of what’s been going on.

Recommended New #1 Comics for September 19, 2018

  • Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1

  • Batman: Damned #1

  • Burnouts #1

  • Captain America Annual #1

  • Dick Tracy: Dead or Alive #1

  • Gideon Falls: Directors Cut #1

  • Return of Wolverine #1

Others Receiving Votes

  • Avengers #8

  • Batman #55

  • Black Badge #2

  • Black Hammer: Age of Doom #5

  • Britannia: Lost Eagles of Rome #3

  • Ether Copper Golems #5

  • Justice League #8

  • Lost City Explorers #4

  • Pearl #2

  • Skyward #6

  • Teen Titans #22

  • Thor #5

  • Usagi Yojimbo The Hidden #6

  • Venom #6

  • The Wild Storm #17

See our past top comics to buy here, and check our our reviews archive here.

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.

Top Comics of August 2018

By Zack Quaintance — August 2018 was the month of Jeff Lemire, who wrapped up the 14th and final issue of Royal City, the first arc of creator-owned hit Gideon Falls, a multi-year run on Valiant’s Bloodshot, and a big reveal in mysterious superhero nostalgia trip Black Hammer (which, by the way, he’s using to build a generational superhero universe from scratch). Oh, and Lemire did all this while also writing Sentry, The Terrifics, and probably more books I’m forgetting.

That’s not all. Just when Lemire was cresting on the strength multiple impressive and prolific comics runs, he used the platform his profile affords him to castigate a rage movement that bullies and harrasses creators from marginalized groups, an action for which he’s surely gotten blowback. Still, that kind of speaking out sparked the most wide-spanning conversation yet about why it’s important to denounce such tactics and such groups.

So yeah, item of business no. 1: hats off to Lemire. Item no. 2? A look at this month’s top comics, which, unsurprisingly, will also merit further discussion of Lemire. Now that I’ve set a new record for mentions of one creator during my intro...let’s do this!

Shout Outs

Shanghai Red #3 continues Christopher Sebela and Josh Hixson’s searing pioneer revenge epic. The colors in Hixson’s artwork are especially revelatory.

The penultimate issue of Steve Orlando and Garry Brown’s six-part father-son Russian revenge epic Crude took the book to new heights in both physical and emotional stakes.

Michael Moreci and Hayden Sherman’s Wasted Space is now ongoing, which is very cool because every issue has been stellar, including this month’s Wasted Space #4.

Action Comics #1002 was the most complete Bendis Superman issue since Man of Steel #1. Bendis is slowly building his Superman status quo, pulling in vital elements and reconstructing Clark’s life with updates for 2018. Plus, art by Pat Gleason!

Meanwhile in Supergirl #21, Bendis passes a cosmic story thread left dangling in Man of Steel to the creative team of Marc Andreyko and Kevin Maguire. Excited to see where in the galaxy it goes.

I liked The Euthanuats #1, with its poeticism and blurry line between life and death, but I loved The Euthanauts #2, which declared that this comic is primed and ready for a lengthy run.

Batgirl has a new creative team: writer Mairghread Scott and artists Elena Casagrande and Paul Pelletier. So far I’ve liked all of their work, which this month alone included half of Batgirl #25, all of Batgirl #26, and Batgirl Annual #2.

Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman are doing fantastic things in Venom, expanding their vision for a character that previously seemed outdated. Hell of a run taking shape here.

Another issue of Mister Miracle by Tom King and Mitch Gerads, another spot on our monthly best of list. This book is just so good.

Finally, we got a two-issue Wonder Woman arc from Steve Orlando and Aco, high adventure that teamed Diana with Artemis and the new Aztek for mythology-meets-multiverse fun.

Top 5 Comics of August 2018

5. The Wild Storm #16 by Warren Ellis, Jon Davis-Hunt, & Brian Buccellato

The Wild Storm continues to be a wonderfully-complex slow burn of a comic, one with much to say about power structures, corporations, government, and the role of individuals within it all. Warren Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt (with excellent Brian Buccellato colors) are really taking their time here, giving this comic a more weighty and realistic feel than past iterations of this universe.

It won’t be entirely clear until we get the final eight issues of this story, but I’m starting to suspect this book will land among Warren Ellis’ best work. In many ways, it’s the final form of so many ideas that he’s played with throughout his career, ideas that he’s able to explain through familiar character in a totally new universe that’s unburdened by past or present continuity. DC essentially told Ellis, You know those characters you’ve written on and off throughout your career...would you like to start from scratch and do whatever you want with them? He (obviously) said yes, and the end result is awesome comics.

4. Amazing Spider-Man #4 by Nick Spencer, Ryan Ottley, Cliff Rathburn, Laura Martin & Joe Caramagna

Cards on the table: Along with Uncanny X-Men, Amazing Spider-Man is the first comic I subscribed to as a kid. I’ll always and forever have it on a pull list. That is to say, I was always giving Nick Spencer and Ryan Ottley’s run on this book a shot, and, through the first three issues, I thought it was amusing, a light romp through all the qualities that make Spider-Man a beloved character, albeit a bit light on his central conflict: his guilt over passively enabling the death of his uncle.

Amazing Spider-Man #4, however, was the first issue to break through the shiny veneer of Ottley art and Spencer quips, showing that this creative team is interested in the core of the character and determined to get it right. This book broached Peter Parker’s central conflict and guiding philosophy in intriguing ways, while also continuing to double down on the strengths of earlier issues. As a result, I am one supremely satisfied long-time reader.

3. Batman #52 and #53 by Tom King, Lee Weeks, & Elizabeth Breitwesier

Batman #52 and #53 were part of the recently-concluded Cold Days arc, which is my favorite multi-part story that Tom King has told with Batman (I still like Batman Annual #2, Batman/Elmer Fudd, and Batman #37’s double date better as single issues, but I digress). The arc was drawn by Lee Weeks, who has emerged as maybe Tom King’s best collaborator on this run as well.

What makes the story work so well is how it speaks to comics collective obsession with Batman. In Cold Days, Bruce Wayne manipulates his way onto a jury of a Mr. Freeze murder trial because he worries he made a mistake as Batman, so shook was he after being left at the altar by Catwoman. He gives a 12 Angry Bat-Men kind of speech, wherein he questions the fallibility of his alter ego. Intentional or not, that speech had a meta context, raising questions about the way fandom venerates the character. Fantastic stuff.

2. Ice Cream Man #6 by W. Maxwell Prince, Martin Morazzo, Chris O’Halloran, & Good Old Neon

This comic somehow tells three self-contained stories in a single issue, doing so with little to no dialogue in a way that not only makes sense but will almost certainly haunt the vast majority of readers for weeks (at least, that’s been my experience). Really, if it wasn’t for the monster month of the creator who took the no. 1 spot, Ice Cream Man #6 would have been an easy choice for August’s best.

This comic is one of my favorite single issues of 2018 so far. The craft here is so impressive that I don’t want to think about it too hard, lest I lose motivation to ever attempt anything creative of my own again. Moreover, I have a pretty strong predisposition against stories steeped in cynicism or bleakness—and this issue is most certainly that—yet this book is so well-done I was able to overlook all that. Ice Cream Man holistically is one of the best horror books today, as well as one of the best explorations of what’s possible with the medium, in terms of form and structure. I can’t recommend it enough.  

1. Jeff Lemire

Jeff Lemire landed in the top spot for a few different reasons, many of which we touched on earlier: the conclusion of his Bloodshot epic, the quiet way Royal City’s ending issue made my eyes well, the outstanding reveal on the last panel of Black Hammer: Age of Doom #4, and, of course, the way he stood up to Comicsgate, contributing in no small part to a roiling wave of similarly-prominent creators who did the same.

We should also note that Gideon Falls first arc ended in August (in excellent fashion), and that that book’s entire first storyline has been extremely well-done. So yeah, most months are solid for Lemire output, but August felt like a statement on his part about who he is and what he wants his impact on the industry to be: a disciplined and prolific creator with no tolerance for harassment, rage, bullying, bigotry, or dumbassitude of all kinds. Not bad...not bad in the slightest.

Check out our Best New #1 Comics of August 2018 here plus more of our monthly lists here .

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, CA.