I'm finally glad I stuck with this book, as it's starting to ramp up in earnest here. This issue is a neat little mid-arc entry, as we get an alternating-beat format from page to page, one trail following Spitfire and her hypnosis-induced indoctrination into Dracula's group along with the procession of Drac's pans, and the other trail following MI: 13's efforts to head Drac off on their way to what appears to be his ultimate goal: the hidden skull of Quincy Harker. It seems the skull is the center of a magic spell preventing vampires from entering England without a formal invitation (or some such, which I'm not sure entirely makes sense given the events so far, but I'm willing to run with it), and Drac's declaration of war was a smokescreen to force Blade to pull the skull out of hiding. Once he does, Drac and his forces descend upon it and crush it, ending the spell, and making things look real bleak (even by British standards).
Kirk's art is solid as always, and Cornell's writing is sharp and fast-paced here. I actually enjoyed the scenes with Drac and his lieutenants, and the desperate straits of Spitfire more than I did the scenes with the rest of the cast, but it was good all around. I liked it.
Battle for the Cowl #2
Bad guys run wild, Dick solves a non-mysterious mystery and makes a fateful decision, good guys get stomped on, and this event continues my progression of thought that DC is totally reactionary and has no idea what they're doing in the big picture. But I'll come back to that...
Black Mask has fooled Two-Face into thinking Penguin's attacked him, and tried to do the same to Penguin (who knows it isn't Two-Face but doesn't know who it is). Black Mask sends Jane Doe and Firefly out into the streets with some other nasties to establish turf and blow up the GCPD. Jane wears another dead cop's sliced off face (seriously, is this all that necessary? Gross...) and shoots Gordon in his bulletproof vest, leaving him a warning after she kills the new DA. Meanwhile, Black Mask revels in the chaos (evoking Nero watching Rome burn a bit). As this goes on, Nightwing fights Jason (who's obviously revealed through his internal narration) to be Gun-Bats, JT shoots Damian in the chest (who is now surviving but out of action in the Batcave), Alfred convinces Dick he must take up the mantle, and Tim in one Bat-suit runs into Catwoman in JT's cave. JT arrives and they fight, leading to Tim giving him a solid crowbar-ing before JT stabs him in the chest with a Batarang.
And herein lies my problem...seriously? This is a big deal? This is the big event that's gonna drive the Bat-books, and you give it to a thoroughly average-at-best artist to also WRITE? There's too much stuff going on for just three issues, the scene jumps are abrupt and nearly-impossible in some cases time-wise, there's at least lip service paid to the characters' motivations but it's thinner than the paper it's printed on, characters come and go at random just to say they had a role in this and show how important Batman was (and for me, this whole plot point fails MISERABLY on every level), some seemingly-important characters have barely even appeared at all, the dialogue's sub par, and the end results have been telegraphed from miles away...there seem to be no twists, no swerves, no real sense of importance to any of it. It's a paint-by-numbers event, and the whole thing's just not very good. Well, the art's OK, but other than that...I didn't like it.
Secret Six #8
Oh, but even a bad meal can be saved by a scrumptious dessert, and Gail continues to deliver the sweet delicious with this series. Here we get a very interesting double date issue, as Deadshot agrees to his date with Jeanette (not that he had much choice), and Scandal tags along to play chaperone with her date, the stripper/dancer who dressed as Knockout at her birthday party a few issues back (they ran into each other at the Val-Save and dancer girl made a pass at her). Deadshot and Scandal agree not to kill anyone on their date, the crew is tailed by the supremacists that Deadshot and Catman beat down in a convenience store a few issues back as they enjoy dancing (at a club named Hypertime where most everyone is in superhero costumes, including the all-Power Girl band) and dinner, and hijinks ensue.
The badness of these characters, and the emotional hurt Floyd and Scandal live with, is nicely juxtaposed by Scandal's date's optimism and "regular person"-ness; the action is fun; the dialogue is clever and funny as always; and the fill-in art by Carlos Rodriguez is a step down from Nicola Scott, but still quite nice. Oh, and did I mention Ragdoll tags along in the trunk of the car? This leads to a nice, strange-as-you-would-expect Ragdoll back-up feature. The book remains one of, if not DC's very best book; I loved it.