A review of the new DC title.
Living on the top floor of an apartment facing west with a half broken air conditioning unit during this nationwide heat wave really made me excited for new comic book Wednesday this evening. I thought it would be a chance to think about something other than humidity, and do something other than sweat. Unfortunately, only one title from my pull list came out today, and it is a title I've been trying to drop. Batman and Catwoman #22 by Peter J. Tomasi and featuring artwork by Patrick Gleason is an individual issue that epitomizes the entire title run of this creative team; moments of greatness in between canyons of mediocrity.
Batman and Robin (or whatever you want to call this series) bought itself a ton of fan favor after the one-two punch of the Annual and Requiem issues this past spring. Those are fantastic issues that drummed up a lot of emotion in readers. They were the best issues since the titles opening arc Born to Kill. They were so fantastic that I'm afraid to drop this title because I may miss something as equally wonderful.
Reality is, the series has been spinning its wheels in the mud for four issues as Bruce deals with the fallout of Damian's death from Batman Inc. #8. I'm not saying we shouldn't deal with the fallout, but I have not been a fan of how it was handled. The idea of utilizing the five stages of grief is brilliant but this was the first issue that didn't feel like Bruce coping with the anger stage. Tomasi and Gleason did a decent job capturing Bruce's despair in a panel where he is slouched over a computer, listening to the recorded adventures between him and Damian.
But nothing happens here. It's an issue that, once read, will be bagged and boarded and forgot about. We get another look at Two-Face, whose twisted half is obscured well in the shadows, but seems to serve little purpose than teasing readers that things will be great again down the road. And he did so little... flipped a coin and left; it felt like it was an appearance page needed to make the book longer. I don't think I'm too far off with this statement, as Gleason provides two pages of standard block layout as Catwoman and Batman silhouettes attack Chinese embassy guards. There are way too many of these boxes during this action sequence, mainly because they all look the same. Uninteresting. Gleason, not unlike Tomasi, has moments of greatness. His work on Requiem issue and first Death of the Family tie in were great, but his art, specifically characters' faces, often look cheap. I believe he excels when he draws characters in the dark.
Carrie Kelley makes an appearance, again, annoying Bruce, and myself. She is hanging around to serve what I can only assume is fan speculation as to who the next Robin would be. And to make the issue longer. Honestly, I thought she was shoe-horned in to give the title it's WTF cover a couple months back. This incarnation of the character is not a favorite of mine.
But like I said, this issue also has moments of redemption, which is exactly what Batman experiences toward the end of the story. Upon saving a little girl with Catwoman, we get a nice full page of the trio flying through the air. Bruce even cracks a bit of a smile, telling the little girl she is safe, and everything is going to be OK. And it was this tiny bit, this emotional moment in an otherwise bland issue, that made me say, "well it could have been worse... I mean, that was an enjoyable payoff." I genuinely relished this ray of optimism, about as much as Bruce did.
Batman and... has become a fan favorite, at least in some internet communities. One thing it does have going for it is the $2.99 price tag. Batman 66 #1 came out today and it already has a $3.99 tag. So, for a Batman fan, it's reasonable, and with Zero Year taking up the flagship title, this is the best way to experience the fallout from Death of the Family and Batman Inc. If you're a completist, you'll buy this title regardless, but if you're like me, and not in love with this series issue to issue... skip it. You won't miss anything. Nightwing will make an appearance next, helping Bruce reach his acceptance stage. Given Dick Grayon's history with Damian, and Bruce for that matter, I am hoping for an emotional, grandiose issue that can redeem this whole arc.