Tales From The Dark Multiverse: Batman: Knightfall #1 – Throwback Review

Tales of the Dark Multiverse: Batman: Knightfall #1 is part of a 10-issue series that puts a new spin on some of the biggest events in DC comics history, by looking at them from alternative realities, where all the wrong choices were made.

Writers: Scott Snyder and Kyle Higgins
Art: Javier Fernandez
Colors: Alex Guimaraes
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Released: 16/10/19
Published by DC Comics

The first single issue comic book that ever I bought, as opposed to a collected edition graphic novel or movie adaptation, was issue 19 of Batman: Shadow of the Bat. It featured a man named Jean Paul Valley, wearing a brutal looking variation of the dark knight’s costume, traipsing around like he was Batman. I was so offended by this notion that I scratched a mark across the front cover of that very comic book. Little did I know at the time, that the long running story-line (Knightfall, Knightquest and Knight’s End) of which that issue was but a fraction, would go on to become one of my all-time favourite Batman stories.

Something else I didn’t know at that time was that the man parading himself around as Batman, Jean Paul Valley, would go on to become a huge part of my life as a comic book reader (I own all 100 issues of the original Azrael comic book run and have written a rejected screenplay for an animated movie featuring the character’s origin story). So it goes without saying that anything featuring links to Knightfall, in particular Jean Paul and Azrael, peaks my interest big time!

Tales of the Dark Multiverse: Batman: Knightfall #1 is part of a 10-issue series that puts a new spin on some of the biggest events in DC comics history, by looking at them from alternative realities, where all the wrong choices were made. In the case of this particular story, Bruce Wayne’s Batman did not defeat Jean Paul Valley at the climax of Knight’s End, leaving Jean Paul to wage a religious war against crime for thirty years in Gotham. The result is catastrophic. Without his defeat at Bruce’s hands, Jean Paul’s instability has brought ruin to the city, whose people are now divided into two camps: those who worship “Saint Batman” and those who secretly yearn for someone to save them from Jean Paul’s tyrannical rule. That possible salvation comes in the shape of a man claiming to be the son of the super villain, Bane, as well as the highly skilled martial artist, Lady Shiva. As they lead an assault on Valley’s forces it becomes clear that victory may depend on one man; Bruce Wayne, or what’s left of him. But can thirty years of brokenness be overcome by the former Dark Knight?

Writers Scott Snyder and Kyle Higgins do a great job here of capturing the flavour of the Batman comics from the 90’s. If you look at where the character of Jean Paul was at the time in which this story kicks off (a slave to “the system” seeing visions of “Saint Dumas”) then it’s logical to assume that the path he might head down would be not too dissimilar to what we get here.

There is a tendency, for anyone who isn’t named Dennis O’Neil, to write Jean Paul as a religious nut-job with a psychopathic personality. Check out a recent iteration of the character depicted in the pages of Legends of the Dark Knight for a prime example. But to do so is to strip him of all the growth he achieved as a character during the years that O’Neil was writing him after the events of Knightfall. It takes him twenty steps backwards and fails to understand what O’Neil was doing with the character. But Snyder and Higgins set their story at the perfect moment in time to justify taking Jean Paul down the kind of rabbit hole that most other writers should be trying to avoid. For this reason I am able to go on the journey willingly as we see what might have been.

Snyder and Higgins focus on one of the key aspects of Jean Paul’s character that O’Neil was always trying to explore, which was the fact that, Jean Paul’s father not really having been there for him means that he has got some serious daddy issues. He looks for approval from the closest father figure he has had in his life, which is Bruce Wayne, without being emotionally equipped to function beyond what “the system” has programmed him for. And so he remains locked in an internal battle concerning his own identity. That was always the journey of the character that O’Neil played out. The question of, “who am I?” constantly hung on Jean Paul’s shoulders. We find Jean Paul here having decided who he is, and yet still seeking that approval from Bruce, which will never be forthcoming. It makes him a tragic figure rather than a mere nut-job playing at being Batman.

Another key influence for Snyder and Higgins appears to be Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns”. It’s a cliché these days to name that particular work as an influence. But it’s almost inescapable. If you look at where we find Bruce’s Batman at the start of TDKR, we are given an almost plausible journey to show how he became that particular version of the Batman. It’s clearly not the same, but with a few tweaks here and there, it very well could be. Gotham City certainly looks ripe for a mutant takeover by the time we reach the end.

Javier Fernandez does a great job on the art work. I love his design of Jean Paul’s evolved Batman costume. It looks like a variation on his famous Knightquest costume, with a bit more medieval knight vibes added in for good measure. Another gripe I have, besides different writers tackling the character, is with different artists who’ve come to draw Jean Paul’s Azrael over the years and their purposeful attempts to simplify his costume. The original Azrael costume, designed by Joe Quesada, is quite simply one of the best costume designs in comic book history. The iconic Az-Bats costume of the “Knightquest” era is also a particular standout for me. So it’s great to see Fernandez putting as much care and attention into making something that looks just as iconic.

This book made me yearn for the days where Jean Paul was a part of my life each month. He’s never been a particularly popular character, no doubt due to the threat he posed to the mantle of the bat. But maybe it’s time for a reappraisal of the impact this character has had upon the legacy of Batman. And maybe it’s time writers like Snyder and Higgins were encouraged to bring Jean Paul back into regular continuity with a monthly title all of his own again. On the strength of this, I’d say he deserves it.


Verdict –
An absolute must-read for fans of 90’s era Batman comic books. Snyder and Higgins do a great job of re-imagining the ‘Knightfall’ legacy, without betraying the roots of the original story or it’s characters.


Review by Bryan Lomax, 08/01/21

Detective Comics #1045 – Review

In the final part of writer Mariko Tamaki’s story, ‘Nakano’s Nightmare’, Mayor Nakano must put aside his differences with Batman so that the two men might destroy the parasitic virus

Detective Comics #1045

Writers: Mariko Tamaki (“Fear State: Nakano’s Nightmare Finale”) and Stephanie Phillips (“Foundations Part Two”)

Art: Dan Mora (“Fear State: Nakano’s Nightmare Finale”) and David Lapham (“Foundations Part Two”)

Colors: Jordie Bellaire (“Fear State: Nakano’s Nightmare Finale”) and Trish Mulvhill (“Foundations Part Two”)

Letters: Aditya Bidikar (“Fear State: Nakano’s Nightmare Finale”) and Rob Leigh (“Foundations Part Two”)
Released: 23/11/21
Published by DC Comics

In the final part of writer Mariko Tamaki’s story, ‘Nakano’s Nightmare’, Mayor Nakano must put aside his differences with Batman so that the two men might destroy the parasitic virus, originally unleashed by Hue Vile, which has been terrorizing Gotham. Then Stephanie Phillips delivers part two of ‘Foundations’, which sees Batman chasing down a deranged man intent on destroying any chance of rebuilding Arkham Asylum, only to be confronted with a surprise visit from a former member of his rogue’s gallery.

I’m glad to see Tamaki’s story finally being brought to its conclusion. Truth be told, this particular run feels like it has gone on a lot longer than it needed to, with a somewhat muddled direction. It started out with an interesting new villain in the shape of Vile, who was then sidelined to make way for Mr Worth, only to fizzle out here with a giant monster that is ultimately destroyed in such a way that ties it directly to a particular moment in time during the whole Fear State climax. This would all be fine, except it really does become very confusing to work out what has happened when, and why the events that have happened elsewhere in DC’s Batman comics haven’t had more of a direct impact on each other.

It’s next to impossible to see how everything that has been happening with Scarecrow, Simon Saint, Peace Keeper-01 and Miracle Molly, over in Batman, could possibly be weaved into all the story threads that have supposedly been happening at the same time over here in Detective Comics. It seems to me that Tamaki’s hands have been tied by the whole Fear State thing, and so we get a story that is fighting for its own identity, whilst being hampered by the need to tie in to the bigger picture.

Ultimately, having Nightwing show up at one particular point in the story is a big mistake, as this was Batman and Nakano’s story. It should have stayed that way. As it happens, I do like the character of Nakano, and the direction they seem to be heading with regard to his and Batman’s relationship is something that has been sorely lacking without the presence of Jim Gordon. This should begin to fill that void quite nicely. Although, yet again, I am reminded that certain information that Batman gives to Nakano surely should have been the very thing that got Bruce Wayne released from prison a considerable number of issues back. How does Nakano NOT know this already!

Despite my mixed feelings across this whole story-line, I would love to see Tamaki continue on Detective Comics now that she is free from the shackles of ‘Fear State’. Let’s see what she can do when she is allowed to remain self-contained. Also, Dan Mora’s artwork has certainly been a highlight throughout this run, so I would be more than happy to see him stick around.

With ‘Foundations’, writer Stephanie Phillips poses the question, “Is Arkham Asylum truly worth rebuilding?” After all, it can hardly be noted for it’s stellar track record in releasing flocks of cured patients back out into the world, ready to contribute to society. It’s a nice little page-turner, which has the feel of something that might have appeared within the pages of ‘Legends of the Dark Knight’, back in the nineties. As I read it though, I am struck by the thought, “what if Bruce Wayne put all the funding into a place like Arkham, making sure to hire the best mental health practitioners in the world?” Instead of dumping people like Scarecrow and Joker into Arkham, only to wait for their inevitable breakout, Bruce could use his resources to take a more active role in their recovery.


Verdict –

The end to Mariko Tamaki’s contribution to the ‘Fear State’ saga really does feel like a long time coming, perhaps ending with more of a, “meh”, than a, “hurrah”. But it sets up some enticing prospects for the future, whilst the second part of Stephanie Phillips’ ‘Foundations’ poses an interesting question, which only leads to more questions (in the best possible way).


Review by Bryan Lomax, 04/01/22

Batman #116 – Review

Without pain, without fear, how does one grow and evolve? This is the question that writer James Tynion IV asks in Part 5 of “Fear State.”

Batman #116

Writer: James Tynion IV

Art: Jorge Jimenez (“Fear State Part 5”) and Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad (“Batgirls part 2: Set It Off”)

Colours: Tomeu Morey (“Fear State Part 5”) and Sarah Stern (“Batgirls part 2: Set It Off”)

Letters: Clayton Cowles (“Fear State Part 5”) and Becca Carey (“Batgirls part 2: Set It Off”)
Released: 02/11/21

Published by DC Comics

Ghost-Maker comes to the aid of the Unsanity Collective, as the Magistrate lead an assault on them, which makes Ivy decide to attack the very foundations of Gotham. Meanwhile, Batman and Miracle Molly find the whereabouts of Scarecrow and attempt to prevent him from attacking the city with his mind control device.

Without pain, without fear, how does one grow and evolve? This is the question that writer James Tynion IV asks in Part 5 of “Fear State.” This has essentially been the mission statement of The Scarecrow throughout the entire ‘Fear State’ storyline. His belief is that in order for Gotham City to truly evolve it needs to experience trauma and fear, so that it might overcome them. In some ways his points are valid. But, obviously, it is his methodology that is seriously flawed. However, it does also raise questions as to the validity of the methodology behind the Unsanity Collective.

The Unsanity Collective created a machine that wipes away any bad memories so that one might be free of trauma. But that means they are never truly learning to deal with and process that trauma. Right in the middle of all that, you have Batman, a man whose entire career of fighting criminals is built on the very idea of confronting and overcoming one’s fear and trauma. As messed up as Batman is he probably represents us, the readers, far more than any of us might care to admit.

We all suffer trauma to varying degrees and we are all shaped by it in some way. But, we can choose how it will shape us, for better or worse. All these questions and answers are looked at within the pages of this issue of Batman, which is what makes it a really great issue, at least as far as the main story is concerned.

The backup story, “Batgirls Part 2 of 3: Set It Off”, is hampered right from page one. It does not feel like a direct continuation from part one. We are told that we need to check out both Nightwing #85 and Batman: Urban Legends #8 in order to fully understand what is going on, when we find Stephanie and Cass at the clocktower, which has been trashed. This annoys me no end!

I understand the cross-pollination of comics these days, with overarching stories running through multiple titles, but when individual stories don’t even make sense, unless you buy every current title, then it feels too much like upselling. Not everyone can afford to buy twenty titles every month.

The artwork in this one doesn’t quite work at times either. There are panels where I simply cannot make out what is going on at all! A prime example of this is the middle panel on page 2 of the story. So, somewhat underwhelming given the intrigue that was built up in part one, last issue.


Verdict –

Tynion delivers a great chapter of ‘Fear State’, raising many relatable points about fear and trauma, while the B-story, as is all too often the case, lets the side down.


Review by Bryan Lomax, 06/12/21

Batman #115 – Review

The Scarecrow prepares Sean Mahoney, AKA Peacekeeper-01, for the next phase of his plan.

Writer: James Tynion IV

Art: Jorge Jimenez (“Fear State Part 4”) and Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad (“Batgirls part 1: Clueless”)

Colours: Tomeu Morey (“Fear State Part 4”) and Sarah Stern (“Batgirls part 1: Clueless”)

Letters: Clayton Cowles (“Fear State Part 4”) and Becca Carey (“Batgirls part 1: Clueless”)
Released: 20/10/21
Published by DC Comics

The Scarecrow prepares Sean Mahoney, AKA Peacekeeper-01, for the next phase of his plan. Batman and Miracle Molly hunt for the Mind Machine and the secrets it holds inside to prevent them being used by Scarecrow as a weapon. And Simon Saint diverts his attention from Batman to someone who might prove to be altogether more destructive.

I’m a big sucker for the artwork and colors by Jorge Jimenez and Tomeu Morey on this series of late. That’s why I have a hard time with more than half the pages in this issue, which have been taken on by artist, Bengal. Respectively, his work is perfectly fine here, but it would stand much better on its own. Unfortunately, matched against the complexity of the work that sits beside it, by Jimenez, it pales in comparison. I understand that artists need to share the workload from time to time just to give themselves a break, or even to give newer artists a piece of the spotlight, but each time a page pops up from Jimenez you are reminded of just how much better things can be. Even Morey’s colors don’t quite pop the same with Bengal’s work, perhaps because Bengal doesn’t quite give him as much 3D space to work with.

The cover to this issue, while nicely drawn by Jimenez (obviously!), is somewhat misleading as it depicts a scene of action from the story that never actually happens. I’m not a fan of those kinds of covers. There’s metaphorical and then there’s just flat out lying!

Fear State part 4 is one of those chapters of a story that kind of leaves every character in a state of limbo, where you are left with no certainties about what will happen next. And so, you finish reading it with only one question in mind, “Where do they go from here?” I guess we’ll find out next issue. Though I must confess I felt that, even with the psychological issues he’s been going through most recently, Sean Mahoney was all too quick to hop into Scarecrow’s chair without asking too many questions. I’m sure that’s all part of Scarecrow’s mind conditioning but, if so, it didn’t translate so well off the page from a writing standpoint.

The biggest point of interest for me right now is Poison Ivy. I’m really intrigued to see just how big a part she will ultimately get to play in this story. We keep getting told that she now has the power to destroy the whole city, even being given a callback to No Man’s Land and the level of destruction that was caused in that storyline. Will Tynion follow through on that promise or does he have something else entirely planned?

The back up story, “Batgirls Part 1 of 3: Clueless”, is a much more interesting affair than what we got at the end of the previous few issues. It has the Anti-Oracle, now calling herself ‘Seer’, toying with Barbara Gordon and her crew. In a few short pages, writers Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad make me want to stay with the story, making good use of the intrigue that comes from not knowing the identity of one’s tormentor.


Verdict –

Tynion keeps his story moving at a fast pace but Jorge Jimenez is sorely missed throughout most of it.


Review by Bryan Lomax, 03/11/21


Detective Comics #1044 – Review

An issue filled with physical horror that explores the darkest depths of what makes Gotham such a lost soul. Corruption and darkness are the bedrock upon which it is built.


Detective Comics #1044

Writer: Mariko Tamaki (Fear State: Nakano’s Nightmare Part 2) and Stephanie Phillips (Foundations Part One).

Art: Dan Mora (Fear State: Nakano’s Nightmare Part 2) and David Lapham (Foundations Part One).

Colours: Jordie Bellaire (Fear State: Nakano’s Nightmare Part 2) and Trish Mulvihill (Foundations Part One).

Letters: Aditya Bidikar (Fear State: Nakano’s Nightmare Part 2) and Rob Leigh (Foundations Part One).
Released: 26/10/21
Published by DC Comics

Mayor Nakano remains trapped in the sewers with a host of hatchling parasites belonging to Hugh Vile. The only thing that can save him: Batman, of course! But he’s kept out from a wall of fallen rubble that might bring the whole world down on their heads if he begins to move it. Clock’s ticking Batman! What are you going to do? Meanwhile, Bat-woman makes a play to end the reign of terror by Nero XIX, back at City Hall.

Mayor Nakano remains trapped in the sewers with a host of hatchling parasites belonging to Hugh Vile. The only thing that can save him: Batman, of course! But he’s kept out from a wall of fallen rubble that might bring the whole world down on their heads if he begins to move it. Clock’s ticking Batman! What are you going to do? Meanwhile, Bat-woman makes a play to end the reign of terror by Nero XIX, back at City Hall.

As I mentioned in my review for Detective Comics #1043 that the introduction of Nero XIX could be the lead into something bigger, imagine my frustration when that whole subplot is wrapped up by Bat-woman in a couple of pages, making the whole thing seem like an afterthought. So the real story here is the relationship between Batman and Nakano. Nakano has done everything he can to rid Gotham of vigilantes. But could the events of this particular issue be the turning point in getting Nakano on team Batman? Well, it might if Nakano actually survives the attack against him by Vile’s newborn parasites. And what a disgusting attack it is too! Seriously, it’s something right out of a horror movie, which is quite up my street really.

The real question is how much life does this Vile parasite storyline have left in it? We see that these same eggs, that burst forth these pesky critters to attack Nakano, are also present in the morgue, which means that even if Batman kills all of them down in the sewer, there’s more waiting for them up top. One can’t help but draw a correlation to real-world events. Is Vile’s parasite actually written by Mariko Tamaki as a way of addressing the fear of Covid? A virus that spreads, mutates, and seems unwilling to die. An obvious comparison, sure, but it definitely adds more relevance to the villain that has been plaguing Batman for months now.

The story is bookended with a piece that Deb Donavan is writing about the filth in Gotham’s water supply and a scene in which that filth makes its way to the surface in the final pages. Filth can only be kept hidden for so long. Water is a symbol of purity. But here in Gotham, it’s as dirty as the city itself!

I love the lore that surrounds Arkham Asylum. The asylum itself has always felt like a character in its own right, in much the same way The Overlook Hotel does in The Shining, or the Bates Motel from Psycho. So the back up story here, ‘Foundations’, is a welcome one that will hopefully offer something new to the pantheon of stories that have focused on this house of extreme darkness.


Verdict –
An issue filled with physical horror that explores the darkest depths of what makes Gotham such a lost soul. Corruption and darkness are the bedrock upon which it is built.


Review by Bryan Lomax, 05/11/21

Detective Comics #1041 Review

One of the more interesting aspects of the current run of Batman comics is the fact that Bruce no longer has the endless wealth that he once had at his disposal. This means Batman has become more like a street rat, operating out of the sewers, without the security of his old bat-cave…


Detective Comics #1041
Reviewed By Bryan Lomax

Writers:
Mariko Tamaki (“The Jury Part 1”) and Matthew Rosenberg (“What The #!$% Is Task Force Z Part 1”).
Art: Dan Mora (“The Jury Part 1”) and Darick Robertson (“What The #!$% Is Task Force Z Part 1”).
Colours: Jordie Bellaire (“The Jury Part 1”) and Diego Rodriguez (“What The #!$% Is Task Force Z Part 1”).
Letters: Aditya Bidikar (“The Jury Part 1”) and Rob Leigh (“What The #!$% Is Task Force Z Part 1”).
Released: 10/08/21
Published by DC Comics

Batman is called out by “The Jury”, a host of Gotham’s criminal underworld, led by Penguin, the Falcone’s and Mr Worth. But when he shows up to meet them, in order to answer for his “crimes”, he finds himself dealing with those who are unwilling to listen to reason. Batman is caught in a trap that might tether his very soul to that of another: Hugh Vile.

I would love to know just what information it was exactly that Oracle gave to the authorities in order to facilitate the release of Bruce Wayne. Mayor Nakano still appears to be clueless about Hugh Vile’s involvement in the whole affair, but surely that would have been the first piece of information that Barbara would have handed over! It only adds to my frustration over the sloppy handling of the story in the last two issues.

Aside from that though, writer Mariko Tamaki goes some way to winning me back on this issue. I like the motely crew of second string villains, led by Penguin, now referring to themselves as The Jury. Each one of these guys on their own probably doesn’t pose much of a threat to Batman. United, however, they may prove to be more than effective as a collective adversary. I think this is proven by the end of Tamaki’s story, in which Batman finds himself in quite the predicament, albeit one that reveals a rather interesting link to Huntress that has the potential to go to some exciting places.


One of the more interesting aspects of the current run of Batman comics is the fact that Bruce no longer has the endless wealth that he once had at his disposal. This means Batman has become more like a street rat, operating out of the sewers, without the security of his old bat-cave. This sometimes results in moments of humour, such as the one Tamaki gives us here, in which Bruce scares a woman carrying her groceries when he climbs out of a sewer grate.
These moments of Bruce struggling to live the life he once lived without the resources he once had also make me long for, perhaps a more valuable missing piece, Alfred Pennyworth, the father figure that Bruce is now lacking and yet sorely needs. Seeing him calling Oracle about business, inside a diner with public gawkers, is somehow one of the saddest reflections of just how far he has fallen from the ivory tower. Dare I say, he seems quite pathetic these days, when dressed in his civilian clothes!


Matthew Rosenberg’s B story, “What The #!$% Is Task Force Z Part 1”, is a really great start to a Deb Donovan adventure. It is filled with intrigue as the no nonsense reporter begins investigating the apparent disappearance of bodies from the Gotham City morgue. Rosenberg has a real knack for dialogue and the art from Darick Robertson is very easy on the eye. I’ve said before that I am really enjoying the Deb Donovan character. But, on the strength of Rosenberg and Robertson’s work here, I’d go so far as to say that, if these guys were assigned to a Deb Donovan monthly title, I’d be the first in line for a pre-order.


Verdict:


Mariko Tamaki shows us just how far Bruce has fallen and how, now more than ever, he is in need of allies. Backed up with excellent artwork from Dan Mora and Jordie Bellaire, she is able to give us a really great character study of Bruce Wayne/Batman, as he struggles to maintain the vigilante life-style without the resources he once had.

4/5


Reviewed By Bryan Lomax – 22/9/21

Detective Comics #1040 Review

The splash page of Batman and Joker crashing through a skylight, during a flashback, is stunning and I get a kick out of seeing the 1980’s colours on their costumes…


Detective Comics #1040

Reviewed By Bryan Lomax


Writers: Mariko Tamaki (“The Weekender”) and Dan Watters (“The Quiet and Unsung Death of Kirk Langstrom”).
Art: Dan Mora (“The Weekender”) and Max Raynor (“The Quiet and Unsung Death of Kirk Langstrom”).
Colours: Jordie Bellaire (“The Weekender”) and Arif Prianto (“The Quiet and Unsung Death of Kirk Langstrom”).
Letters: Aditya Bidikar (“The Weekender”) and Rob Leigh (“The Quiet and Unsung Death of Kirk Langstrom”).
Released: 27/07/21
Published by DC Comics

As I suspected, at the end of issue #1039, the “finale” to Mariko Tamaki’s story, “The Neighborhood”, was anything but. Hugh Vile, we are told, is still alive, leaving Penguin and Mr Worth to continue whatever scheme it was that Vile had concocted. Huntress and Deb Donovan wake up in hospital, seemingly recovered from the effects of Vile’s attacks. Meanwhile, Bruce sits in a prison cell talking to a drunken man, allowing Oracle to put the evidence together that would get him out.

All of this amounts to a mildly amusing dose of pop psychology, as Bruce’s drunken cellmate, having learned that he is Batman (something he conveniently forgets once sober), tells him that he essentially brings all the darkness and misery upon himself; that he is attracted to it. Bruce looks rather non-plussed by this revelation. Dan Mora’s art work, particularly his gift for facial expressions, body language and framing, really help in selling these exchanges. The splash page of Batman and Joker crashing through a skylight, during a flashback, is stunning and I get a kick out of seeing the 1980’s colours on their costumes.

We are told by Penguin that Vile is still alive but we don’t see him. We can only assume at this point he lies in a hospital bed under armed guard. And with Deb Donovan now fully awake and able to testify as to what happened to her, it’s unclear as to just what evidence Oracle needed to gather in order to free Bruce from custody.
The tactics that Penguin employs here also make little sense to me. He’s killed many people over the years without the perceived need to remove Batman from the equation first. And, given the level of destruction he manages to pull off at one point, it feels like a somewhat flimsy excuse for Penguin and Worth to not use all their resources to make a co-ordinated attack directly on Bruce.

‘The Quiet and Unsung Death of Kirk Langstrom’ makes a concerted effort to paint some heroic light onto the tragic character of Man-Bat. Unfortunately, it relies quite heavily on some past events from stories that I’ve never read, which means I felt a bit distant from it all. Not to mention the fact that, by now, we all know that when people die in comic books they rarely stay dead. This made it hard for me to connect in any real emotional way with Langstrom, especially given how few pages that writer, Dan Watters, had to tell his story. In that respect he did a good job given he was so restrained.


Verdict:

Mariko Tamaki’s ongoing story, that began with so much intrigue, now seems to hang in limbo with too much uncertainty, while Man-Bat is given a “final” send-off that struggles to resonate emotionally. The highlight is Dan Mora’s artwork.


Reviewed By Bryan Lomax 6/8/21

Detective Comics #1039 Review

Huntress confronts Hugh Vile while Batman continues his struggle with Worth. But when Vile infects Huntress he sends her after the dark knight and the two vigilantes become locked in a deadly battle with one another…

Writers:
Mariko Tamaki (“The Neighbourhood: Finale”) and T. Rex (“The Life & Times of Hugh Vile”).
Art:
Viktor Bogdanovic, Daniel Henriques and Norm Rapmund (“The Neighbourhood: Finale”), with T. Rex (“The Life & Times of Hugh Vile”).

Colours: Jordie Bellaire (“The Neighborhood: Finale”) and Simon Gough (“The Life & Times of Hugh Vile”)

Letters: Aditya Bidikar (“The Neighbourhood: Finale”) and Rob Leigh (“The Life & Times of Hugh Vile”)
Released: 13/07/21Published by DC Comics 

Huntress confronts Hugh Vile while Batman continues his struggle with Worth. But when Vile infects Huntress he sends her after the dark knight and the two vigilantes become locked in a deadly battle with one another.

For a story with “Finale” as its subtitle I have to say that I found it very disappointing. It just doesn’t feel like anything has been fully resolved at all. We are left with too many questions that leave you feeling frustrated. Is Vile defeated? If so, where does that leave Penguin and Worth, given they seemed to be in league with him? Where’s the logic in Bruce turning himself in, especially since Worth is still out there? After all, he’s already destroyed one police station to get at Bruce, so what would stop him from doing it again? 

Then you have the infections of both Huntress and Deb Donovan, which are unsatisfyingly wrapped up with a line of dialogue from Oracle. 

Not only do all of these elements suggest that this issue is not, in fact, the “finale” of the story, but also, the cover presents the tagline, “From the depths… Enter: Vile”. This suggests that things are just about to get going with regard to our main villain. But he “entered” our story a few issues ago. Perhaps such a tagline might have been more appropriate during one of those issues rather than on the “finale” of the story.

Thankfully, the artwork by Viktor Bogdanovic, and the coloring, by Jordie Bellaire, are still on excellent form.

T. Rex’s short origin story for Vile, “The Life & Times of Hugh Vile”, is a much more rewarding affair. At only ten pages, Rex doesn’t have much to work with, but manages suitably enough to convey the story of a man who has embraced his dark side thanks to the Venom-esque parasite that now lives inside him.

However, I’d rather the thirty pages of a comic book were devoted to the main story at hand. I often find that, as the main story starts to hit a stride, we are then forced to dovetail into another story altogether. I don’t think I’m a fan of this particular evolution in the medium.


Verdict:
Again, we are left with more questions than answers, making for a highly unsatisfying “finale” (if that title is to be believed) to Mariko Tamaki’s story. 


Review by Bryan Lomax, 30/07/21


Throwback Review – Batman #445 – March 1990

Batman goes to Russia to help the Moscow police commissioner catch The NKVDemon, protégé of The KGBeast, who is out for revenge against those who betrayed his master…

Throwback Review – Batman #445 – March 1990
Review by Bryan Lomax

Writer: Marv Wolfman
Pencils: Jim Aparo

Inks:
Mike DeCarlo
Published by DC Comics March 1990

Batman goes to Russia to help the Moscow police commissioner catch The NKVDemon, protégé of The KGBeast, who is out for revenge against those who betrayed his master. The Demon works his way through a hit list of 10 people, much the same way as the KGBeast attempted to do in Gotham, only this time the hunting ground is his home turf in Russia. Can Batman accomplish what he once did in a city he is unfamiliar with?

‘Batman: Ten Nights of the Beast’, written by Jim Starlin in the late 80’s, is one of the seminal works of that decade. Marv Wolfman, no slouch when it comes to writing Batman, is given the task, two years later, of writing a direct sequel to that story. ‘When the Earth Dies! Chapter One: Red Square, Bloody Square’ is a pretty good starting point for it.


Wolfman bookends his story with two sequences. The opener sees Batman catching a villain in Gotham, his home turf, precisely because he knows every street, every alleyway, every sewer tunnel. The closing scene plays out similarly, only this time the villain escapes, precisely because Batman doesn’t know the layout of the city he’s in. In Moscow, the streets, alleyways and sewers belong to The Demon.

Batman #445

I love when stories are bookended. It’s a great device that writers can use to show us a change has happened, whether it be in a character’s personal growth, or in their circumstances. Here we see that Batman is Gotham. Gotham is as much a part of him as the air in his lungs. Without it, he cannot breathe, he cannot function as well as he once did. It gives his nemesis the edge.

That nemesis in question is probably the weakest element of the story, as The Demon is essentially just The Beast, only with a slightly different costume. I would rather they had just brought back The Beast himself. It would be much more fun to see a rematch with the iconic villain, where Batman no longer has the upper hand, instead of giving us a carbon copy in his place.

I always have a sense of nostalgia for Jim Aparo’s artwork. He’s not my favourite, but seeing his work always takes me back to my childhood, when I started reading comic books. It’s very much a golden era for me personally. But it’s great that both Aparo and inker, Mike DeCarlo, both return here, as it was the two of them that brought the ‘Ten Nights of the Beast’ storyline to life.


It must be said that this particular story is very dated as it assumes quite heavily on the audience’s knowledge of Russian politics of the time. And seeing Bruce just randomly bumping into Vicki Vale whilst dining out in Moscow is very quaint. Also, it seems to me that, if The Demon spent as much time doing stuff as he does gasbagging about a better Russia, he might actually stand a chance of achieving his goal. Some of his dialogue is stilted to say the least.

Batman #445


Verdict:

A great nostalgia trip for anyone who read comics as a child of the 80’s, but reading Jim Starlin’s ‘Ten Nights of the Beast’ before this is strongly recommended.


Review by Bryan Lomax, 24/07/21