Jul 11 2013

Graphic Bits Reviews: Batman #22, Batman ’66 #2, Justice League #22 and Superman Unchained #2

Justice League #22 - Trinity War

Don’t have time for full reviews of comics? Then check out Graphic Bits: bite sized chunks of comic book goodness designed to get behind the panels and into your hearts.

This week (10 July 2013) we focus on the best of DC Comics with their origin story in Batman #22, a more groovy take in Batman ’66 #2, the start of the “Trinity War” in Justice League #22 and the sophomore issue of Superman Unchained #2. This is Graphic Bits.

Batman #22DC ComicsScott SnyderJames Tynion IV (writers), Greg CapulloRafael Albuquerque (artists). Rating: ★★★★★

Batman #22 coverAfter the perfection of last month’s “essential reading” of Batman #21, the creative team do it again with the second chapter of the “Batman: Zero Year” arc. Continuing to battle the Red Hood gang, Bruce begins to realise the limitations of his own cunning and anonymity. Fighting a war on two fronts, his hand is forced in regards to taking back the reigns of Wayne Enterprises. What this issue offers is a younger and more frustrated Wayne, and a different take on Alfred, who goes so far as to accuse Wayne of cowardice for sticking to the shadows. It’s an origin story for Batman in that we see a man slowly shedding one mask for another, cutting off the world around him. This is hammered home in a back-up story (“That One Time”) that explores an even earlier point in Wayne’s life when he was learning to be more “flexible”. Capullo outdoes himself in this issue, with a conversation piece between Edward Nygma and Bruce all framed within an ancient Egyptian board game crafted to resemble an Ouroboros. It shows how DC are continuing to push the boundaries in some of their titles, and the fact that they can do this so successfully in the most mainstream book offers a glimmer of hope for the rest. Meanwhile, Snyder gets to re-team with Albuquerque on the back-up story, creating some art as timeless as its Egyptian setting. If you haven’t had a reason to read Batman yet…what’s wrong with you? Make this your reason.

Batman ’66 #2DC2 (DC Comics), Jeff Parker (writer), Jonathan Case (artist). Rating: ★★★★½

Batman '66 #2 cover (DC2)Tuning back into the same Bat channel as last week, the launch title of DC2 continues to offer an enhanced reading experience that is a joy to participate in. Keeping the story as simple and goofy as the 1960s television series works surprising well on the tablet screen, allowing the reader to push on through the adventure at their own pace. Here Parker introduces Catwoman, and things start to sizzle in the Meow Wow Wow club as Riddler sends the Dynamic Duo on a merry goose chase. Jonathan Case’s art is pitch-perfect for this style of storytelling, and his layouts make the most of the added dimensions the DC2 format allows. Along with all the requisite ‘POW’s and ‘WHAM’s (there’s even a ‘WHP-TSSH!’ for good measure), the digital storytelling often surprises in the way it transitions between panels. Following the introduction of Catwoman, for example, her henchmen simply appear behind her on the next swipe. It keeps the reading experience fresh, and allows for the element of surprise to occur more regularly than in print or with a static image. We look forward to seeing what happens with some of the darker stories bound to come out of DC2 Multiverse in the near future.

Justice League #22DC Comics, Geoff Johns (writer), Ivan Reis (artist). Rating: ★★★★

Justice League #22The start of the New 52 left old-school DC a little out on a limb. The post-Flashpoint continuity mostly concentrated on rebuilding individual characters, rather than the overall universe. As Geoff Johns kicks off the “Trinity War” with this issue, there’s finally a sense that he is not only tying together each of the books with the words ‘Justice League’ in the title, but making good on the promise of Pandora’s multiple appearances at the launch of the line. While most of the first half of this issue is exposition, told through the perspective of Madame Xanadu, it does a terrific job of introducing all of the characters for new readers while pushing the story forward for existing ones. The circumstances that lead up to the Justice League of America serving their purpose and fighting the Justice League are logical and thrilling. Series regular artist Ivan Reis brings the blockbuster style to bear on this epic issue, including several massive fight sequences and a splash page of Superman losing his shit that will be pasted over the Internet for weeks. Filled with beautifully orchestrated fights, not to mention several character deaths, this is a must-read piece that expands DC’s field of vision a little further. (For an expanded look at Richard’s thoughts on the issue, check out his full review at Newsarama).

Superman Unchained #2 – DC ComicsScott Snyder, (writer), Jim Lee (artist). Rating: ★★★★

Superman Unchained #2 coverWhile we might have had some misgivings about the first issue, it was mostly because the book had failed to distinguish itself from the plethora of other books on the market. This sophomore issue finally hits home as Snyder begins to define what it is he is doing with the book, albeit one that falls back on his familiarity with the Batman. The opening pages show a Superman that must calculate his decisions in terms of split-seconds, as Snyder opens up Kal-El’s mind to the reader. Still playing the detective, he turns to the “world’s greatest” one as he and Bruce converse over the limits of his Kryptonian power. It’s a revealing scene for both characters, especially in light of the epilogue (with art from Dustin Nguyen) that sets out why it is important for Superman to have checks and balances. Reading this immediately after Justice League #22 (above) may give you chills. In many ways, this issue could very easily segue fans of the Man of Steel film into comics readership, taking the unease that the military-industrial complex and Lex Luthor has for the alien superpower and translating into a human solution. Jim Lee’s art seems far more in sync with Snyder’s style this time out, bringing things back to Earth and making an excellent companion for Batman‘s Greg Capullo. This may all culminate in Superman simply punching things, and it certainly misses the humble charms of the digital Adventures of Superman, but this is by far and away the strongest Superman book currently on the market.

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