Assessing the Bat-line as 2010 ends

(I really wanted to title this with a "NaNaNaNaNaNaNaNa", but thought it was too soon after Graeme's Flash joke last post)

What is kind of awesome about Batman is just how infinitely malleable he is as a character -- not every single note hits all of the time, but for the most part Batman can be a grim avenger of the night, or a smiling Pop-infused Caped Crusader; he can fight lunatic gangsters, or space aliens; he can call Robin "Chum", or he can say "-tt-" a lot. He can be a pirate and a cowboy and a knight and a superhero and... well it seems like there's very little Batman can't become, under the right hands (witness the 47-million different "Elseworlds" books -- Batman fits more of them, better, than ol' Clark does)

In comics, Grant Morrison seems to get this pretty well -- and, in a way, his entire run of recent Batman comics has been a way to embrace all of the disparate versions of the character over the year (it is almost as if this is an inversion of Alan Moore's famous line about "this is an imaginary story. But aren't they all?" with a "these are all true stories, regardless of the source of that imagination"), and he makes it explicit with the debut of BATMAN, INC. which very nearly makes Batman into Captain Universe ("The Hero Who Could Be You!")

(Though let me also underline the "Batman: the Brave & the Bold" cartoon also has this "it's all true!" sensibility, which works crazy better than you thought it would as a cartoon...)

As I said before, a whole lot of the eventual success of this model is going to fall on creators whose initials don't invoke a car company, there has to be a certain amount of cohesion at the center, but I thought it was worth a look at the batfamily of titles as a (semi-) whole as we reach the last month of 2010.

BATMAN: THE RETURN: Let's start with this one because it is a clear enough demarcation point. This is the one-shot that "bridges" "The Return of Bruce Wayne" to "Batman, Inc.", but to me, it was a pretty blah, nothing cash-grab of a comic that added really nothing whatsoever to understanding of what's going on. In fact, the only thing I found memorable about it, two weeks after having read it was that GM kinda inverted the dead-brilliant eight-word summation of Superman's origin from ALL-STAR SUPERMAN #1 in taking the original "I shall Become A Bat!" and stretching it out over a half-dozen-ish pages. Yeah, that kind of summarizes what I thought of this comic overall, really:  Stretched out. and pretty AWFUL, really.

(This does give me a great place, however, to link to Colin Smith's fairly brilliant takedown of JMS'" Superman Earth One" via comparing it to GM's "ASS" in four parts:


BATMAN, INC. #1: Yeah, this is what the Bat needs to be relevant in the 21st century -- a million possible Batmen, of all cultures, and styles. On paper, this is the best idea for Batman in years. As an actual first issue of a comic it was solidly GOOD, though I don't think we're really going to be able to judge this too much until we have 3 or 4 arcs done and we see where it gets taken. But I really liked the interplay between Bruce and Selina, and I especially liked the call-back to the 1960s Batman TV show in the "next issue" space (much like Geoff Johns really smart "this year in..." bits in THE FLASH and ADVENTURE and whatever). I want more, and that's the most important bit.

BATMAN #704: Tony Daniel does a good enough job with the "main" bat-book, even introducing a few new characters (one of which might stick, maybe?), but I can't say there's anything in there that made me think "more, now!". I'll go with OK

DETECTIVE #871: Scott Snyder and Jock tackle the "flagship" book, with a focus on Dick's Batman. It's a bit grim and atmospheric for what I want from a Dick Grayson comic -- I kind of want Dick to be the Laughing Daredevil Batman, rather than mini-Bruce -- but I certainly liked it enough to want to read more. Solidly GOOD.

BATMAN & ROBIN #17: The book that was started FOR GM, that's continuing without him. I'm not so sure how I feel about this, really, because at this point it kind becomes "yet another Bat-book" -- this book needs to find a hook, and find it fast. Having said that, Paul Cornell and Scott McDaniel turn in a decent enough job here, with a pretty interesting new Oddball Villain.. like I said, this book just needs to find it's own unique Hook. A low GOOD.

BATWOMAN #0: Well, not batman, per se, but probably the book I'm most looking forward to besides INC. Rucka did a pretty astonishing job in making Kate a well-rounded character, and I want more. This "zero issue" doesn't have much meat to it, really, but it sure was an attractive 16 pages. On the other hand: only 16 pages of story content, foo. I'll go with OK because of that.

BATMAN STREETS OF GOTHAM #17: Ostensibly a bat-book, but really it's the Hush comic. Which might be alright if this "Hey, he stole Bruce's face!" plot actually tied in at all to anything else that's going on in the bat titles. I don't know, I never thought Hush was much more than a decent McGuffin at best, but this doesn't seem like enough to hang a series on, and I pretty don't much care what happens next. EH.

BATGIRL #15: One thing these low issue numbers all clumped together makes me think of: man, they just basically rebooted Batman  in the last year and a half, didn't they? This one is fairly cute and charming, and absolutely weightless. I don't care, but I don't not care, y'know? OK

RED ROBIN #17:  Here's another book desperately in desperate need of a premise. The problem is it was launched on "Tim believes Bruce is alive, and this is his quest" and now that Bruce is back... well, what does this book exist for? It isn't bad or anything... just kinda pointless. I sort of think Tim either needs to become a Bat himself, or to become an "uber-Robin" of some sort that, dunno, finds and trains new Robins? But I'm-dealing-with-dangling-plotlines-and-am-not-inherently-compelling-myself thing? Not going to work in the mid- or long-term. EH.

BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL #??: I couldn't tell you. It's dropped into "subs only" sales here, feeling like the place when spoiled inventory went to die. I have a mildly hard time seeing this last another year... unless they really have that much inventory to burn off these days. INCOMPLETE

SUPERMAN/BATMAN #78: Also a book that feels driftless and only there for completionists. Constantly changing creative teams and premises doesn't help either. Without a singular and focused creative team this one should probably be retired, too.

Nor did I read the latest AZRAEL (and neither are you, as far as I can tell!) or GOTHAM CITY SIRENS, but I don't really consider either of those "bat" books, myself.

How are YOU feelin' the bat-reboot?