Review Round-Up Part 2: Batman & Robin, Fantastic Four and Batgirl

Posted: February 15, 2013 in DC, Marvel, Reviews

By Alex Headley

The great cover to Batman & Robin 17. Property of DC Comics.

Batman & Robin 17

By now its well documented that I love one-shot stories that focus on character. That’s exactly what Peter Tomasi and Pat Gleason deliver in B&R 17. This tale of dreams within dreams is charming, horrifying and cuts to the core of what’s great about the current dynamic duo. Tomasi has regularly delivered heartfelt father/son tales in this series and I’ve enjoyed just about every week. Standout scenes this time include Damian’s fun race through the Wayne Mansion on the back of his dog Titus and three great dream sequences for the little bat-family at the mansion. Alfred’s Joker induced nightmare is both chilling and hilarious and appropriately gives us some closure on Alfred’s little journey with the Clown Prince of Crime in Death of the Family. Meanwhile, Batman’s nightmare sequence pays homage to Batman and Robin #1 with a return to the paper boat and the exorcising of the darkness. Bruce really has made great strides towards happiness in this series and Tomasi takes time to reflect on that in a fun way in this issue. Damian’s dreams reference Frank Miller’s classic Year One story in a great scene at the beginning of the book. Pat Gleason delivers some truly surreal visuals here and it’s great fun to see him play with camera angles and unconventional character designs (Joker whale!) Gleason is quickly becoming a favorite of mine, he has an instantly recognizable style but also offers a wide range of talents, showcasing action just as well as emotion and tension. He and Greg Capullo have really defined the look of the current Batman titles and probably for a few years to come too. Seriously, anyone looking for a great Batman title, look no further than Batman and Robin.

 

Batgirl 17

Gail Simone takes a two issue hiatus starting with issue 17. Most of you are probably aware that this hiatus is a result of Simon’s very temporary ‘firing’ from the book and the resulting fan outcry that got her reinstated. If you aren’t familiar with this incredibly amusing story, you can check it out here. Anyway, Ray Fawkes, the current co-writer on Justice League Dark with Jeff Lemire, takes over here with a tale about James Gordon Jr and does a more than adequate job. The narration is off-kilter a bit, it just doesn’t quite work at times, but the rest of the issue is quite enjoyable. The back and forth banter between Barbara and her brother and Comissioner Gordon’s absolutely hard assed approach to apprehending his son are good moments. James Gordon Jr. is a creepy, creepy dude and that doesn’t change here under Fawkes’ pen. It’s nice to see James finally playing his hand instead of skulking in the shadows, he’s been built up in the book for several months now. While I’m not sure his plot here will be better than, or even rival, his excellent story found in Scott Snyder’s Detective Comics run before the New 52 I do think it will be a worthwhile read. Slightly less interesting is the new villain in the story, Firebug. He seems to be just like the old bat-villain Firefly but without the jetpack. Maybe we can get a better read on him next issue but as it stands I just feel like he is cluttering up a story that already has a villain and plenty of goons to punch. Those aforementioned goons are Joker’s henchman from his plot in Death of the Family and there presence in this story is the only indication that those events took place. Unfortunately, this feeds my disappointment with that event’s lack of consequences . It just doesn’t seem like there will be much fallout at all. This issue also features a new artist, Daniel Sampere, who I quite like. The lighting of the flames in particular is good, but best of all, his characters show some real emotion and the action scenes have a good sense of motion to them. It’s not the best art in the world by any means but it serves the story well.

The cover to Fantastic Four #4 features more aliens than the interior. More of the Thing too. Property of Marvel Comics.

Fantastic Four 4

This was not my favorite issue of this series so far, not by a long-shot. That distinction lies firmly with issue 1. In fact, issue 4 is probably my least favorite stand alone so far as it struggles with its narrative a bit, bouncing back and forth between lighthearted memories and present troubles a little too quickly. I feel like The Thing is really getting the shaft here too, he’s played almost exclusively for laughs and catchphrases and its getting a bit old. It was charming and funny early in this series (Susie, how do ya take somethin off tha internet?) but here it feels like a rehash of every story about Ben Grimm that’s ever been told. He and Johnny both fall into their stereotypical roles and just haven’t done much so far, which is a shame. This issue is all about Reed and Sue and Reed’s love for his wife. It’s touching for the most part, but at the same time, Reed comes off as more than a little on the creepy side, what with altering an alien races’ culture and all. Said aliens are then brushed to the side for the remainder of the issue to focus on family drama and some flashbacks. The flashback scenes are nice and the family drama is appropriate, especially the callback to Franklin’s nightmares in issue 1 and Sue’s motherhood skills. Mark Bagley is doing a fine job in the art department ant although he doesn’t get to draw any action this time around, he still does a great job with the ‘acting’ on the page. Sue and the kids stand out once again. I’m still really enjoying this title, but I hope things get to moving a little faster with the next issue. FF is delivering more story for this book than anything else and still managing to be more fun too. Matt Fraction clearly has a favorite of the two.

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