BRZRKR & More Comic Book Reviews for 4/28

DC is here to redeem themselves after some poor showings these last two weeks. It’s the perfect time too, because there’s only one Marvel release on my pull list. New Mutants is great, but it’s nice to see DC do pretty good for the most part after some lackluster title releases. That isn’t say DC did a whole lot right, more like they did a good amount. But don’t forget about Brzrkr #2 this week!

There is a lot of room for Brzrkr in my mind. Brzrkr, written by Keanu Reeves, has come out with its second issue and stolen a lot of my praise. Boom! Studios has another hit, and I’m starting to realize that they may be one of, if not my favorite comic book publisher of the year so far.

Oh yeah, did you know that Keanu Reeves can actually write (or at least co-write) comics? He’s a good guy and multi-talented.

Detective Comics #1035, written by Mariko Tamaki and drawn by Dan Mora

Dan Mora's art from Detective Comics #1035 this week.
Isn’t he just pretty?

It’s strange, I was pretty excited to see Tamaki take a crack at Batman. I figured she’d bring a fresh new perspective to his world, something his ongoing titles desperately need. So far, that doesn’t seem to be the case yet. She’s not using his side characters at all like I thought she would after her run on Wolverine (formerly X-23). She’s not reinventing the villains or the detective missions, telling a story about another mob boss’s relative murdered in her home. The only thing that feels new is how, and spoilers for this issue, the murder victim seems to have come back as a zombie.

Yeah, that’s new to Batman, but… not really all that interesting. It’s a generic romp through Gotham, only this Batman isn’t that rich anymore.

Of course, the art by Dan Mora is worth the price of admission alone. The way he draws Batman is magnificent, but there are some cracks in his work here. 

Some panels have Batman looking a bit off, and by that I mean, he was without presence. This could be purposeful because it tends to happen when Batman is alone, particularly when he’s in the sewer. If this is the intention, it works to make him seem more human, but I think it’s more likely that his stature is being drawn inconsistently.

The colors on display from Jordie Bellaire aren’t spectacular either. They feel bland and dulled, as if he’s over using the color gray. Gray is not the most striking color for Gotham, nor on Batman. Gray is to contrast the black, and I don’t feel that the coloring is doing that here.

Mariko Tamaki’s backup story about the Huntress is far better than her main story. She dives into a facet of Helena Bertinelli’s character that challenges her flaws as a character.

So often it feels like Batman is monologuing this book just to set up the plot or exposition. He’s not thinking like a detective, he’s just thinking. Huntress on the other hand, has internal monologue with purpose for her character. It sets up her inability to be human as she develops a human relationship with a woman she meets. The plot of avenging an innocent victim is nothing new for Huntress, but her characterization is strong enough. Plus, we’re so starved for Huntress content, that it’s hard not to be drawn in by it. 

I really wish Huntress was a playing a bigger part of the main Detective Comics story as well. Right now, Batman is totally alone in his batsuit, and as Bruce Wayne in this book. He needs someone to bounce off of. Huntress would make for a fresh and newish foil for him. Tamaki clearly understands her character as well as Dan Mora draws her for her quick cameos, so make her a regular.

I’m obviously going to keep reading it to see Dan Mora draw Batman, but I hope Tamaki is just taking her time. I would love to realize that she’s just slowly building up to something more interesting than what’s currently going on. In all fairness, it is only two issues into her run.

Harley Quinn #2, written by Stephanie Phillips and drawn by Riley Rossmo

Harley Quinn in Harley Quinn Infinite Frontier #2.
Isn’t SHE just pretty?

I never thought a Harley Quinn book would have me so entertained. Harley Quinn is a character I like, but I wouldn’t say I ever loved her. I definitely her character designs, but never the character herself. Stephanie Phillips is really turning her around by giving her a true redemption arc. She’s setting out to help the clowns of Gotham City who need therapeutic compassion more than a fist to the face. Harley Quinn isn’t succeeding at every turn, but she’s doing a good job with the one patient she’s got.

I really do appreciate her relationship with ex-clown Kevin. Having someone for Harley to lift up and rehabilitate through affirmation and honesty endears me to her character in a way previous writers have failed to do before.

Plus, Phillips is also good at giving Gotham its own identity, both subtly and not so subtly. 

Seriously, its insane how Gotham City elects Hugo Strange as the one to formally rehabilitate the clowns in the aftermath of Joker War. He’s not only a supervillain, but one with a history of patient abuse. It’s utterly ridiculous that Gotham would give him a second chance like this. At the same time, it’s perfectly within Gotham’s hypocritical character as the setting. I don’t want to victim blame here, but it seems like Gotham is out to screw itself most of the time.

The episode of Batman: The Animated Series, Trial, is my favorite for how it dissects Batman’s villains. He doesn’t create them, they create him. I’m starting thinking the stupid people of Gotham City create Batman and the Bat-family too.

The move to make Hugo Strange Harley Quinn’s antagonist does immediately sets up this perfect rivalry between them. Hugo Strange claims to want to rehabilitate the clowns, but he’s essentially become a new way for people to relive the days of the Red Scare. People are already accusing others of being clowns, and he’s happy to lock them up in the name of rehabilitation. It brings out the darkness in Gotham in a way that puts the emphasis on the people of the city.

Also, Hugo Strange’s methods work perfectly against how Harley is spending one-on-one time rehabilitating Kevin, helping him to forgive himself and be better than he is as a clown. 

It’s ironic, being a clowned turned Kevin down the wrong path, but a clown will put him down the right one.

Teen Titans Academy #2, written by Tim Sheridan and drawn by Rafa Sandoval

The new recruits in Teen Titans Academy #2.
Could use a some Blue Circles much.

The second issue of this book is a much needed improvement over the first. If you had problems with this book’s lack of focus, and no real insight into even one character, this issue fixed that. 

Alinta, superhero name Bolt, is the one this issue dives into the most. It sets up the perfect amount of her characterization, her abilities, and her backstory to get her subplot going. Sheridan also manages to tie it into some interesting developments in the main plot as well.

She’s a new speedster who works in bursts, but needs leg prosthetics to move, making her mechanically good for conflict and action. Linking her to the current Suicide Squad also drives the plot in the right directions. She gives the Titans a worthy conflict, and gives this new Red X a sympathetic motivation in protecting her. 

then there’s the kid with no real name, Matt Price, gets a good bit of introspection as well. There are clever parallels drawn between his blank slate past and powerset to that of old Titan member, Kon-El, a.k.a. Superboy. It creates this narrative and emotional tension between him and Cyborg that builds a bond between the reader and Matt Price as well. 

Sheridan doesn’t go too far though, making clear differences between Matt Price and Superboy. For one thing, Matt Price isn’t like Conner Kent in personality. When he can’t improve his strength, he improves his mind. Where Conner Kent could be a bit bland, particularly in his black T-shirt version, Matt Price is introspective and creative. When he gets bored with chess, Matt Price makes up his own game that he can play against himself to test his mind. 

Plus, having Superboy show up with the Suicide Squad only tells me that we should expect to see these parallels lead to a dramatic pay off.

While I do want to see new characters get some attention soon, I would be happy to see Alinta and Matt Price get a character arc about them first. Maybe a little less of the love-triangle drama between Nightwing, Starfire, and a Barbara Gordon who isn’t even in this book.

Also, Sandoval’s art continues to amaze and perfectly capture these characters, but for god’s sake, stop drawing Starfire to be shorter than Nightwing. That’s objectively the wrong take, Nightwing is her twink boyfriend, there are no other good takes.

New Mutants #17, written by Vita Ayala and drawn by Rod Reis

Mirage has come to kick butt and chew bubble gum in New Mutants #17.
Have you seen a mutant named Josh?

A lot happens in this issue. Every few weeks I feel like a different X-Men is getting the mutant metaphor better than the last. I’m starting to realize this may be because one is more fresh in my mind than others, but that’s okay. That said, I’m sure you’re hardly surprised to hear that I think New Mutants uses the mutant metaphor really well.

Between the young mutants who can’t pass as human, struggling and suffering to gain a sense of normalcy, to Josh finding a sense of normalcy in Avalon, mutants work as a metaphor for outcasts finding themselves. They can’t hide that they’re mutants anymore than someone could hide that they’re black, so they find ways and states of mind where their appearance doesn’t matter. Some fail, some succeed, and they both so brilliantly. 

Side note, Ayala’s writing here makes very excited to see what they do with their Static solo. 

To New Mutant’s credit, their current success comes from expertly mixing the fantastical parts of mutants with real characterization. People act like normal people surrounded by superpowers and a fantasy world. It lets us live through them as they live how we would, maybe a bit more jaded. It lets each conversation sound normal with the right amount of levity and tension. 

Roid Reiss’s art is a bit inconsistent this week though. I feel like Wolfsbane is drawn differently every time I see her. It makes thematic sense as she spirals in her grief the longer she’s separated from her son, but the changes don’t always make sense. It’s strange how she can seem younger rather than just smaller in some scenes. 

Plus, in several action scenes, the art looks almost unfinished with Mirage in particular appearing less stylized and more like a mindless shape. 

Overall though, New Mutants this week is a great read, one to pick up, minor complaints aside.

Also, we get the return of Jonathan, the actual wolverine, so this issue gets an immediate 10/10!

Brzrkr #2, written by Keanu Reeves and Matt Kindt, and drawn by Ron Garney

Keanu Reeves in Brzrkr #2, second favorite comic of the week.
Keanu who?

Now, I don’t know how much of Brzrkr Keanu Reeves is actually writing. What I do know is that since he is new to comic writing, I have tempered my expectations. After a stellar first issue, and a good second issue, I know where my expectations should be.

Reeves and Kindt have created a story that is very much one Reeves perform in a movie. Brzrkr has a story with a lot of depth if you go looking for it, but is a comic that is about action first. The amazing art, the cool lore, and the story itself is all well produced window-dressing for the gory action. 

Ron Garney does as much to tell this book’s story as its writers. Sure, that’s true for all comics, but it’s blatantly apparent here. There are surprisingly nuanced panels depicting the life of the berserker. His conception, as strange as it sounds, is drawn beautifully to invoke both awe and hesitation, not titillation. The violence is excessive, but it reinforces not only the purpose of Brzrkr’s protagonist to this world, it also makes it something worth sympathizing with. 

Brzrkr’s story is badass adventure first, and subtly tragic second, but not so distant second. I’m not quite sure where Brzrkr is going with its story, but I find myself as interested now as I was after the first issue. 

Brzrkr is a special book in its creation, and thankfully its execution as well. I’m happy to say as to continue say again, that Boom! Studios has another book that deserves to be a hit. I do hope Brzrkr becomes one.

Batman: Black & White #5, written by various authors and drawn by various artists

Batman in Batman: Black & White #5. Favorite comic after this week before Brzrkr.
See him be pretty some more.

This book is probably one of, if not the best Batman book out right now. If you read only one Batman book, this is it. I just decided that Batman: Urban Legends is barely a Batman book, so that doesn’t count.

Imagine if writers didn’t care for an overarching plot, or trying to tell an easily adaptable story, or introducing new characters to make royalties. What if they just told a short little vignette that perfectly encapsulated their view of Batman? What if they just told a few minutes of his life that told us why they think he’s special?

And did it in Black & White?

Book five has several stories written and drawn by one person, and several about ancillary Batman characters. This led to some stories that are more about capturing the theme and feelings Batman evokes for the better. This also allowed for there to be this perfect translation from the writer’s/artist’s vision into the actual product. It feels like we’re getting the exact idea the artists are trying to convey by the end of each story. This is true even of Kieron Gillian’s short story, which story felt like some kind of board game or tabletop game. 

I don’t know how, but when I read this book, it’s like I’m getting a hundred different takes on who Batman is, and they all feel right. It’s a good book to end the night on.

Closing Thoughts: Brzrkr and Batman: Black & White Are Best of the Week

With only Detective Comics mildly disappointing me, this is one of my better weeks. Marvel and their X-Men line continue to impress, while Batman carries DC for the most part. DC did improve with other titles though so credit where credit is due.

Basically, Batman: Black & White is the best book I’ve read this week, and Brzrkr is the most surprising. This week has really confirmed to me that I need to open myself up to more books. Batman: Black & White is where DC opens Batman up to a hundred different takes, and Brzrkr opens the comic book industry up to new blood from other entertainment forms. I should open up too.

Are there any titles you haven’t seen me review in the past few weeks that you think I should read? I’d love suggestions from publishers outside the big two. Boom! Studios has really impressed me with their stuff, Expect reviews of those books relatively soon. I love reading their series, and I’m open to reading more from other publishers too. 

Check out what’s coming out next week, and let me know in the comments below! Also, seriously, check out Brzrkr, see why I don’t shut up about it.

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