Rounding Up the Current Bat-Books: Where to Begin with Batman
There are a metric ton of Batman comics coming out right now. If you want to hop in, do you pick up Batman, Detective Comics, Batman & Robin, or something else? Who makes all these comics, anyway? Getting started is sometimes the hardest part, particularly when you have an insane number of choices like you do for Batman. After the jump, we’re running down the nine major Dark Knight-related comics, with creators ranging from Grant Morrison to Neal Adams to Dustin Nguyen, and where you should begin with Batman.
David Hine and Cliff Richards
Take a little bit of Batman, add a little bit of The Da Vinci Code, and then swirl in a bit of old fashioned angst and ultraviolence and you’ll be pretty close to the kind of comic that Azrael is. Hine and Richards are the newest creative team to grace Azrael‘s pages, but Hine in particular has already taken to it with zeal. The first issue of the series, written by Fabian Nicieza, began with Azrael’s public ritual suicide. Hine hit the ground running, amping up the mental instability and violence right off the bat, and it’ll be interesting to see just how far he manages to push Azrael before he has to show the big moment. The current arc involves the Batmen of Gotham finally taking notice of Azrael’s actions and deciding to give him an ultimatum: stop killing people.
Bryan Q Miller and Dustin Nguyen
Stephanie Brown as Batgirl is large, in charge, and ready to get down to business as usual. Writer Bryan Q Miller was recently joined by artist Dustin Nguyen, which makes Batgirl quite possibly the best -looking Bat-book. Nguyen’s art has been great for years, possibly most notably on Wildcats 3.0 with Joe Casey. Miller’s story has been about charting the growth of a superheroine by putting her into… superheroic situations. It’s pretty basic, and while the surprises won’t come from the plotting, Miller has made certain to put a lot of character work in, too. The tone of the book lies somewhere between that much vaunted “fun” that everyone wants and a bit of Chuck Dixon-era Bat-flavor.
Previous Batman artis Tony Daniel gets to write and draw this one, which is a purely superhero comics-based take on Dick Grayson and friends. Catwoman and Catgirl, also known as Kitrina Falcone, have made a few appearances, but the most striking thing about the series may be Catgirl’s obnoxious costume. Taken as a whole, Batman is middling and kind of forgettable. The stories are definitely being overshadowed by the other Bat-books right now, and the art isn’t clicking quite as well as it probably should for such a marquee title. At best, it strikes me as being okay, but it may float your boat.
Paul Cornell and Scott McDaniel/Pete Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
After a brief fill-in by Paul Cornell and Scott McDaniel, Pete Tomasi and Patrick Gleason are due to step into the house that Morrison & Friends built for some more tales of the new Dynamic Duo. Tomasi and Gleason haven’t announced big plans for Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne yet, beyond telling some quality stories. Batman and Robin seems like the go-to book for fans of Damian Wayne, as he’ll only be appearing rarely in the other titles. Tomasi and Gleason had a good run on Green Lantern Corps, working a solid mix of raw action and high quality characterization into the space cop mix, and I expect to see the same here. Gleason’s muscled, grim take on Damian Wayne is something else, too, and hopefully he gets to go wild on this book.
Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette
Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette’s Batman, Inc. is all about Bruce Wayne’s high profiling bankrolling of the Batman enterprise. The first arc takes Batman and Catwoman to Japan in search of Mr. Unknown, Japan’s premiere Batman-style crimefighter. Instead, they find Lord Death Man, a villain who was introduced in the American Batman comics, transplanted to Japan, reintroduced to the world in Chip Kidd’s Bat-Manga, and now brought back full circle to American comics. Batman, Inc. is shaping up go hardline superheroic with its plotting and action, as Batman teams up with a series of international Batmen, hangs out with his friends, and tries to change the world.
Neal Adams is writing and drawing this supremely idiosyncratic take on the Dark Knight. Adams is a classic Batman artist with an attractive style. He helped redefine Batman and Bruce Wayne in the ’70s, and he’s back to finish the job now. Odyssey is the definition of off-kilter. It’s about a mysterious menace working to destroy Batman, but that isn’t why you want to read it. Batman: Odyssey is crazy. Things happen, people get shot, one of the covers looks like Batman holding a talking clump of hair… Batman: Odyssey is almost definitely not like any other comic you’re reading right now, and definitely not like any Batman comic you’ve ever read.
Scott Snyder, Jock, and Francesco Francavilla
You know the old line about how, when hunting monsters, you have to be careful, lest you become a monster yourself? Or the one about how looking into the abyss is dangerous, because sometimes the abyss looks back? In a vague way, that’s what Scott Snyder, Jock, and Francesco Francavilla are doing in their run on Detective Comics. Dick Grayson is Batman in Gotham, and the city’s crime has begun warping and changing. Is it because Grayson isn’t Wayne? Does the presence and demeanor of the Batman change the criminals in the town? Does he have to take some responsibility for that? Take all of that, add in a Jim Gordon backup feature, and you’ve got a Batman comic that may well end up being the best of the bunch.
Gotham City Sirens is theoretically by Paul Dini and Guillem March, but don’t believe everything you read. Dini’s taken a break off and on throughout the course of the series, resulting in fill-ins by Scott Lobdell, Peter Calloway, Tony Bedard, and others. March even got in on the fill-in story action with an issue. Regardless, this book is a sexy take on Catwoman, Harley Quinn, and Poison Ivy that throws them up against classic Bat-villains, each other, and everything but wet t-shirt contests and slumber party pillow fights. It’s been kind of weird, not necessarily in a good way, but March is definitely an interesting artist, and I think possibly the main draw for the book. If you haven’t had your fill of sexy Catwoman yet, check it out.
Fabian Nicieza and Marcus To
Fabian Nicieza and Marcus To get to show us what Tim Drake gets down to in his day to day, and so far… it’s not too shabby. The current status quo has Drake engaging in a bit of Batman-esque planning, but he still can’t manage to a) fix that silly costume or b) have anything even remotely resembling a healthy love life. Like Batgirl, this is one of those books that gets the job done. You get to get inside Tim Drake’s head, for better or for worse, and see how he handles being the second Nightwing of the Bat-family. It’s been pretty interesting thus far, though not exceptional. If you like Tim, though, this is pretty much your only choice for books to check him out in.
Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen
Paul Dini masterminds this series and Dustin Nguyen has drawn almost all of it. It’s been disjointed, though, with Dini occasionally requiring fill-in writers. In the meantime, how big of a Hush fan are you? ’cause that’s what you’re getting. Streets of Gotham feels like it’s all Hush, all the time. The interminable stories about Hush have made Paul Dini’s run on the Batbooks in general kind of a drag, and Streets of Gotham is, currently, ground zero for good ol’ Tommy Elliot. Despite the stellar art, this may be the most uneven of the Batbooks, quality-wise. Approach with caution, and buyer beware.