The Comic Book Club: “Batman” x 2 and “The Extremist”

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This is what happens when Techland goes to the comic book store: we end up discussing what we picked up. This week, Douglas Wolk, Evan Narcisse and Graeme McMillan talk about Batman: The Return, Batman Inc. and The Extremist.

EVAN: After the weird emotional high of Batman and Robin #16, Batman: The Return felt like filler to me. (Doesn’t help that I’ve never been a fan of David Finch’s scratchy-scratchy line, either.) It pretty much exists only to spell out the new status quo, which doesn’t seem entirely necessary. Those plot beats are just probably best served in Batgirl and the other individual titles, where you have space to see Oracle, Batgirl, Dick and Damian react to the changes.

Likewise, the teases with the new Leviathan villains felt a bit too compressed for me to really enjoy, but I did like Terrorist Anti-Batman and the twisted reversal origin of his brainwashed un-Robin. Still, Grant Morrison can keep throwing these doppelgangers–like the Red Hood and Scarlet–at me and I’ll keep eating them up. Every time he does it, it just demonstrates how flexible the DNA of the Batman myth is. And speaking of that flexibility, my favorite part of the issue was actually the opening sequence with the “I Shall Become A Bat” bat. Taking that little bit that all fans know and building a new meaning that works in with the new shift is such a great little grace note.

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DOUGLAS: I do kind of like the way Morrison keeps circling around a few key moments in Bruce’s life–we saw Bruce and the bell before in that “Last Rites” story in Batman #682/683. (Although didn’t the bat actually crash through the window in some earlier versions of this sequence?) For a great big new-direction-launching story, though, this really doesn’t add very much to what we already know about the Bat-family’s new direction–it seems like the sort of character beat/splash-page/fight-scene formula that Morrison normally writes rings around. (And the unnecessary lead-in to Catwoman’s appearance in Batman Inc. sort of feels like this was written after that one.)

Also, as pretty as David Finch’s two-page spread of the Batcave is, I don’t have the sense that he’s thought much about how it works as a place. Can Bat-artists please come up with some landmarks in the cave besides the dinosaur (which was destroyed in Detective a couple of years back!), the playing card and that damn penny? Are they going to be duplicated for all the new international Batcaves?

GRAEME: I thought this issue seemed particularly filler-ish, as well. Finch’s artwork doesn’t really help matters, although I’m not sure he could’ve saved the issue even if he’d been the greatest artist in the world, either: There’s just not that much here to really hold my interest, and the whole thing felt particularly unnecessary, especially considering the fact that we’re probably going to get another (and, probably, better) introduction to whatever Leviathan is when they appear in Batman, Incoporated later. Plus, perhaps this is a hangover from the whole “Black Glove/Simon Hurt” thing that just finished, what, last week, but Leviathan as a concept right now just left me feeling kind of cold. It was like, “Wait, there’s another all-powerful evil group that we’ve never heard about before? Seriously? Already?”

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EVAN: Yeah, I get that Batman, Inc’s going to need a opposite number to go up against, but that well is way dry for all the reasons you’ve said, Graeme.

DOUGLAS: Absolutely. And as cute as the “behind the scenes” stuff is, it’s really filler of its own kind to jack up a 30-page story to a five-dollar price point. (And, perhaps, to indicate that Finch kind of whiffed on Morrison’s script in a few places.)

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