The Comic Book Club: Rocketeer Adventures and Batman: Gates of Gotham

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DOUGLAS: Batman: Gates of Gotham looked, on the face of it, like just another Batman miniseries–the second to debut in two weeks: co-plotted but not scripted by Scott Snyder, the regular Detective Comics writer, another piece of Batman product to fill the space left by Batman Confidential. Then the solicitations for August came out, and there were two interesting things in the listing for B:GoG. One was that the final two issues were both appearing in August, meaning that this is another one of those titles that need to wrap up before the (alleged) soft or hard reboot of the DC Universe titles that’s coming in September after Flashpoint. The other was the suggestion that it “sets the stage for a bold new direction in the Bat books!”

Well. It does seem to be devoted to wrapping up some of the last few years’ worth of plot threads–there’s even a direct reference to something that happened in Batman Inc. #6 last week. Cassandra Cain is on the verge of assuming her much-teased new Black Bat identity; the Penguin’s post-“One Year Later” role is approaching what looks like an end; there are references to Alan Wayne from the Return of Bruce Wayne stuff, and to various other bits of Gotham lore. (I assume that for the geographical references Snyder and co-writer Kyle Higgins are working from this map or something similar–although the final few pages cry out for a map we can see, since that’s the only way one of Damian’s lines could make sense.) And, since Paul Dini seems to have mostly moved off the Bat-titles, the cliffhanger prominently involves Hush.

Oh, man, I am so tired of Hush I can’t even tell you. The only interesting thing about him when he first appeared was that he was drawn by Jim Lee, honestly. Dini tried to rehabilitate him in “Heart of Hush,” but it didn’t take–every time he appears, I have at least five “oh COME ON now” moments, and it takes a lot to get that reaction from someone who’s been reading superhero comic books for thirty years.

So what this miniseries ends up being, it seems, is a plot-hammer–not a gross or awkward one, but not a particularly stylish one either. It’s not really telling a story: it’s moving pieces into position for what I imagine is going to be someone else’s story, especially since the August issue of Detective apparently concludes Snyder’s run. I’ll be curious to find out if anything interesting happens in it, but I might want to just find out from Wikipedia.

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GRAEME: It’s interesting to me that you describe this as “not particularly stylish,” because the style on show is one of the main things that I took away from the book. Not that I particularly like the style, but there’s something very individual about Trevor McCarthy’s art: something very cartoony, in the sense of “it looks like cels from a cartoon,” as opposed to “it’s very exaggerated,” that sets the book apart from the other Batman books on a visual level, at least. I’m not entirely sure it works (the cover is horrible), but at least it’s there.

Storywise… Yeah, there’s a lot of “And here are lots of things from lots of other Batbooks!” going on here – especially Cassandra’s reappearance and ohGodreallywhy Hush appearing at the end. (I’m with you and your Hush dislike, Douglas. He feels very much like the 2000s-version of Bane, a character who becomes weirdly popular for no immediately apparent reason, and then gets killed through oversaturation.) But I still felt as if the story held up as a story more than you did, perhaps. I’m unsure why it’s not a Detective arc, or what beyond the sudden “Hey, everything changes here!” solicit promises mean that it’s due its own series, but I thought it was a potentially interesting idea (what happened at the building of Gotham that connects its most famous inhabitants now?) told in an entertaining, if not overly spectacular, style. I’ll be back for the second issue, at least.

EVAN: I’ve loved Scott Snyder’s run on Detective. He’s working a bit of a Batman 2.0 ideastream, and has given the Dick Grayson Batman new villains, a new HQ and his own status quo that don’t feel like they’re trying too hard. He’s set up a great character by bringing back Jim Gordon’s son as an adult psychopath who may or may not be reformed.

But the attention to structure and characterization that make me like Snyder’s run are in short supply here. It’s clear that he’s only partly involved, and the book isn’t neccessarily bad, per se. But it doesn’t have the hallmarks of what I like about his run. Granted, part of that has been the great art of Francesco Francavilla and Jock. The art here is distinctive but not always tonally appropriate for the goings-on. One or two panels left me scratching my head as to what exactly was going on.

As for the goings-on themselves, they’re just okay. I feel like the whole “Wayne family/Gotham history rotten to its core” thing has been done before with middling results. When so much of the Bat-franchise seems to be looking forward–Dick-as-Batman, Batman Inc., and all that–Gates of Gotham feels like it may be going in the wrong direction. I’m going to stick around to see how it plays out, but this first issue, which relied on well-worn beats, wasn’t what I wanted it to be.

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DOUGLAS: So looking at those August solicitations, do you think any of the DCU books are going to keep their current creative teams in September? I’m betting Gail Simone’s still on Birds of Prey and Secret Six (although she’s taking the July and August issues off the former), and beyond that a lot of the solicitations have a distinct tang of “okay, we’re done here” about them.

GRAEME: I think Simone will stay on her books, Levitz on the Legion books, and Morrison will stay on Batman Inc. (Oh, and Johns will probably be writing a relaunched Green Lantern, of course.) Other than that, I think most everything is up for grabs. I think the September books are clearly being primed for a post-Flashpoint linewide relaunch, and wouldn’t be too surprised to see a “One Year Later”-style creative shuffle on most of them. It wouldn’t really upset me to see things shuffle around, either, to be honest, beyond the prospect of losing James Robinson off JLA. I’m surprised by how much I’ve grown to like him on the title.

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