Best Shots Comic Reviews: BATMAN #28, SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #27.NOW, More

Credit: Marvel Comics
Batman #28 preview
Batman #28 preview
Credit: DC Comics

Batman #28
Written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV
Art by Dustin Nguyen, Derek Fridolfs and John Kalisz
Lettering by Cal Cipriano
Published by DC Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

We've seen the Dark Knight find himself during the origin story Zero Year, but with Batman #28, Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV and Dustin Nguyen give readers a look forward into Gotham's future. With this preview to the upcoming Bat-event Batman: Eternal, the creative team adds just enough to Gotham's mythology to hold your interest.

For those who haven't been following the Newsarama Mothership lately, spoiler goggles on - because Scott Snyder and company are bringing some familiar faces back to Bat Country. Returning to the long-standing question that is Bat-supporting character Harper Row, Snyder and Tynion provide an answer that may appease everyone - instead of adding one more name on an increasingly crowded property as Robin, we are instead introduced to the Bluebird, a mohawked, shock-pellet-gun-toting punk sidekick. While Snyder and Tynion spin up some quiet, endearing moments from a surprisingly paternal Batman, it's Bluebird who steals the show in this new Gotham, giving Batman an opening into a new underground casino as well as firing away at a group of baddies, hanging upside-down from a cable like a bat - or maybe one of the Boondock Saints.

While it's extremely heartening to see not one, but several woman joining Batman's inner circle, Snyder and Tynion do fall into a couple of bad habits in terms of introducing these new characters. It's an old trope to introduce a new character at the expense of an old one, and Batman is one of the chief examples - how do you show that a new character can hold their own? Have them take down or outlast the baddest mofo in the DC Universe. In this story, Batman feels a little bit less like his usual tough-guy self, making rookie mistakes and letting his sidekicks run things. (He even holds his hands up to his face after they blow open a door - how often has Batman done this before?) In this issue, it's Harper that gets Batman into the casino. It's Harper that holds this mysterious crime boss at gunpoint until they let Batman go. It's Harper's show, and it's not to say that she doesn't deserve the spotlight - but it would be that much sweeter if Bluebird could match Batman at his usual high levels.

In terms of the artwork, Dustin Nguyen provides a decent visual continuity to regular Bat-artist Greg Capullo - in particular, the way he sells Harper in her new Bluebird uniform is great, her wispy mohawk providing an edge that I haven't seen in any Bat-sidekicks before. His fight sequences are also amazing, especially the splash page of Bluebird dangling upside-down on a wire. Where I think Nguyen's big missed opportunity is, however, is laying out an atmosphere for this future Gotham. It's unclear how bad things are, because things are always bad in Gotham - but if things are bad enough that the police are acting as chauffeurs and there's an unknown "infection" running amok, you would think that Gotham itself would have a different tone. Then again, with Zero Year running alongside this issue, it could be a choice by the creative team as not to confuse readers. Still, the visual status quo feels like ordinary Gotham, and that does rob Batman: Eternal of some energy.

The most hardcore of Batman readers may be rubbed the wrong way by Harper Row, from her incongruous introduction during Snyder's Court of Owls storyline to her casual use of (nonlethal) firearms, seemingly with the staunchly anti-gun Bruce Wayne's permission. It's no secret that Harper is a vanity character, Scott Snyder's attempt to bring a lasting legacy to the Bat-mythos long after he's gone. And that's ultimately what will make or break your reading of Batman #28 - do you want to see Harper Row succeed? If not, nothing Snyder will do will convince you to stay on-board - but if you're intrigued by the Bluebird's heroic flight, this issue may be the burst of girl power that Gotham City deserves.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Superior Spider-Man #27.NOW
Written by Dan Slott
Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli, John Dell and Antonio Fabela
Lettering by Chris Eliopoulos
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Justin Partridge, III
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

Thomas Sowell once said “Some of the biggest cases of mistaken identity are among intellectuals who have trouble remembering that they are not God.”. From the very start, this is the mistake that Otto Octavius made. He may have understood that with great power comes great responsibility, but he never understood it to mean more than to prove just how powerful he was, and so his fall was inevitable. And now starting in #27.NOW, we are seeing the start of that fall and Otto has a long way to go still.

#27.NOW picks up with a stark “31 Days Later” card, indicating a large chunk of time has passed since the last issue, and Otto is struggling to understand just what is happening to “his” city. As he struggles to piece together the clues, the noose is tightening around him in all aspects of his life. The police are closing in on him as he is a suspect in Carlie Cooper’s disappearance, his company is without its CEO, The Goblin Army is gaining tremendous power behind the scenes, and, on top of it all, J.J.J. and Alchemex have completed work on a new Spider-Slayer. Dan Slott has clearly been in this for the long game and in #27.NOW, we are starting to see just what the finale of the Superior era will look like. We don’t quite know for sure just what Otto’s end will look like, but we see that it is coming quickly. We are also getting quick glimpses of what the return of Peter Parker will look like as he is still trying to navigate the remains of his memories in order to gain some sort of foothold in the real world.

Slott juggles all of this with ease, as usual, but this first issue is oddly talky for a series that has been built on action. Slott has always been a plot first kind of writer, but this issue feels like nothing more than groundwork; necessary groundwork, yes, but groundwork with little to no forward momentum, other than the last three pages. This issue gets going only to end on the expected cliffhanger. This is great for readers in for the long haul, but it might prove frustrating for new readers lured in by the false promise of the big red #1 on the cover.

Giuseppe Camuncoli is quickly becoming my favorite artist of the Spider-Man stable. Every issue he has done has looked better than the last, and even though he doesn’t get much to really do in #27.NOW, he still finds a way to inject a level of dynamism in even the most static of scenes. Along with Antonio Fabela’s lush colors and John Dell’s defined lines, Camuncoli proves himself time and time again as the most consistent artist to handle Superior Spider-Man. In this issue, he gets to cut loose a bit with the psychedelic, giving the mindscape that Peter is trapped in a hazy, Ditko-esque quality that sets it apart from the mundane world of reality. Camuncoli also proves himself a deft hand at creating tension within a scene. The scenes of Spidey facing down The Green Goblin are a masterclass in graphic depictions of rising tensions, even though they aren’t anything more than two characters sitting opposite of each other than delivering dialogue. You still get the heavy sense of dread that hangs over the two men and the dark clouds that are gathering around our protagonist. Its heavy stuff, but Camuncoli and company make it look easy.

Otto Octavius has always thought of himself as superior to everyone around him, going so far to declare himself as the eradicator of all crime in New York. Now Dan Slott has started to send him crashing back down to earth with the rest of us lowly people just to show him how wrong he is and its been a long time coming. Men, no matter how intelligent or powerful, are not gods nor will we ever be. Otto Ocatvius is about to learn this and I have a feeling that it is going to be a hard-taught lesson.

Credit: DC Comics

Superman/Wonder Woman #5
Written by Charles Soule
Art by Tony S. Daniel, Matt “Batt” Banning, Sandu Florea and Tomeu Morey
Lettering by Carlos M. Mangual
Published by DC Comics
Review by Michael Moccio
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Charles Soule continues his impressive run with Superman/Wonder Woman #5, introducing Faora into mainstream continuity. Playing between Wonder Woman’s internal struggles and Superman’s conflict with Zod and Faora, Soule sets himself up with a rich story to explore.

The issue could have very well been titled Wonder Woman, featuring Superman, because she shines the brightest as Soule brings out the very best in her character. Going back to Themyscira, she shows her love and compassion for her family—when she questions her relationship with Superman, Diana returns to her roots and the reader sees a deeply emotional scene between Wonder Woman and Hippolyta’s remains. Soule takes the opportunity to broaden the main story by having Wonder Woman close the gates to Tartarus, focusing on something other than the romance between Superman and Wonder Woman. Having Diana close the gates with her lasso, and subsequently leaving it on the island, could be Soule making a statement on how Diana is sacrificing some of herself to stay with Superman, though that might be reading to the story just a bit too much.

Still, Wonder Woman continues to steal the spotlight as she comes in and saves Superman from Zod and Faora. In spite of her internal struggles, she still manages to be the amazing fighter we all know she is. Zod makes the point that Superman isn’t a “warrior”; enter Wonder Woman, who immediately breaks up the fight and ends the conflict without bloodshed. In that regard, Soule takes the time to examine the dynamic between Superman and Wonder Woman, how similar and different they really are, especially with regards to their history and personality. Their initial attraction to each other came from their shared ability for great physical feats. Just as Superman/Batman highlighted how similar, yet different, Superman and Batman are, Soule too takes the opportunity to do the same with Superman and Wonder Woman.

Although Batman’s presence is minimal in the issue, he serves to say what everyone fears, “You two have a spat, and the world burns?” Although Bruce is known for his less than inspiring pessimism, he raises the point that everyone believes will be this power couple’s undoing—even Geoff Johns has said it’ll “end badly”. Soule directly addresses those doubts and the reader can intimate that this is only the beginning. Between what’s already been said about their relationship and the fact that Soule is continually putting obstacles in front of Diana and Clark—their relationship being prematurely revealed, the presence of Doomsday, Zod, and Faora, Wonder Woman’s family, and now Wonder Woman losing her lasso — Soule is really setting up the story for an explosive and exciting climax.

It was disappointing, though, for Faora to have such a minimal role when she’s featured on the powerful and imposing cover art. She seems to get used her powers fairly quickly, which errs on the side of unbelievable. However, because the reader still doesn’t know much about Faora, except that “her name means death, readers can probably assume that she’s just incredibly competent at combat, enough to gain quick control over her powers after coming to her senses.

Tony S. Daniel on art falters with the action, though, making the fighting scene visually the weakest part of the issue (although it remains the strongest from a story perspective). The breakdowns on the fighting are the main issue, as often times there isn’t an organic transition from one panel to the other, particularly in the pages between Wonder Woman and Faora, where the movements feel staccato and paused between panels. Daniel’s character designs, however, remains bold and impressive.

The backgrounds of the issue, especially, were fairly impressive. Themyscira was done with great success, between the area where Hippolyta’s body remains and the jungles surrounding the island, the entire art team really brought the setting to life. The art team never strayed throughout the issue to always define the setting through visuals, and they always kept it consistent enough throughout the issue so the reader never forgets where the characters are.

This issue of Superman/Wonder Woman really ups the stakes and tension in the story for all involved. As Zod and Faora make their escape, with Wonder Woman down on her lasso, and Superman knowing he’s no match for the pair alone, readers can know that they next issue of Soule’s series will be an exciting one.

Credit: Marvel Comics

She-Hulk #1
Written by Charles Soule
Art by Javier Pulido and Muntsa Vincente
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Lindsey Morris
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

The newest female-led title from Marvel is here, and Jennifer Walters is back in action and flying solo. Writer Charles Soule wastes no time in painting the picture of a She-Hulk who is down on her luck, with problems based largely in the realm of everyday life. As a practicing attorney himself, Soule shapes Walters into a tough-as-nails lawyer with relative ease. Accompanied by Javier Pulido's brilliant designs, which marry seamlessly to the script, this issue turns out to be more than the sum of its parts.

Jennifer Walters is having a hard time of it. What should have been a great performance review at her firm turned into a fiasco where her pride wasn't the only thing that was damaged. She hits the lawyers bar for more than a few whiskeys, and winds up taking on a pro bono case. You know, just a regular day in the life of a gal with gamma-irradiated blood, who also happens to be an Avenger, and helps out the Fantastic Four on occasion. Despite all the roadblocks presented to her, it's clear that though Walters isn't in the best situation right now, she remains self-possessed, savvy, and capable… and she knows it.

Soule does a great job of giving us a She-Hulk that, despite her super-hero trappings, is incredibly down to earth. She is facing the problems of a modern woman, at least for the moment, making her more relatable and likable. Building a story around the daily life of the harried heroine, rather than relying on her powers to do the heavy-lifting, made for a more interesting and in-depth first issue. However, adding Tony Stark to the cast this early may have made for a fun cameo, but looking to such a high-profile character for comedic relief so early in the series is a bit worrisome. Walters will have to be able to carry a book on her own merits if she hopes to survive.

Pulido's art is fairly divisive, but he really shines on this book. The character designs are unique yet classic, and the layout for the double-page spread is inventive. The economy of line and variations on width is unusual, and a great addition to the series. In a story where the bulk of the pages are dedicated to lawyering and the courtroom, Pulido shows a remarkable aptitude for making the ordinary (and possibly dull) into something engaging. Muntsa Vincente adds color and depth to the panels with a spot-on palette that really makes the images pop, though the book may have benefitted more from flat colors, rather than the semi-awkward highlights and shadowing. The panels featuring Stark Industries and Tony himself are particularly well-done, and set a high standard for what's to come in future issues. This thoughtful creative team, paired with Kevin Wada on cover duties, make this book a delight to view.

She-Hulk #1 is a stellar first issue, but it's not without faults. Risk-taking doesn't seem to be high on the to-do list, and adding a character more high-profile than the series' protagonist so early was a bit of a letdown. However, going the route of a more simple, character-driven plot for the pilot issue was a smart move, and the artistic team did an excellent job with the imagery. Jennifer Walters is lean, she's green, and she's well on her way to a promising series.

Credit: DC Comics

Nightwing #28
Written by Kyle Higginsr
Art by Russell Dauterman and Pete Pantazis
Lettering by Carlos M. Mangual
Published by DC Comics
Review by Pierce Lydon
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

Nightwing is similar in many ways to Marvel’s Spider-Man, and that’s exactly the kind of approach that Kyle Higgins has taken to this book in his 2+ years as Nightwing’s writer. They’re a couple of twenty-something balancing a “normal life” with a superhero one. Higgins has only a single issue left in his run and he brings in some interesting parallels and opportunities for the future of the character. DC, for what it’s worth, is giving Higgins and Nightwing a nice send-off by utilizing the talents of artist Russell Dauterman, a stellar talent for for the tone of this issue and the character in general.

The crux of this issue are the parallels between young Jen’s situation and Dick’s own origins. Jan is a precocious kid and her knowledge of Dick’s secret identity only makes this issue that much more heartbreaking. The Batman titles have always had presented an interesting dichotomy between children and adults. Batman’s origin is rooted in childlike thinking and his decision to use multiple children (including his own) as his sidekicks over the years has always put this dichotomy at the forefront. Jen has a very natural response to her situation given what she knows about Dick and he realizes that its not much different than his own. Higgins balances this with the fallout between Sonia Zucco and Dick. She now knows that her father killed his parents and Dick realizes that as much as he thinks he might be different than Batman, his parents’ death is also what drives him. Higgins’ run is coming full circle. He’s exploring things that we’ve already assumed about this character but he’s finally letting the character come to those realizations. Dick’s hands shake at the mention of taking on a kid sidekick “just like Batman and [Robin] used to.” That’s a great moment, told in a single panel.

Russell Dauterman is a dream come true for this book. His characters are strong and his action sequences are fun. The choreography is much different than any of the other Bat-heroes. Dick is an acrobat, and he bounces through his battle with Spinebender. Dauterman’s finest moments come between Dick and Jen. Dauterman communicates so much with his choice of posing, his use of a flashback and masterful control of facial expressions. It’s a shame that we won’t see more of Dauterman’s work in this world, because it’s a great change from the grim and gritty approach that the Bat-books usually receive.

Nightwing #28 might not be remembered in the grand scheme of things as Forever Evil has set Nightwing’s future on an entirely different path, but Higgins and Dauterman are giving us a grand ending. It’s not big in terms the scope of the story or the villains involved, but its huge on heart and character moments. That’s how Nightwing is different from Batman. That’s where Dick Grayson is different from Bruce Wayne. And hopefully, we’re in line for more stories of this ilk from the character some time in the future.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Thor: God of Thunder #19.NOW
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina
Letters by Joe Sabino
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Justin Partridge, III
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Thor is an all purposes character; meaning that you can tell all manner of stories with him. You can tell epic fantasy adventures, universe hopping superhero yarns, or, even, a story where Thor turns into a frog for a few issues. Each and every one of these stories work because Thor is a character that can fit into any situation. Very few writers have understood and used this fact to their advantage. Lucky for us Jason Aaron seems to be one the best of these writers and with #19.NOW, he seems to be on track to present us with yet another killer arc starring Thor the Avenger and Old King Thor.

#19.NOW finds Thor’s SHIELD Cadet’s Ball date, Roz Solomon, introduced all the way back in #12, “Once Upon a Time in Midgard”, True Believer!, locking horns with the ROXXON corporation and it’s new C.E.O., the awesomely named Dario Agger (with the even more awesomely ominous nickname, The Minotaur) locking horns over a new interplanetary pipeline project, set to mine usable ice deposits from one of the moons of Jupiter. Comics, ya’ll. Not satisfied with this A story, Aaron also checks us in with Old King Thor, in the company of his Shield Maiden daughters, mourning the death of his beloved Midgard after it has long since died.

Its this kind of multi-layered storytelling that Jason Aaron has perfected during his Thor run and its the perfect device to show just how well he gets Thor as a character. The A story in the present hits all the traditional beats of a Thor story, while giving him a wholly new challenge to face along with a more than capable mortal companion, who could honestly support the narrative by herself. Aaron has always excelled at making side characters feel fully fleshed out and well rounded and its no easy feat standing characters alongside Thor and making them feel equal, but he has hit a home run with Roz Solomon, a woman that even Thor strives to impress. Aaron also goes out of his way to let his excellent sense of comedic timing show through. After two opening arcs that border-lined on bleak at times and a recent jaunt through the Nine Realms that sported some colorful characters throughout but still hinged on the darker side of the character’s world, Aaron gives in to a full on gag in this issue; one that made me snort with laughter. All of these events though are book ended with a ruinous future looming that is sure to be the direct result of the events in the present and it adds a wonderful sense of mystery and dread to the issue.

Aaron has found the perfect storytelling partners in Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina, who make their return for this arc after a great guest spot by Ron Garney. There isn’t much to say about Ribic and Svorcina that hasn’t already been said by critics more talented than me, but I don’t know if their has ever been a team more qualified to draw Thor than Ribic and Svorcina. This is counting Simonson and Oliver Copiel. Ribic’s heavy lines coupled with Svorcina’s moody colors present a look that fits the perfect mood for Thor and his adventures. Every issue that they do together looks like a 70's prog-rock album cover and its everything I have ever wanted in a Thor art team. Ribic makes even the most mundane of Thor’s actions look graceful and epic which is exactly how it should be. Ribic and Svorcina could draw every issue of Thor: God of Thunder from here until then end of time and it still wouldn’t be enough. They are that good.

Jason Aaron has written a great many Marvel characters very well, but with Thor, he seems to have finally found his sweet spot. Since his first issue, Aaron has turned in some of the best work of his Marvel career, balancing multiple plots, rising action, and a pitch perfect characterization of The Mighty Avenger. He’s seems a guy who was born to write Thor and a writer who completely understands the power of the character, along with the character’s ability to star in a myriad of stories beyond the shackles of the basic superhero fare and we, as lowly mortal readers, are the one’s who reap the benefits.

Credit: DC Comics

Batgirl #28
Written by Gail Simone
Art by Fernando Pasarin, Jonathan Glapion and Blond
Lettering by Dezi Sienty
Published by DC Comics
Review by Richard Gray
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

One of the regular joys of DC’s slate of monthly New 52 titles has been the consistent quality of Gail Simone’s Batgirl. Even as part of the wider Bat Family of books, Simone has always managed to find balance within the myriad of crossovers and events, delivering a series of devastatingly cool and often unexpectedly emotional turns. The last arc finished on a revelation of sorts, bringing to a close a lengthy examination of the nature of her many masks: hero, victim, daughter and ultimately, a strong independent Barbara Gordon.

With the shiny white suitedness of the “Gothtopia” interlude over and done with, Simone begins a brand new story arc with an outstanding new villain. After being tailed by Strix, a rescued former Talon who now serves as one of the Birds of Prey, Batgirl pursues an abducted little girl across the streets of Gotham. However, she soon runs into a dangerous new psychopath who goes by the name of Silver. Although his delusion is a unique one, in that he believes the Batfolk of Gotham are actually vampires feasting on the innocents, Batgirl wisely reminds herself that “when someone has a delusion in Gotham, it’s prudent to take them seriously.”

Simone kicks off this new arc with a bang, introducing a new face that doesn’t simply smack of gimmickry. Silver is immediately seen as dangerous and psychopathic, even if he cartoonishly displays portraits of the traditional Gotham rogues under the banner “Freedom Fighters”. Simone uses Barbara’s inner dialogue with scalpel-like precision, as Babs’ initial incredulity at Silver reflects our own. Yet even amidst some slick action and compelling detective fiction, it’s the humour and pathos that drive the story. Our hearts melt just a little as Barbara reacts to the mute Strix silently pleading Batgirl to save the similarly quiet abductee, and then turn completely into a puddle of goo as Strix attempts to wear a prom dress to an undercover sting.

Artist Fernando Pasarin matches these often subtle changes, dynamically showcasing Batgirl’s maneuvers across the rooftops, or choreographing a fight sequence where Strix remains entirely in silhouette. The latter’s big puppy dog eyes can almost be seen through her Talon mask, and it’s a testament to both Pasarin, inker Jonathan Glapion and colorist Blond that there’s a success in the sudden softness displayed in a scene in which Barbara and Strix try on outfits. Glapion’s light touch on the inks is especially effective when glimpsing the world through the eyes of Silver, who quite literally sees the world as being patrolled by bloodsucking vampires.

Simone continues to find new depths to explore in the character of Barbara Gordon, a figure she has been playing with in some form or another for well over a decade. The success of this current incarnation of Gordon is in grounding her as a real person who just so happens to be dealing with extraordinary events. Simone leaves readers with a classic cliffhanger that takes Silver’s villainy to new levels of psychosis, while adding to our own as we maddeningly enduring another month waiting for one of the best books in DC’s current lineup.

Credit: DC Comics

The Royals: Masters of War #1
Written by Rob Williams
Art by Simon Coleby and JD Mettler
Letters by Wes Abbot
Published by Vertigo Comics
Review by Justin Partridge, III
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

Vertigo Comics has always been an imprint that excels in publishing comics with big, kinda goofy ideas or concepts at their heart. These are stories that are just weird enough to work as stories but too out there for any other medium other than comics. For example, a story about the last man on Earth or a lapsed Texas preacher that suddenly becomes the vessel for a divine power. These are stories that only work well within comics and Vertigo has always prided itself on being the imprint willing to try anything and everything. Lately, it seems that Vertigo is making a push to be that imprint once again, with big idea titles like The Wake, FBP, and now, The Royals: Masters of War, a fast paced, yet slightly clunky start to yet another high concept entry into the Vertigo canon.

The Royals takes place in the thick on WWII with Hitler’s war machine at its full power and ferocity. The Blitz ravages London, while the upper crust still carries on as per usual, but with a heavy secret laying behind the crown. In this world, all royal families are gifted with super powers; the purer the bloodline,the more powerful the powers, which is an exceedingly clever and cheeky away to explain all the inbreeding that has taken place within the various dynasties. As the war ravages the world surrounding the less fortunate, the royals of the world have signed a treaty, agreeing to not involve themselves in the lowly affair. That is until the young and brash Prince Henry, upon seeing his beloved England burning, takes it upon himself to reveal his powers to the masses and thrusts himself into the conflict, breaking the treaty and setting up the major conflict of the series going forward.

Rob Williams presents this world as one that is almost no different from our own. The script takes the time to lay a lot of groundwork quickly to give the reader a smooth primer not only on the main group of royals that we will be following for six issues, but the recent history of superpowered regents as a whole, giving real narrative reasons for their choice to stay neutral and why they have chosen to keep their powers hidden from the world at large, instead of relying on the trite “secret identity” rule of superhero comics. Williams stumbles a bit when it comes to dialogue in this first issue, but its not enough of a problem to derail the momentum and world building that he presents. Its just awkward enough to notice without being a major problem.

Artists Simon Coleby and JD Mettler also go above and beyond to give the book a distinct style that fits in perfectly with Vertigo’s trademark of style as well as substance. Their panels mix the kinetic energy of Jock with the expressive realism of Tony Moore. Starting with an epically frantic cold open during a bombing raid, Coleby and Mettler hit the ground in a dead sprint, establishing the grand scope and horror of the events that we will be seeing, while still bringing the same level of detail and energy to the exposition scenes and flashbacks.

The Royals: Masters of War is exactly the kind of big, slightly goofy, idea that you have come to expect from Vertigo. But like other Vertigo offerings, its treated with just enough narrative momentum and fun so that you never really get a chance to be anything other than entertained and charmed by it. Sure, the idea of a royal family with superpowers is something that has been done before and can only work in comics, but its an idea that can work well under the stamp of Vertigo Comics, and while this issue stumbles a bit, its still right at home alongside the other big idea titles that came before it.

Credit: DC Comics

Batman: Li’l Gotham #11
Written by Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs
Art by Dustin Nguyen
Lettering by Saida Temofonte
Published by DC Comics
Review by Michael Moccio
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Li’l Gotham continues to tug at readers’ heartrstings by being a book that caters to the most optimistic, idealistic, and feel-good perspective for DC characters. It’s a remarkably light-hearted, yet powerful book, that’s unique both by its striking visual style and heartwarming stories.

This issue, already released digitally, focused on an adventure between Damian and Colin on Mother’s Day as they search for Colin’s mother. The dynamic between these two has been sorely missed in The New 52, which makes this issue particularly stellar. Colin’s hope and optimism holds similarities to fan favorites Dick Grayson and Stephanie Brown, and makes him a great foil for the usual snarky and pessimistic Damian.

Nguyen and Fridolfs, however, refrain from making their books dark in the slightest, playing up these characters in ways that showcase the best they have to offer. Even the likes of Poison Ivy and Harley are portrayed with redeeming qualities. Both murders and fairly dangerous, the authors choose instead to focus on Harley’s sense of fun and Poison Ivy’s sense of righteousness concerning plants. Granted, their audience is a younger fan base, but they weave these stories in a way that older readers don’t feel cheated or that the characters are misrepresented.

By focusing on the more light-hearted versions of these characters, Nguyen and Fridolfs are able to give fans scenes they’ve wanted in mainstream continuity as well. The final scene, featuring Damian, Talia, and Bruce aboard the Watchtower represents something that isn’t possible now that the Wayne family has become so fractured. Some fans complained that Grant Morrison’s portrayal of Talia made her uncharacteristically violent and cruel, but they can take comfort in knowing that some creators still have faith in her ability to be a good mother.

The authors should also be commended for focusing on a non-traditional family, appealing to fans who might not necessarily have a mother and father. As Colin says, “it doesn’t matter who your mom is or who your parents are—just as long as you’re loved by the people around you.” Amidst the seemingly care-free fun, Nguyen and Fridolfs manage to deliver powerful messages to their readers. Because their book isn’t bogged down by taking itself too seriously, and having so many relaxed moments, they can deliver these moments without feeling didactic.

The message in this issue, too, is particularly relevant. For Damian, Talia is largely removed from his life at this point, and Colin never knew his mother. Although the issue is, for the majority, about finding Colin’s real mother, it’s much more powerful that, by the end, he realizes the nuns are his family. They share a hug at the end, with Damian watching, and that’s one of the most powerful scenes of the issue. We know that Damian also wants a family like that, but neither Talia nor Bruce can ever really give that to him for a variety of reasons. But, we know that Damian has people like Colin, Alfred, and Dick in his life—people that love him unconditionally for who he is.

The art continues to be one of the most pleasing aspects of this series, as Dustin Nguyen matches the art perfectly with the tone of the book. The coloring, in particular, stands out because it’s all watercolor. When an issue such different settings—the Watchtower, Gotham, and the Batcave—it’s important for artists to plan out how different they need be visually. Watercolor is a difficult medium to master, and Nguyen is be able such consistent quality, making these places recognizable despite the different style. It really is a testament to his skill as an artist.

The characters’ small statures make them adorable, especially in characters like Damian. Damian’s known for being overly arrogant and prideful; in Li’l Gotham, though, readers see Damian for the child he really is: caring, kind, and considerate. Through Nguyen’s art, he can make character reactions visually over the top and really convey what they’re feeling. When Damian avoids Colin’s eyes when he apologizes, readers can clearly see the disappointment on his face; when Colin suddenly has full-fledged eyes when delivering his message, readers know what he’s saying is important.

Li’l Gotham remains completely different from The New 52, and remains one of its strongest traits. It gives readers who miss characters like Colin and Talia an opportunity to experience them once more, and, because Nguyen and Fridolfs keep their fans so close in mind when composing these issues, the authors make Li’l Gotham one of the best books on the market.

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