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Batman and Robin #7

Written by Peter Tomas

Art by Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray and John Kalisz

Lettering by Pat Brosseau

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

The book has some punch, but it's far from a knockout.

For six issues now, Batman and Robin has been building up the tension, driving a wedge between father and son as well as introducing a brutal, deadly villain. And as many superhero stories go, Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason are treating the reader to a violent catharsis between Batman and the stealthy assassin Nobody. Yet chalk it up to some hastily spooled motivators or some chaotic illustrations, and you'll find that this conclusion is still not quite as satisfying as you might expect.

The highlight of the book has to be Patrick Gleason, and if Batman and Robin were still the flagship title for the Bat-franchise, I think his work would be even more powerful. Images like Batman rising from the flaming wreckage of the Batmobile, his cloak wrapping around him ominously and his eyes narrow in rage, these are the images that stick with you, even after you put down the book. Yet Gleason's epic shots sometimes stretch his characters' anatomies beyond the point of believability — and unfortunately, Gleason isn't the only game in town. Seeing Batman lift the Nobody into the air, his chest ballooning into proportions that could only be superheroic, also evokes the same sort of imagery that we've seen from Greg Capullo in the main Batman title, only with a bit more control and a bit more edge. In other words, Gleason's art evokes speed, brutality and the uncoiling of all the pent-up rage — it's good choreography, but it also looks a bit too familiar to really seal the deal.

Tomasi's script, meanwhile, fights to justify itself beyond the major fight sequence, and doesn't quite win out. He explains the Nobody's motivations for taking on Bruce Wayne and co-opting his son Damian, but at the same time, the pacing is what kills it. There's a lot of awesome fighting going on in this book, and the thing is, it's totally necessary given the build-up and stakes Tomasi has introduced, so seeing all this dialogueue comes off as almost a distraction. That said, Tomasi absolutely nails the cliffhanger here, as he brings us back to the central hook of this book: Batman and Robin are two very different characters, and they draw a lot of sparks when they go to unpredictable places.

There's a lot to like about this action-heavy conclusion, but oftentimes Batman and Robin #7 also gets in its own way. After months of fairly methodical build-up — even some decompression last issue — the ending here comes off as a bit rushed, with the larger-than-life beats coming off as too big even for this story. It still stands as one of the stronger Batman titles, but that said, with this creative team, I know the potential for Batman and Robin is even deeper than what's on display here.


Queen Crab

Written by Jimmy Palmiotti

Art by Artiz Eiguren

Lettering by Bill Tortolini

Published by Image Comics

Review by Aaron Duran

'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

I like it when writers leave their comfort zone. It's really the only way they can test their current skills and hone new ones. For years, when you saw the name Jimmy Palmiotti, it was associated with Justin Grey. And that's a good thing, because those two can write the heck out of any story. However, when I heard Palmiotti was going solo on Queen Crab, I was intrigued. Not only was he working on his own with this title, it also didn't follow the genre style I've come to expect and enjoy from the guy who helped create Marvel Knights. So just what did we get with this graphic novel? To be honest, I don't really know. What I do know is, like Palmiotti working outside his zone, I had to crack open my rarely used English and Postmodern writing courses from college to really digest this sucker. On the surface, the story is pretty basic and in a way, classic Palmiotti. Ginger Drake is one messed up lady, but she's doing the best that she can. Or, at least the best she thinks she can. Sure, she makes choices that makes her hate herself in the morning, has to trade favors to keep her job, and happened to marry a sociopath that tossed her over a cruise ship on their Honeymoon. But, it's not like she's going to turn into an existential freak with crab arms and a slice of Aquaman powers or something. Oh, right. That's exactly what happens.

If you just skim the book, Queen Crab isn't all that dense. However, Palmiotti took a long much in time developing Ginger as a well thought out, if not always likable, person. And that there is one of the strengths of this book. While the situation is wholly unlikely, each and every one of us could easily be this woman. Indeed, there is a very good chance we know someone like her. Deep down, she's a good person, but it took one heck of a rock bottom for Ginger to see that. One of Palmiotti's strengths has always been his dialogue. With a banter that sounds like a couple of friends chatting things up between shots of Jack Daniels, his comics read like a more natural Quentin Tarantino movie. There are a few times where Palmiotti's dialogue reads a little too normal. His casual use of more vulgar terms for people can be off-putting. During those moments, I have to remind myself that while all characters are an extension of a writer, these are still fictional characters and how they speak and interact with the world around them reveals their own sense of self. Although rare, those moments take me out of the book. However, I don't know if that means Palmiotti should be more aware of his choice of words, or if I should look at my own levels of comfort. Which, in a way, is part of the message found within Queen Crab. Like I said, I had to blow the dust of my big books for this one.

Artiz Eiguren handles all the art in Queen Crab, and while it has some nice moments, it feels like the weakest element to the title. I enjoy the character designs in the book, but there are many times where the proportions feel off. It's jarring to the reader to have a character shift sizes within the span of a page. While it doesn't happen that often and you could argue the shift is subtle, it's still enough to pull your head back a bit and wonder if it was intentional or not. That being said, when Eiguren locks in his pencils, I enjoy the look. Everything in Queen Crab has this surface of normalcy. Colors are a little muted, giving everything a very lived in look. And then, wham, out comes Ginger with those freaky crab arms. And it works. Better still, as the story progresses, even those arms of hers blend into the scenery and we're back to watching this girl try and make sense of her life. Indeed, I think Eiguren's colors are what really save this book from a pure visual stance. His choice of shading and coloring help drive home the emotional weight of Ginger's life. There are times when his colors aren't the subtlest, but it still helps to elevate the linework.

Queen Crab is a book without a lot of answers, but worth reading for the questions. You know that feeling you have after watching a David Lynch of Werner Herzog film? This title did the same with me. That sense of wonder and confusion. To be sure, I really enjoyed this book, but I don't know if it will work for everyone. Especially when you consider most people know Palmiotti from his run on Jonah Hex and All-Star Western. Indeed, those fans might have the hardest time digesting this new narrative. But, if you're looking for a story that doesn't quite follow all the rules, then maybe you're ready to give Queen Crab a try.

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