Welcome to ‘Dark Was The Write’, a mostly weekly column highlighting some of the less highlight-y titles connected to Batman and his dark city. Usually, the lead Batman title will get it’s own review, and secondary issues get some love here! The Batman family of titles is by far DC’s largest, so I won’t always be covering everything released each week (like, I really don’t like Batwoman), but there will usually be a healthy dose of Gotham City’s problems represented.
“Death of the Family” Prologue
(P/I) Ed Benes
Batman and Robin #13
Peter J. Tomasi
(P) Patrick Gleason and Tomas Giorello
(I) Mick Gray
Although each of these issues features the same amount of offhanded remarks about the Joker, Batgirl #13 is labeled as a “Death of the Family” prologue, while Batman and Robin #13 is just beginning a two-part arc before rolling into the “DotF” event in December. The only slight advantage Batgirl has is that clown-masked men ambush Barbara and her mom at issue’s end. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I used to read Batgirl regularly, until about issue four. I didn’t understand why, and if frustrated me greatly, but Gail Simone was just not delivering the kind of quality work I’d seen in Secret Six. Alas, I cancelled by subscription, and the last time I saw Batgirl, it was for “Night of the Owls”, an event that let me read all the tie-in issues without being privy to the ongoing story.
But I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised by Batgirl #13. In what I can only assume is the conclusion of the current arc, Batgirl faces the deadly Knightfall who’s out to kill Batgirl and the rest of the Batman family. In some ways, Knightfall has a point when she explains how Batman and his crew have allowed Gotham to rot. It’s the crux of writing meaner, grittier stories when Batman’s actions should be cleaning up the city. Only in a comic book city do seven superheroes operate and crime never gets any better. In fact, it seems to get worse with the passage of time. Gotham in the 1960s was probably a very nice place to live, albeit a bit seedy. Nowadays, I struggle to understand how anyone living in this fictional universe even gives Gotham the time of day.
Knightfall is revealed to be Cherise Carnes, daughter to one of Gotham’s most influential and powerful real estate moguls. It feels like whenever a writer needs an out of some sort, he/she creates a villain with some connection to Gotham that makes them feel superior to Batman and his cronies. It’s usually some sewer-dwelling psycho given unwieldy power, but there also seems to be a good number of ‘super rich’ families inhabiting Gotham that have a surprising amount of vengeful offspring. I’ve read this archetype before, is what I’m trying to say, but Gail Simone manages to pull it off without sounding redundant and cliched.
The lead-in to “Death of the Family” at the end was sub-par. After reading Scott Snyder’s explosive pages in Batman #13, I guess I just expected more. Though, I don’t want to get myself into a situation where I’m comparing all the tertiary stories of this event to Snyder’s main run because nothing will live up to it. Barbara’s mother is attacked by Joker’s minions, and three villains (of Batgirl’s, I’m assuming) are released from prison by three mysterious strangers (unless they’ve appeared in the series before, in which case I apologize to regular readers of Batgirl who know these characters’ significance) with the death of Batgirl on their minds.
I don’t have a lot to say about Batman and Robin #13. The story is so cliched zombie infection that I don’t even want to discuss it. DC is committed to getting it’s books out on time each month, and I commend them for that. The downside of this comes when artists aren’t up to the task and single issues have a 10-12 person-strong artistic team. It’s not terrible this month, but Patrick Gleason shares penciling duties with Tomas Giorello, and it’s really one of the most jarring artistic changes I’ve seen in an issue in a long time. Gleason’s minimalist style has worked well for Batman and Robin, showing a more fluid side of how the Dark Knight can be drawn. Tomas Giorello’s style, however, leans toward detail and shadowing at every angle. It wouldn’t be so frustrating if the art styles were a bit closer matched, but it feels like DC just picked any random artist and said “Finish up what Gleason left behind, kthanks,” then left. This was a disappointing issue of Batman and Robin, for sure. Hopefully the “Death of the Family” tie-in issues will be better than this crapfest.