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Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 2/16/13

Do you like Batman and the X-Men? Because those are the only comics that came out this week! Or at least, they’re the only comics on my pull list this week (if we don’t count Scarlet Spider). But wow, what  a great week for Batman and the X-Men! Death of the Family ends in Batman, with a sort-of epilogue in Batman and Robin. The Internet is crowing about the finale of Scott Snyder’s Joker story…but I just don’t get it. Sorry. I guess it went right over my head. Still entertaining though.

The real treasure this week is the first issue of Brian Michael Bendis’ Uncanny X-Men, debuting Cyclop’s new team of mutant revolutionaries! I have very much been looking forward to this comic, and it does not disappoint! Uncanny X-Men #1 easily wins Comic Book of the Week!

Pax Utopia

Comic Reviews: Batman #17, Batman and Robin #17, Uncanny X-Men #1, Wolverine and the X-Men #25. 

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Review: Teen Titans #16

I want Fabian Nicieza to take over Teen Titans on a full time basis. Make it happen, DC Comics. He just has a much better handle on these characters and what it takes to tell a good story than regular writer Scott Lobdell. The best issues of Teen Titans have all been penned by Nicieza, even if Lobdell was providing the plot. This issue is a perfect example. Lobdell has been writing a couple crummy additions to the Death of the Family story in both Teen Titans and Red Hood and the Outlaws. But this issue is a wonderful tie-in, pitting Red Robin and Red Hood against each other in an particularly devious plot by the Joker. And it was made even better by Nicieza’s firm grasp on Tim Drake’s inner monologue.

Teen Titans #16

This is a very good tie-in to Death of the Family, giving the two Reds a story that seems tailor-made to their places in the Bat-family. Tim Drake’s inner monologue is fantastic as he assesses and handles the threat. It really lets him shine as the series star.

Comic Rating: 4/5: Good!

I really like the friendship that has been building between Red Robin and Red Hood since the DCnU reboot. They’re really the odd men out in the Bat-family. Tim Drake, especially, hasn’t had much of a place in the world since Damian came in and stole his position as Robin. So the two of them teaming up definitely works, as does the idea that they get a more action-oriented battle with the Joker. There isn’t much psychology to mess with either of them, so the idea that the Joker pits them against each other in fisticuffs fits the characters. Their scenes are the best in the issue, and Tim Drake’s inner monologue is a real standout.

Sadly, though, Lobdell once again hits us with his ridiculous notion for foreshadowing. Twice in this issue, we cut away to a single scene focusing on an upcoming villain. Out of nowhere with little to no build-up. It just happens in the middle of the story. It’s a stupid way to introduce these villains, especially since he utterly ruins the mystery of Trigon! It’s infuriating! I loved how Lobdell and Nicieza started to lay the groundwork for Trigon a few issues ago, when they had his name mentioned in some ancient carvings. I thought that was wonderfully subtle and mysterious, and might just grow as the series progresses.

Nope. We get a full scene of a the fully demonic Tigon sitting on his throne in Hell surrounded by demons, and a scene of him just introducing Raven in all her glory. No mystery, no subtlety, no build-up. He just throws Trigon and Raven right in our faces. What a waste.

Anyway, join me after the jump for a full synopsis and more review!

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The ‘Killing Alfred’ Theory of Comics

The greatest comic book writer ever could pen the greatest, most emotional Batman story ever by killing Alfred the butler, but it would sure suck to be the next guy.

This is a comic book theory I thought up and have been pondering for some time, and one that everybody should be thinking about now that Alfred is in the clutches of the Joker in writer Scott Snyder’s epic ‘Death of the Family’ storyline. We already know that Alfred has been beaten and blinded by the Joker, but will Snyder go all the way and kill Bruce Wayne’s faithful butler?

It’s kind of expected that someone important will die by the Joker’s hand during this crossover, but everyone in the Bat-family stars in their own comic, all of which have been previewed for the months following Death of the Family’s big ending. It looks to me like everybody else is going to pull through. But there is no Alfred comic.  Get rid of Alfred and only one or two comics will feel the impact, and those comics could truly explore some new dramatic ground by telling the story of Bruce Wayne’s emotional turmoil after the death of Alfred, who was like a father to Bruce. And considering what happened the first time Bruce lost his father, this could be a pretty big deal.

The death of Alfred could lead to some truly gripping material, and Scott Snyder is such a good Batman writer that I know he could do a very good job. But should he do it?

I argue that it doesn’t matter how good a story Snyder might write, because once he’s done, he’s still killed Alfred. And in the world of serialized, never-ending comic books, the loss of Alfred to the overall Bat-family is not worth the price of a good story, or even a great story. Alfred brings more to the table as a supporting character than the story of his murder and the aftermath could possibly provide. Alfred is the heart and soul of the Batcave, always nearby with a sandwich or a dry quip whenever the Batman is in a really bad mood. You won’t find anyone funnier or more charming in Batman comics than Alfred. Not to mention all the aid he provides, from his skills as a doctor to washing the Batmobile.

And Alfred is not alone. Comic books are filled with longtime supporting character who have become just as vital as the protagonists. Lois Lane, Aunt May, J. Jonah Jameson and many others; all supporting characters that could lead to good stories if they were killed for the emotional impact, but who would leave too big a hole once they were gone.

Take Gert from Runaways. She was the funny, sarcastic one, everybody’s favorite character; which made her the perfect one to kill for a little emotional impact. You always kill the one you love. Just ask Joss Whedon. But Runaways was all downhill after Gert was gone. It hasn’t been published since 2009. I guess readers lose interest after you needlessly kill their favorite character!

And that is the heart of my theory. No matter how much a writer may want to kill a character for the emotional impact, they’re just shooting themselves and every subsequent writer in the foot. At least when it comes to comic books that have no end in sight, like Batman or Spider-Man. If they’re writing their own story, and they know exactly how and when the comic will end (indie titles The Walking Dead, for example), then killing characters can be emotional and shape the story. Same with killing the protagonist of a series. We all know that when a writer kills Spider-Man, Captain America or even Batman that eventually those characters are going to come back. It’s the nature of comics. But supporting characters don’t have that ‘get out of death free’ card. Supporting characters are actually likely to stay dead. Killing important supporting characters in an ongoing comic is just ruining it for everyone.

Someday Scott Snyder is going to leave Batman. It’s just the nature of the business. And while all of his stories may have revolved around the death of Alfred, I’m sure the next writer would have his own ideas.

But he or she won’t have Alfred.

So that is my plea to all comic book writers: stop killing characters just because you think that’s the only way to get an emotional impact out of your story. Because even the most minor character has a lot more to offer than the cheap emotional thrill that their death could provide.

Plus, c’mon, he’s Alfred!

Without him, Batman’s just a lonely weirdo sitting in the dark who has to make his own sandwiches. And nobody wants to read that.

Review: Teen Titans #15

I am torn by this new issue of Teen Titans. On the one hand, it’s an entertaining comic with a really good focus on the team leaving their comfort zone to go on a group mission, kind of like going on a field trip. On the other hand, it’s the worst Death of the Family tie-in yet. And it adds to my growing hatred of the Joker’s omnipotence. Apparently while plotting the attack on Batman and the Bat-family, the Joker took the time to research all of the Teen Titans and construct an elaborate trap for them, which the Titans trigger exactly how the Joker predicted! He even drew the diagram on a chalkboard.

Teen Titans #15

So apparently people like Bunker and Wonder Girl factor into Joker’s big plan to get Batman, and the Clown Prince of Crime can accurately predict the actions and movements of Kid Flash. At least we get some solid Tim Drake moments.

Comic rating: 3/5: Alright.

This is not a bad comic as far as the Teen Titans are concerned. Finally, at long last, I really got the sense that they were a team that existed in the greater DCnU. Not completely, mind you. But I really got a strong feeling that Tim Drake’s motley crew of teenage superheroes might be the real deal. There are many ways that the DC reboot utterly failed to build a cohesive universe, with the Teen Titans towards the top of that list, but I really liked how the team came off in this issue. They’re done with the internal fighting and the silly N.O.W.H.E.R.E. stuff, and now it’s finally time to let them be a real superhero team responding to real problems. So at least that was spot on.

But oh lord, this issue is terrible when it comes to the Joker.

It makes sense that the Joker would attack each of Batman’s sidekicks individually, because that’s his whole scheme, to take them out in order to make Batman stronger. But the tie-in writers are really coming up with some stupidly elaborate plots to make this happen. Not to mention the question of how it is that the Joker is able to attend to each of these traps seemingly simultaneously? Especially when most of them rely on extreme guess work.

Damian found the Joker in Batman and Robin by discovering traces of hyena urine at Wayne Manor. So Joker is at the zoo waiting for him. Nightwing found the Joker in a warehouse in his own comic by analyzing the Joker venom that killed his friend. So Joker was at that warehouse waiting for him. Joker was also at Izabel’s apartment in order to kidnap Jason Todd in Red Hood and the Outlaws. And Joker is now out and about ready to kidnap and taunt an imprisoned Tim Drake. And somehow the Joker found time to predict exactly where Kid Flash would go looking for him, and plant a trap specifically designed for Kid Flash.

How is the Joker doing all of this!? And all at the same time? It’s getting ridiculous. Especially when an issue like this has very little to nothing to do with the overall Death of the Family story. Anyone who bought this issue just because of the tie-in will be disappointed. Especially since guest writer Fabian Nicieza just doesn’t do this new Joker any justice, not as much as the other writers on this crossover, at least.

Join me after the jump for a fully synopsis and more review!

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