Friday, June 30, 2006

Comic Book Review: Batman #654

Robinson’s 8 part story arc hasn’t really impressed the Revolution. It started nice, but rapidly declined. Right now, I’m just ready for the new creative team to start next issue. I think that Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert are going to rock this title. Any way, will Batman #654 be able to deliver a satisfying conclusion? Let’s find out.

Creative Team
Writer: James Robinson
Penciler: Don Kramer
Inker: Wayne Faucher

Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: The issue starts with Batman and Robin meeting with Commissioner Gordon in his office. Gordon tells the dynamic duo that Two-Face has taken over Gotham Zoo. His only hostages were one male and one female zoo employees.

We then cut to Batman and Robin brawling with Two-Face. Two-Face gives the standard “You made me this.” speech to Batman. That Batman didn’t trust him. Batman tells Two-Face that he does believe him. That Harvey is innocent. Two-Face says it is too late for that. Harvey tells Batman that he is only playing with Batman. That he could have killed him, but that he wants Batman to live. That way every time Two-Face kills then Batman can know that he helped to cause that death by helping to re-create Two-Face. With that, Two-Face throws some smoke bombs and disappears. Batman then tells Robin that he is going to go visit the man who framed Harvey Dent.

We shift to Arkham Asylum. Batman enters Warren White’s cell. White is now known as “The Great White Shark” due to his disfigured face. Batman tells White that he knows that he framed Harvey Dent. That White is the secret crime boss of Gotham. That he has been building up to this since he came to Arkham. That White has done such a good job that Penguin fled Gotham. That all the people involved with the murders: Hatter, Scarecrow, Croc and Tally Man were all inmates in Arkham. That Tally Man was White’s trigger man committing the murders with Harvey’s gun. White wanted Dent out of the way since he was putting a serious hurt on his crime operations for the year that Batman was gone.

Batman concludes that he doesn’t have the evidence to prove that White has take over from the Penguin and that he is running Gorham’s crime syndicate. Batman then lifts White into the air and says that this is just the beginning. That Batman is now his enemy. Batman then throws White into his cell wall. Batman concludes that he is going to catch Two-Face and then he will tell Two-Face what White did and then Batman will bring Two-Face to Arkham. (Hey, this new Batman still has some balls!)

We cut to the Batcave. Bruce tells Tim that it is time they talked. That Tim has lost so much. His mother and father are dead. That Tim deserves more. Bruce says he is not doing a good job saying this and asks Alfred to lead them up to the manor. The trio enters Dick Grayson’s old room. Bruce says that Dick would have wanted Tim to live here. Tim says that he doesn’t understand. That Bruce has already given him the stable to live in. Bruce says that isn’t enough. That they are a team. That Wayne Manor should be Tim’s home. That Dick was legally his ward. That it gave him security. That Tim should have that, too. But, the laws have changed and Bruce can’t adopt Tim as his ward. That he will have to adopt him as his son. Bruce says he doesn’t know how Tim feels about that. Bruce continues that he could never replace Tim’s real father, but he would try his best. Tim suddenly embraces Bruce in a big hug. Tears start pouring down Tim’s face. Bruce holds Tim and tells him that everything will be fine. (That was a nicely done scene.) End of issue.

Comments:
The Good
: I wasn’t very impressed with this issue. Technically, it was written well. However, it wasn’t a particularly great read. I did like the scene with White and Batman. It was nice to see a little of the pre-Infinite Crisis Batman make an appearance for the first time in Robinson’s story arc. Batman smacking around and threatening White is the Batman I like.

I don’t really know that much about White. But, a new crime boss is always a good thing. Plus, I like the twist of this current Gotham crime boss conducting his syndicate from within Arkham Asylum. I think that this plotline has some potential. It should be interesting to see what Grant Morrison does with this character.

I enjoyed the final scene of this issue. Yeah, we all saw this coming from a mile away. I am sure that absolutely nobody that reads Batman was even remotely surprised that this was Bruce’s plan for Tim. Still Robinson wrote a very powerful scene. Bruce was so uncomfortable. Bruce can fight a room full of psychos, talk to Gordon on his phone and solve a murder all at the same time and remain calm and collected while doing it. However, when it comes to expressing any type of feelings or communicating with a loved one, Bruce becomes nervous and unsure of himself. Robinson does a nice job with Bruce’s character in this scene.

And Tim’s reaction was perfect. No talking. Just a sudden embrace and tears. Tim has been through more than any teenager could possibly experience. At some point, you know that he has to just collapse under the weight of the world on his shoulders. In this scene, for at least a moment, Tim doesn’t have to be strong. He can be weak and let Bruce carry some of that weight.

I enjoyed Kramer’s artwork. Kramer has done a great job with the art duties during this One Year Later storyline. I like his Batman and I wouldn’t mind seeing him handle the art duties for Batman or Detective Comics at some point in the future.

The Bad: This issue was an extremely anti-climactic ending. The scene with Two-Face was very predictable and generic. It was fast and was nothing more than the typical “You made me this.” “You are going to feel sorry every time I do something evil.” Scene. We have seen this scene before in not only Batman, but in plenty of other comic books. It felt flat and unimaginative.

The scene with White was also unimpressive. The entire revelation that White was the person who framed Two-Face did nothing for me. It doesn’t elicit shock or surprise. The entire reason for White framing Two-Face just seemed to convenient of a wrap up. It seemed like Robinson came up with an interesting idea at first and then simply didn’t know how to end it. So, he used the convenient story of a rival crime boss trying to get Two-Face out of the way. I don’t know. It simply didn’t excite me or impress me.

Bruce’s plan for Tim was painfully obvious. This surprised absolutely nobody. I was really hoping that Robinson had something interesting up his sleeve, but I was wrong. I’m not saying that I don’t like Bruce adopting Tim. I don’t care either way. I just hoped that with all this build up that it might be something a bit more surprising than the obvious choice.

I know that DC wants to make the post-Infinite Crisis more like the wimpy Batman before Miller’s Dark Knight Returns. Batman took a different tone after 1986. Obviously, DC wants the post-Infinite Crisis Batman more like the 1970’s and early 1980’s Batman. That means he is a lighter in tone, works closely with Commissioner Gordon and works as a team with Robin. This also means that Bruce has to have a ward/son. Thus the adoption. Personally, I like my Batman dark (and I’m not talking about the Batman over in All Star Batman) who acts as a complete loner in his fight against crime.

Overall: Batman #654 was an anti-climactic ending. Compare this 8 issue storyline with the 8 issue storyline over in Superman and Action Comics. The Superman storyline was much more entertaining and had a fantastic ending. This Batman storyline wasn’t as good of a read and this ending just fell flat. And I’m a huge Batman fan who has never liked Superman. The good news is that Morrison takes over with the next issue and I fully expect it to be a great read.

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