Campbell's story bears the name of a Cure song, "All Cats Are Grey", and is a pretty simply-plotted story that calls to mind Tim Sale and Darwyn Cooke's "Date Knight" from 2004's Solo #1, in which Catwoman's crimes and Batman's chasing of her are depicted as something of an elaborate courting ritual.
Playing with the format and title more effectively than her peers in this issue, Campbell has a black-clad Batman chasing a black-clad Catwoman through a snowy white Gotham and catching her and recovering her stolen diamond rather easily. They both stand out starkly in the snow...and the fields of white that serve as the backgrounds of several panels.
So Catwoman decides to come up with a plan, inspired by a white cat, and sews herself a new white costume. The camouflage works, and the at times barely-there Catwoman gets the jump on the now even blacker-looking Batman...but what does she really want with the Dark Knight? (Mushy stuff, obviously).
It's a fun little story, and I'll be honest, it is a little weird seeing Campbell draw Batman, given how far removed that most iconic of corporate superheroes is from Campbell's usual work. There's nothing wrong with her Batman, of course, it's just strange to see her drawing him, and I don't feel like she quite made him her own here (Of course, she is just drawing him as a colored shape in a short, dialogue-less story). She seems on more solid ground with Catwoman, as we've certainly seen Campbell draw lots of female characters, superheroic and otherwise, over the course of her career (I'd really like to see Campbell draw the teens of Gotham though, given her work on Wet Moon, Shadow Eyes and other comics with younger protagonists).
I do hope we get to see more of Campbell on Batman though; I've had my fingers crossed that she gets her own continuity-free Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles mini-series at some point...
Campbell's is but one of the five stories in this particular 40-page, $5.99 issue, and it is in some ways the strongest. There are two others of particular note.
One is David Aja's "The Devil Is In The Detail," which is the only other one to really take the black-and-white format into account when crafting the artwork; while most of the comics look like ones that haven't been colored yet, or are simply given tones by a color artist instead of the usual treatment, Aja's, like Campbell's, seems created particularly to be in pure black and white.
The presentation is interesting, as it's set-up as a daily comic strip, telling a "Year One"-esque story, although set, oddly enough, in 1949 (the strip doesn't look like a comic strip from 1949, however, so the inclusion of the year strikes me as a bit insubstantial, thematically). In it, a very Mazzuchelli-esque Batman seeks to solve a series of ritual killings in Gotham that the corrupt police department has little interest in solving themselves.
The other story of note is Dustin Weaver's "Dual," in which our Batman is confronted by a new and evil opposite version of himself, The White Bat. Rather than just Batman in a white costume, the character is an original design that blends Bruce Wayne with his costume in a somewhat disturbing fashion. The art is great—I really liked the designs of the Batplanes, and Weaver's Batman looks an awful lot like that of the original films—but the solution to the mystery of the White Bat is hauntingly abrupt and strange. In a sense, it seems like Weaver just had something out-of-left field happen because he was out of pages, but on the other, it's so out-of-left field that I'm still dwelling on it hours later, and it has a satisfying spookiness to it.
The other two stories are of less interest, being the work of creative teams who have told Batman stories before. Tom King and Mitch Gerads team for a typically overly formal, over-written King story that has an interesting bit of theology to mull (and a reinforcing scene of a Batman who is not religious), and Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman tell another Batman vs. Joker story.
Next issue contains a Kelly Jones story; we'll see if my willpower will be strong enough to resist buying that one from the shop or not...
Here, people age far more slowly, living much longer than elsewhere. Your youth and vitality will endure for decades, enabling you to be effective far longer than the universal norm...Embrace your future, Batman... ...For it will endure in ways you can't yet imagine as you span the decades... changing with the times as you align with the greatest of heroes... ...as you fashion Earth into the most unique of the Linearverse's worlds.
Well, here it is implied that her hair literally grows to great lengths when she flies, allowing her to somehow shed or chop it off, so that she leads her pursuers into a trap by laying out a Rapunzel-lian long trail of hair and while I don't know who's fault that is, it's maybe the dumbest thing I've ever read in a DC comic. Of course, it so softened me up for the climax and the revelation of a "Linearverse" that I could just nod and think, "Sure, Batman's older than my great-grandfathers. Why not?"
I did read the issue, but should probably refrain from discussing it here, given that I missed the one preceding it, and its obviously a direct continuation of that. I will say that Campbell is back on art (Hooray!), Tokka and Rahzar are in it (see Kevin Eastman's cover drawing of them above, although Campbell's versions are quite different looking), and Renet finding herself in Lord Simultaneous' position here was neat.
So I'm now even less certain of which continuity this is meant to be the future of, if any (Perhaps it's meant to be its own, standalone thing). Like I said regarding the first issue, I went into the series thinking that this would be a possible future of the original, Mirage continuity, given that it is based on a story idea by Peter Laird, who gets a story credit alongside Tom Waltz and Kevin Eastman, the latter of whom share the script credit. But in addition to the variously-colored bandanas, Casey and April's daughter is named Casey, not Shadow, and the Turtles never met her. So it looks like this is actually volume 5/IDW continuity...insomuch as its any continuity, given it's Dark Knight Returns-style, possible-future premise.
To quickly recap, Victor Fries' wife Nora had contracted an incurable disease, and in order to save her he used his genius in the field of cryogenics to freeze her until such a time that he could safely revive and cure her; funding his research has been the prime motivation for his life of crime. It was such a good story that it's the sort of thing I would be leery to see anyone mess with, and yet Peter Tomasi, Doug Mahnke and company do just that in this story arc. This is the story of how Mister Freeze finally revives Nora (Of course, she has been revived before, near the very end of the 2000-2006 Batgirl series, but, thanks to the vagaries of DC's cosmic rebootings, that is a story that has now apparently un-happened).
To Tomasi's credit, he gives Mister Freeze an interesting, outside-the-usual-narrative breakthrough, in the form of a boon from Lex Luthor, as this arc kinda sorta ties into the climax of Scott Snyder and company's Justice League arc (barely; not only does Freeze talk repeatedly of Luthor's off-panel deal with him, part of Luthor's pitch to various villains throughout the DCU to bring them on board in his doom vs. justice war, but there are a few panels where in the doom sigil appears in the sky above Gotham. That's the only mention of the goings-on in Justice League, though. It's all fairly red sky, beyond the Luthor's gift element being an important plot point).
Tomasi also does some interesting, unexpected things with the resurrection storyline, redesigning Freeze and getting him out of his suit, giving the villain what he always wanted but with a twist (to the extent that Batman and Mister Freeze end up teaming-up against Nora) and putting the "toys" of the characters back in such a way that the next writer to want to use them can do so without any gargantuan efforts to write around this story.
Leery as I was of the story, Tomasi did a pretty amazing job of it. There's also an appearance of Batcow, which struck me as kind of hilarious, given that its one-panel appearance involves Lucius Fox asking about using the cow in the cave for a test and Batman saying no; if one walked into this comic, um, cold, it would seem completely random that there's a live cow in the Batcave.
This five-issue arc is mostly penciled by Mahnke, but as is so often the case with the artist, others are needed to finish it, with the last two issues featuring the work of additional pencilers and small battalions of inkers. As per usual, the story suffers from the messier visuals near the climax.
Two more stories round out the collection. The first is a fill-in issue written by Tom Taylor and drawn by Fernando Blanco. Entitled "Orphans," it seems to be set sometime after whatever happened to Alfred (I believe he's temporarily dead, right?) happened, and has Lucius goading Batman into taking an interest in a Wayne family orphanage, where he finds something terrible going on. It's a nicely-written, highly emotional story, and there's a neat little exchange regarding Superman at one point. I wasn't crazy about Blanco's artwork; it's fine, but his style is so realistic that it's a pretty strong departure from that of Mahnke and the rest of the book.
The final story is the two-part "Dead of Winter," in which a pagan cult is committing ritualistic murders throughout the city, and end up summoning and extra-dimensional monster that is only too happy to humor their false, pagan beliefs if doing so allows it to eat them. It's a pretty strong one-issue story, but is stretched out to two issues. Tomasi returns to write this one, which is drawn by Scott Godlewski.
Ace and Titus make an appearance in this story. I hope incoming Detective Comics writer remembers all the animals that Damian has gradually filled the Batcave up with (and I wonder who is feeding them all now that Alfred's gone, and Batman and Damian seem semi-estranged again; surely Lucius isn't taking Batcow out to graze each morning, is he...?)
At least, that's the pitch for the story, a big event of a story arc, which, in reality, is both a little too big for a satisfying complete story, but a little too small to sustain what must have been a slew of tie-ins (Many of which are collected in a second trade I haven't read yet, The Joker War Saga). In other words, while reading the story it is clear that a significant amount of the narrative is missing. Characters talk about hew character Clownhunter, for one example example, and his activities are presented as if in a summary, but he doesn't directly enter the narrative until the epilogue. As the book reaches it's climax, stories seem to start or stop without actually unfolding, as if alluding to the events of other books. Most whiplash inducing for me was seeing Cassandrda Cain introduced via text box as Orphan near the end, when Batman summons his army of allies, only to see her next appear in her old Batgirl costume.
And yet while chunks of the story appear to be happening elsewhere, and Tynion alludes to them in this arc, a perhaps necessary but unwelcome evil, the plot itself doesn't seem to justify so many tie-ins. While a potentially city-destroying story, it's not that apocalyptic a threat for a Batman comic.
The Joker has dug up and reanimated the corpses of everyone he's ever killed—or at least a lot of them—and seated them in the Monarch Theater for a special showing of The Mark of Zorro. It's a trap laid for Batman, who has been dosed with a new and special gas that has freaking out, hallucinating and ultimately taken out of commission for days.
While Harley Quinn nurses him back to health with the help of Poison Ivy's plants, the city descends into chaos, as gangs of people in Joker masks terrorize the city in Joker-mobiles—sadly all generic-looking Batmobiles with paint jobs; artist Jorge Jimenez didn't use variation of the old Jokermobile with The Joker's face on it for a model—and Batman's ten thousand sidekicks are all MIA, apparently because he pushed them away due to sadness over Alfred's death or whatever (Again, that's stuff that happened in some other comics).
Meanwhile, The Joker is using his fortune to arrange special showings of The Mark of Zorro in every theater in Gotham, which he plans to pay people thousands of dollars to attend; they will then get gassed, making for a whole city sharing Batman's origin of sorts.
Thanks to help from Harley, Batman ultimately rallies, calls in his many allies and stops The Joker, saving the day.
Tynion over-writes the climactic Joker vs. Batman battle a little bit, I think, as The Joker monologues about the nature of Gotham City and their competing worldviews so much that it feels like the character explaining Tynion's themes directly to the reader, rather than letting them play out naturally, but there's an interesting take on the old "Should Batman just kill The Joker?" chestnut, as Harley tries to kill The Joker (she succeeds in putting out his eye), and then forcing Batman's hand, making him choose between saving her and saving him from certain death.
That stuff is rather nicely played, I thought, and made up for the weaker bits of the climax.
Jimenez sticks around for the entirety of the arc, all but a few passages of the extra-sized concluding chapter, anyway (different artists, including Guillem March and Carlo Pagulayan, draw various epilogues). In that respect, though the plot of Their Dark Designs seemed quite a bit bigger and threatening, this arc reads better, with a consistent look and feel throughout.
While not my absolute favorite current Batman artist, there's no denying Jimenez is pretty great, and his style is technically within the spectrum of DC's house style, but far enough towards the edges of it that there's a great deal of personality to it. His figures are dynamic and dramatic, and he does sexy well, both in the male and female characters.
Like the previous volume, I think this was head and shoulders above Tynion's Detective Comics work, even if it's not perfect.
In addition to that dramatic moment, it also allows for more of interaction with their little siblings, Hitomi Tadano and Shosuke Komi, who now star in their own occasional stories (wherein Hitomi uses ventriloquism in an attempt to make Shosuke seem more normal). There's also another appearance of Komi's parents in high school, as we see what happens when the teenage girl who would grow up to be her mother tries to confess her feelings to the teenage boy that would grow up to be her dad.
At this point, I kind of love the entire Komi family.
There are a few new characters introduced, at least one of whom Komi can add to her book of friends, but it's too early to tell if she'll become a major player or not (The character, Ase, also has a communication problem: She sweats so profusely she's afraid to be near anyone else, lest they discover this fact).
REVIEWED:my review somehow, in the hopes that such a pithy phrase might get me blurbed on the back of a future sequel, but I just couldn't find a way to do it.
this charming kid-friendly graphic novel about a little girl who has to save her city from a plague of potato chips with bizarre side-effects.
here on my blog, I guess I'll just link to my Good Comics For Kids review of it and move on.
The latest volume in Fantagraphics' Disney Masters series collects the seven issue Phantom Blot series from the mid-1960s, drawn by Paul Murry. When it comes to old Disney comics, I'm usually more of a duck comic guy than a mouse comic guy, but the fun thing about this series is that it blended the casts of both, so that Mickey, Goofy, Donald and Uncle Scrooge might all appear in the same comic, trying to stop The Phantom Blot and The Beagle Boys from robbing Scrooge. For such an old comic, it was surprisingly timeless, too, with few markers that would make it seem ancient to current young readers.