Pick of the Week

Pick of the Week – 04.10.2013 – Batman #19

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Avg Rating: 4.1
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 6.7%
 
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Batman_19_Full
Story by Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV
Art by Greg Capullo, Danny Miki, & Alex Maleev
Colors by FCO Plascenica & Brad Anderson
Letters by Comicraft & Dezi Sienty
Cover by Greg Capullo & FCO Plascencia

Size: 40 pages
Price: 3.99

Modern day comics are event comics, and by that I mean that audiences have shown time and again that, for the most part, they don’t care to buy a comic book unless the story is IMPORTANT. That is why so many titles are caught in a never-ending cycle of epic tales and crossovers and company-wide events. Smaller stories are decried as “filler” and given a resounding and dreaded (and lazy) “Meh.” The only vote that the readership has is with its wallet and through that the readership has shown that it’s firmly in the camp of I WANT BIG STORIES, which the various publishers are more than happy to supply.

Which is why it was so utterly satisfying to open up Batman #19 and see that the what we have here is the first part of a two-part Clayface story.

That’s it. No earth-shattering epic. No crossover involving every book in the Batfamily. Just a Clayface story. An utterly satisfying and masterfully done Clayface story, but none-the-less, just a Clayface story.

And it felt so good to read.

Sometimes, you just want to see a villain get up to some dastardly scheme followed closely by your hero showing up and clobbering the crap out of them and foiling the scheme and saving the day. You used to get that a lot in comics, before everything had to be IMPORTANT. You’d get stories about heroes and villains and their never-ending battles; and there would be punching and there would be kicking—and depending on the hero and the villain there would be some smooching—and if the story was good you’d learn something about the characters in the midst of all the brouhaha. After a bunch of those stories then you’d build up to the big IMPORTANT story and it would be that much more satisfying because it would feel earned because you got a chance to live in the world a bit and get to know and (hopefully) care about the characters.

What I’m trying to say with the that Old Man Digression is that in the midst of all the Deaths of the Family and the Zero Years (stories I both enjoyed and look forward to greatly) it was really fun to just read a story about Batman facing off against one of his classic villains, one I haven’t seen in a long time.

The cover for Batman #19 shows Bruce Wayne pointing a gun at his buddy Commissioner Jim Gordon. But… but why?! (Don’t get me started on this idiotic SHOCKING covers gimmick that DC has rolled out this month. That’s whole other digression.) It’s no surprise that writer Scott Snyder finds a way to make the most out of this gimmick. The issue opens up with Bruce Wayne robbing a bank, acting like a jerk to a pretty blonde, shooting Commissioner Gordon with a shotgun and letting him see the Batsuit he has on under his what I assume to be a finely hand-crafted Italian suit. I was immediately sucked into this story because, for all his psychosis and the recent loss of his son, this was all a little out of character for Bruce. Why was he doing this? What the hell was going on? Having gone so long without seeing Clayface, I have to admit that it didn’t even occur to me that he might be behind all of this—but of course he was! Having experienced a secondary mutation (copyright Marvel Comics), Clayface has now not only lost all of previous humanity but can now completely mimic someone with just the smallest exposure to a bit of DNA.

That, folks, is about it. Batman finds himself with a mystery to solve (someone close to Bruce Wayne starts acting unusually murderous and suicidal) and he’s off to the races to find out just what the heck is going on, and in the course of doing so runs headlong into Clayface. Simple. But also classic, and in that sense, wonderful.

The other interesting aspect about Batman #19 is that this marks the first issue with a new inker for Greg Capullo. Danny Miki takes over for Jonathan Glapion and there is definitely a change in the way the art looks. It’s a cleaner looking book now. All the rough lines have been smoothed away and the overall look of the art is much more polished. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not, I haven’t decided yet. I quite enjoyed the rough line that was used before under Glapion, it gave the book a bit of a dirty feel which I thought was appropriate for Batman and for Gotham City. It’s a minor thing, and I’m sure I’ll get used to the cleaner style, and in the meantime Capullo’s pencils are as fantastic and dynamic as ever.

And that doesn’t even mention the fine back-up story written by James Tynion IV and (actually) drawn by Alex Maleev in which Superman shows up to find out if Batman is okay after the death of his son, and Batman shows that he is not the most forthcoming with his emotions so instead they end up tussling with a supernatural being who is kidnapping and killing people in Gotham City. It’s a dark and moody tale that plays up to Maleev’s strengths as an artist.

The bottom line is this: I love a grand epic tale. I love a big and IMPORTANT story. I love an earth-shattering event. They’re exciting and I’m not knocking them. But sometimes I also just want Hal Jordan to be a space cop and sometimes I just want Batman to go out there and foil a supervillain’s crime and then come home and brood in the Batcave while Alfred brings him some tea on a silver tray. Those stories are IMPORTANT too, just in a completely different way. Batman #19 reminded me of what I am (usually) missing these days when I make my way through my stack of comics on Wednesday.

Conor Kilpatrick
It’s been a long day and I could use some tea.
conor@ifanboy.com

 


Comments

  1. Yeah I loved how simple this story was. I honestly don’t think Snyder has done anything like this since writing for Batman. It’s always one epic after another and it can be quite tiring sometimes. I mean they’re great comics and all but I just want a non-9 million+ mini-event with my Batman once and a while. So this was a fresh change of pace.

    My POTW was Wolverine #2 for being weird…..totally weird. So weird I honestly think it was a bad comic but I loved it anyways.

  2. This story kinda didn’t do much for me. I dunno, maybe it’s just cause I couldn’t get into the whole “OMG, Bruce Wayne’s robbing a bank? WTF, yo!” opening. However, I am interested to see what Snyder does with Clayface, who’s one of my favorite Arkham Regulars, and Capullo’s artwork is still Grade-A stuff. Not a bad issue by any stretch (I sorta did get a kick out seeing “Bruce” be an A-Hole at the beginning), but just not my kinda thing.

  3. Completely agree with you Conor. Although I’m surprised you didn’t know Clayface was the villain going into this, but I admit, I only knew because of solicits. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this whole thing wraps up and then it’ll be onto The Zero Year!

  4. I loved this. A smaller story was just what this title needed to recharge my interest. It was great seeing some lesser tier Bat villains too. Really enjoyed both Clayface and Reaper.

  5. nastysnow nastysnow says:

    Im gonna disagree I feel the last three issue of batman have been week imo. My pick was uncanny avenger acuna art made it my pick and remender story stayed strong

  6. roboadmiral roboadmiral says:

    The only problem I had with this issue was that DC spoiled the gatefold weeks ago. Seriously, these folks don’t seem to know how to avoid spoiling their own surprises.

    • Conor Kilpatrick Conor Kilpatrick (@cskilpatrick) says:

      The covers weren’t meant to be surprises. it was a two step process:

      1. Release half the cover image three months early in the solicitation cycle to intrigue and build up mystery.
      2. Reveal the second half of the cover image to “shock you” into buying the issue.

  7. RoughNTumble says:

    The little infodumps in the narration/dialogue were cool for a while, but now they’re starting to take me out of the story. Instead of ‘in victorian times they had a secret code based on flower color called floriography blah blah blah’ couldn’t we have just gotten ‘it’s more than a truck, it’s a letter. carnations for disappointment…marigolds for suffering…’

    The former reads as if it’s been copy/pasted from wikipedia. If I want to do my own quick search on the meaning of flower colors then it adds to my experience with the material. If I’m spoon-fed everything, where’s the fun?

    Then there’s that whole shape-shifter page…whew.

    Personally I greatly preferred batman and robin this week.

  8. ed209AF ed209AF says:

    I liked this issue but it had its problems. I thought the clayface reveal was obvious. The minute Bruce Wayne was doing something so utterly and completely un-Bruce like, I knew it had to be a clayface.

    I also don’t know how I feel about there being a zero year reference, I’ll decide on that in 13 months. That being said it is a fun clayface story and I am glad it won’t be a 6 month long one.

    Story 4 art 5

    In hindsight, I find it funny Snyder’s second shortest arc was his Joker one. (random thought)

    • Mart Mart says:

      Yeah, that ‘Zero Year’ comment by the Commish was as weird as when they mention ‘the Secret Wars’ or whatever in a Marvel comic – it’s characters branding their lives.

      Still, I enjoyed this issue, though I’d rather have seen both of the two stories as a done-in-one, one this issue, one the next. Batman and Robin was my favourite this week, though.

      Very nice review, Conor, and yeah, I’m with you on the refreshing aspect.

  9. muddi900 says:

    It seems there is no such thing as subtext in the DCU.

  10. Arathi411 Arathi411 says:

    Batman and Robin wins two months in a row over this book for me. Saga was pick of the week for me however with Thor a close second. Though I’m not the one who has to try and write another saga pick of the week review and actually try and make it interesting.

  11. APoetSomeday APoetSomeday says:

    I absolutely agree with Conor. In fact, I’ve been saying this for a while as well.

    Massive events are all well and good, but usually the damage they do to the ongoing storylines involves years upon years of dodgy retcons and unrevealed plots that simply do not hold up to scrutiny.

    Do that stuff too often and
    a) nobody cares anymore and
    b) continuity becomes a maze that is aggressively difficult to get through.

    We can all gather round for the major villain reveals (Black Mask is Jeremiah Arkham! Red Hood is Jason Todd! etc), but then those stories begin the familiar twisting, turning and knot tying of overly complex continuity that causes reboots (and the resultant fan outcry) in the first place.

    If Alfred had actually died in ‘Death of the Family’ (something that the majority of posters on here seemed to want to happen, for some reason) how the hell would they write around it? Very few readers seem to have stopped to consider that. Everyone seems to be demanding ‘I was there’ stories like ‘Killing Joke’ ‘Death in the Family’ and ‘Knightfall’ without stopping to realize that most of those books were a good few years removed from each other.

    This is one reason why I like the enjoyable ‘Batman vs Villain of the Week’ stories (there’s a good Mad Hatter story going on in ‘The Dark Knight’ right now that has seemingly nothing to do with anything), I like to track those sorts of two-parters down on eBay because they are fun and consistently fresh. Villains like Clayface, Killer Croc, Firefly, Mr. Freeze, Maxie Zeus and even Dr. Death are all tailor-made for short, fun stories like this.

    Its not a ‘bad’ or ‘anticlimactic’ story just because nobody gets permanently paralyzed, murdered or introduced for the first time. Some people need to go back and re-read some classic Batman tales, like the ‘Strange Apparitions’ trade or ‘The Demon Awakes’ trade, those stories moved the characters and their world forward massively and killed absolutely no-one important to the overall plot.

  12. crcomics says:

    Great review, heartily agreed with.

  13. phess1 phess1 says:

    I agree with your assessment. DC books are usually the first thing I read on my way to work and it was really refreshing to read a good self contained batman story. I’m among the contingent that feels like Snyder slipped a little bit in his overall quality of writing but this was a really great example of what he does well. Also that back up is far and away the best thing I have read by James Tynion IV ever.

  14. BC1 BC1 says:

    And what a great noir pulp-feeling cover, too! The shadowy gunman and the “victim” standing in the light are perfect images for any Batman book. Can’t wait to read the story.

  15. LeviHunt15 LeviHunt15 says:

    A great issue, I just wish that this, Thor, and Saga would stop coming out on the same week every month. Batman, Thor, and Saga deserve 3 of my 4 picks for the month but instead I can only pick one.

  16. jasonhart jasonhart says:

    I never realized it till now – but I will never be able to see the word “smooching” & not think immediately of Calvin & Hobbes.

  17. seanxxo seanxxo says:

    It was only a short backup but I really liked the way tynion wrote superman. I haven’t read all my books yet but this is up there for my potw.

  18. warbird1985 warbird1985 says:

    I was going ” to bet the farm” it would be Saga #12 just because people are scared of comic books. This was fun to read. I know Scott Snyder loves BTAS, he talked it on Fatman on Batman (which if you love the Dark Knight this Podcast is amazing!) Nice to see ol’ Basil and I liked that they mentioned he was an actor before. Conor off the topic question… Why don’t you review TMNT? you do Green Lantern and YJ…

  19. kennyg kennyg says:

    I agree, this was a fun book. I am so burned out on events and huge crossover stories that I didn’t even read Green Lantern Corps last night. I’m ready for that story arc to end. So it was nice that we get a nice little (and I mean that by comparison to “IMPORTANT” events) detective story, which I had missed. Sort of like when the guys on the podcast lament for the days when GL was telling stories about a space cop.

    I thought the backup story was very good too. I was surprised Snyder didn’t write it. James Tynion IV did a great job with the characters and their interaction. We all know Superman has a weakness where magic is concerned, but having him actually describe it was very clever. I don’t recall anything like this before. I thought Batman was a little quick to accept the paranormal, since he’s usually very cynical about that kind of thing, but maybe Superman’s descriptions convinced him.

    I don’t know if this was my POTW yet, still reading. Saga was good, but it’s not in my POTW short list. I saw that reveal coming before I was half way through the issue.

  20. batwomanbeyond batwomanbeyond (@batwomanbeyond) says:

    Such a great issue! The ‘twist’ that explained the shocking initial set-up was both unexpected and satisfying.

  21. microwave25 microwave25 says:

    Best issue in a while.

  22. theWAC1 theWAC1 says:

    The backup was excellent! Loved the dialogue and the creepy feel. Kinda like a Milligan Batman story. I want more of this kind of Batman. The main story was ok. It definitely had its moments, but the “twist” was rather obvious, and we just saw him in Detective (I liked that story better). I guess he escaped after DOTF? Well then where are all the other villains? My jury’s still out on whether I like Miki better than Glapion, because I was a big fan of the rough lines, but smooth where needed that Glapion brought. Does Miki do digital inks?? Anyways, my POTW was Thor, and if it wasn’t for the backup I think I would be indifferent to this issue, last month was better.

  23. Really enjoyed this issue. I don’t mind the “gimmick” covers, they used to do this all the time back in the 70′s — some outrageous situation or blurb on the cover, it’s part of what made comics fun. Better than generic poses they overuse for covers now.

  24. evildead78 says:

    Spot on review. As a (fairly) new comic addict I’ve actually wondered if the prominence of crossovers and events are detrimental to the industry in the long-term. I mean, if you’re a 13-year-old kid just getting into the Avengers, X-Men and Batman, looking to follow their most recent adventures, it must appear a little daunting. And I’ve heard the old-gaurd talk about how the discovery is half the fun, but seriously, what are the chances of these kids even being able to afford to do so? You often hear people bemoan the lack of ‘kids’ in comic shops, and I can’t imagine a novice like me is the first to suggest this, but surely that’s a major reason?

    Anyway, brililant issue and, if anything, I liked Tynion’s back-up even better.

  25. Bendrix Bendrix says:

    I really liked Glapions inking. But i like Mikis, too. What I like most about it, is that it looks different. It changes the look a bit, and so keeps it interresting, without changing the artist.

  26. ComicfanLyle says:

    I may well be in the minority here, but am I the only person who thought that Batman’s first arc(except for 6) is the weakest of all of Snyder’s run?

    • theWAC1 theWAC1 says:

      Might not be the only one, but I found the first arc (pre-crossover to early crossover) to be the most rewarding with the flashback, the sleuthing, the Nightwing drama (alright it was a little out there, but still really cool), fighting the Talon, all the “history”. Kinda downhill since, personally.

  27. mrshock13 says:

    I think shows like Batman: The Animated Series, Justice League Unlimited, etc. really helped to serve as a dichotomy for what was, and even currently is, being published. We get grand, sweeping epics of stories most of the time, with stories sometimes being over a year long. Even as Conor said, I absolutely love the big even stories, but it’s also nice to just get those one-and-done stories, that show a single mission or event, tied of nicely at the end. The half-hour time allowed for those stories to be told more frequently. Unfortunately, with the cancellation of Young Justice and Green Lantern, we must wait and see if its possible to get any more well told stories that usually can be contained within a half-hour frame.

    • player1 player1 says:

      Yeah, I really enjoy the episodic plotting for the cartoons.

      It’s great that they can all also tie into an overall story, as well.

      I’m thinking of JLU, A: EMH, YJ and the Venture Bros., especially.

  28. NRD NRD says:

    Completely true. I didn’t feel it too much with Batman but definately with Green Lantern I’ve just wanted something basic. There was too much “the universe will end, unless…”

    There are only so many times you can save the world before you start getting bored. Which is exactly why this issue was a breathe of fresh air.

    We need more of these stories in all comics.

  29. I love clay face and this was a GOOD issue. Thor: God of Thunder left everything else in the dust though, IMO. As soon as I saw Bruce robbing the bank I was completely ejected from the story and immediately thought, “oh, brother! Who’s this going to turn out to be?” I was surprised by the answer but not overly impressed by the issue. In Aaron’s Thor story I am almost gritting my teeth with eagerness for battle! But I’ve been on this site for what, 4 years now? And my pick has not once matched up with the site’s haha. Oh well.

  30. player1 player1 says:

    Interesting, because I’ve been looking for good one-and-done or two-issues stories lately.

    Particularly Batman and Superman, but also anything I can find, old or new, 8-pager or 48-pager.

    That search has led me to some really cool comics, and also to some really cool arcs and series.

    I’ll be adding Batman #19 to that list.

    Also, Conor, if you have any recommendations for notable one-and-dones, short graphic novels or short arcs, please feel free to leave a long list. Really enjoying Batman, Superman and the Spirit right now. Also was led to such stuff as Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom and BW: Minutemen, looking online for notable single issues.

    Cheers.

  31. player1 player1 says:

    For anybody who enjoys one-and-dones or short arcs, the Showcase books are wonderful.

    I’ve just been picking thru the Batman ones, looking for Man-Bat stories, and also reading the gritty and “street” detective and mystery tales. It’s been pretty fun checking out Frank Robbins, Bob Haney, Denny O’Neill, Dick Giordano, Nick Cardy, Neal Adams and Jim Aparo again.

    It reminds me that I can get a whole story in twenty pages.

    Also, there are quite a few lists of great single issues or two-issue stories on the net.