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Friday, March 14, 2014

Graphic Novels - Batman: The Black Glove HC

Some say that he is the one of the greatest comic book writers ever. Others say that he is a pretentious hack who comes up with weird story ideas. All they can agree on is this: the man has a name and his name is Grant Morrison.  Now, I personally fall in between those two camps. There are times where I like Morrison’s writing and  there are other times where his writing is pretty “Meh.” His Superman stuff is pretty good for the most part, but we’re not looking at Kal-El today. I will be talking about the hardcover version of Batman: The Black Glove. I actually bought this in Barnes and Noble over a year ago. I have wanted to read this run and I thought it might be a good buy.

This started Morrison’s long run with Batman and his supporting cast. Morrison does all of the writing. The pencillers and inkers are plenty. We have names like Andy Kubert, J.H. Williams III, and Tony Daniel on the book, so you know the artwork might be good. The issues are Batman #655-658, #663-669, and #672-675. Since this has 15 full issues and some are stand alone issues, this will be a long post. I won’t be too detailed with what happens. Besides, I know of a few blogs that try to explain the stuff in these issues. Yes, there are a few Morrison acolytes out there. 


Batman and Son (#655-558)
It all starts when the Joker is shot in the face by a cop dressed as Batman… about time, I say! Anyway, Batman’s been back from his year-long hiatus and cleaning up the streets of Gotham. He (at the behest of Alfred) decides to take a break and head to a London art show. He even meets a hot woman by the name of Jezebel Jet.  Unfortunately, trouble finds him there in the form of ninja Man-Bats… let me say that again: Ninja Man-Bats. He and a London diplomat get captured and taken to the leader of the ninjas: Talia al Gul. She lets him go, but she also leaves a special present with him: their 10 year-old son named Damien. From now on, I’m just calling this boy “The Brat.”
Try saying Batman's speech using Christian Bale's voice. You won't be able to do it.

Bruce takes The Brat home and things don’t work out too well. Damien is literally The Brat from Hell. He kills one villain, hurts Robin (Tim Drake) badly, roughs up Alfred, and even throws on Jason Todd’s old Robin uniform. Batman does his best to put The Brat on a leash as he looks for Talia. With The Brat’s help, he’s able to find Talia and save the London diplomat. Unfortunately, the submarine they’re on gets blown up and Batman loses them both at the end of the arc.

This was a pretty cool arc. The artwork is really good here. It’s the best work Kubert does in this hardcover. The action’s great and everyone looks right. I especially loved his artwork in the second issue. The writing is pretty also good. We actually get to see Bruce have a little fun and even get a new love interest. Then, he faces more weirdness in the form of Ninja Man-Bats, a crazy former lover, and an annoying son. Yes, Damien is a brat. I’d whip him if he were real and not a trained assassin! Other than Damien’s overbearing d-bag behavior, I really liked this 4-parter.

The Clown at Midnight (#663)
The next issue reinvents the Joker in a creepy way… and it’s entirely in prose. There are only a few images with it and they are computer-generated images. Basically, the Joker is somehow killing his former henchmen from Arkham. “Ole Mister J” is still healing from the wound he got to the face. Batman does what he can to stop the madness and he finds out that Harley Quinn is helping Joker kill his former henchmen. Joker eventually escapes from his cell and does a little bit of surgery on his face. Let’s say that he may have been influenced by the Heath Ledger.

Let’s put a smile on that face!

Batman makes it back to the Asylum. Harley is trying to help Joker escape when it’s revealed that Joker is planning to kill Harley as well.  Batman is supposed to be the witness to the murder. Joker grabs Harley and tries to end her, but she gets out of his grasp. Batman and Joker fight and Batman wins (of course). Harley then shoots the clown in the shoulder… Ow. The story ends as Batman takes Joker back to his cell.

This is an interesting one to read. I do like it, but it’s just okay. I did think the reinvention of the Joker was pretty interesting. It kind of works hand-in-hand with Batman’s transformation from “Too Dark” to “Just Dark.” I also thought some of the writing was pretty decent. It can be a little flowery at times though. The images for the issue are not that good. I’m not really a fan of the computer generated images here. Most of them aren’t bad, but the artwork seems too jarring when compared to the other artwork in the book. Overall, it’s okay issue, but it’s not my favorite of the bunch.

The Black Casebook arc (#664-665)
This two-parter centers on Bruce’s relationship with Jezebel and another threat. As those two are getting closer, it starts to get national attention. Meanwhile, Talia is having The Brat undergo surgery since she’s trying to make him the ultimate child. At night, Batman is patrolling the streets and trying to find out who has been killing prostitutes. He runs across some corrupt cops and that leads him to the killer. The killer is huge like Bane and in a custom-made Batman suit. I’ll just call him “Bane-Man.” Batman links Bane-Man to the other cop dressed up from the first storyline and that makes him think of something called the Black Casebook. Unfortunately, all of that thinking doesn’t help as Bane-Man goes “all-Knightfall” on Batman and beats him into unconsciousness.
Yeah... I wouldn't laugh at that guy either.

Thanks to a nice prostitute, Batman is able to get to his old penthouse and call Alfred and Tim (who is better by the way). As he has dreams about Damien and three Batmen (?????), they get him patched up. Tim heads out to find Bane-Man. Knowing that Robin will need help, Bruce suits back up. Together, they are able to take care of Bane-Man. As Batman asks Bane-Man for questions, he is shot at by cops. Through Gordon, Batman begins to realize that something is fishy with Gotham police since these fake Batmen are popping up.

This was a nice two-parter. It moves things along nicely. Andy Kubert’s artwork is good here, but it’s not as good as it was in the first arc. I do think Bane-Man looks a little ridiculous with the cape attached, but it is what it is. The writing is also pretty good. This shows that Batman isn’t prepared for everything like people say he is. We also get a little more info on what’s going on in Gotham with the fake Batmen and that there’s another fake Batman out there. We also have Bruce getting closer to Jezebel. Overall, It’s a good two parter.

Batman in Bethlehem (#666)
This off-beat issue takes place 15 years in the future. Armageddon is knocking on the door and Damien Wayne as Batman is the only one who can stop it from happening. That’s right, The Brat becomes Batman, but he is at least tolerable here. As he’s getting chased by the GCPD, Batman is trying to find the third fake Batman who believes himself to be the Anti-Christ… I’ll call him Bat-Devil. Anyway, many fights ensue as Batman faces Bat-Devil’s henchmen. Eventually, he’s able to kill Bat-Devil and the issue ends with Batman cancelling the Apocalypse… Man, I need to see Pacific Rim!
Woah... I actually think Gumillio del Toro may have ripped off Grant Morrison!

This is a weird one. I guess it’s supposed to fit into Morrison’s overall story, but I thought it was okay. The artwork from Kubert did help it move from “Meh” to okay. It’s also really violent. Damien comes off okay here. He’s a more brutal Batman than Bruce or Dick. I also liked the costume. Other than that stuff, there really isn’t much to say about the issue. The story is interesting since it talks about stuff that might happen in later issues. Overall, It’s just okay. It’s not bad, but it ain’t that great either.

Club of Heroes arc (#667-669)
This three-parter has Batman and Robin go to a faraway island. There, they meet up with the Club of Heroes, a bunch of international heroes that were inspired by the Batman. They were all gathered here by a man named John Mayhew, the man who used to fund the group. The heroes find out that someone has killed Mayhew and the killer is out to get them all. Some of the club members end up getting killed through traps and the killer himself. After some interesting plot twists, it’s revealed that the killers are actually after Batman. The true killer is revealed to be working for the Black Glove, a secret organization who is trying to kill the Batman.
Dang, this artwork is good.

This was a fun three-parter. The story is your standard mystery story with all of the twists and turns that come in those stories. It’s actually a pretty interesting one as well. I’m not well-versed on the Club of Heroes, so this was a treat. All of the characters on that former team were distinct and pretty funny at times. The real treat of the arc is the artwork by J.H. Williams III. It’s probably the standout artwork in this hardcover. It’s dynamic and really interesting. I especially like the layouts. Overall, this is one cool story arc.

Batman vs.Bat-Devil arc (#672-674)
This arc starts out with us finally seeing the third fake Batman aka “Bat-Devil” in the present time. He goes into Gotham’s police department and lights it up with a flame gun. He also takes Commissioner Gordon hostage. Bruce is off with Jezebel skydiving in the city when he gets the news of the attack. As they sky dive, he has Alfred come up with a distraction as Bruce changes into uniform. He gets to the police department and gets into a fight with Bat-Devil. Bat-Devil shoots Batman with an explosive and this causes him to have a heart attack. Then… this is where things go trippy.

Bruce has flashes of his life. He sees his parents get killed, he remembers his time at a temple during his year-long hiatus, and he remembers the time he faced Joe Chill (his parents’ killer) as Batman. Also, Bat-Mite is there too. There’s no explaining the second part to this story. It’s weird and interesting at the same time. Bat-Devil brings Batman back from the brink of death and it looks like he’s going to torture Batman "Saw-style" in the basement of the police department. It’s revealed here that the three fake Batmen were a product of a program that was designed to have replacement Batmen if the real Batman ever died. Unfortunately, the three cops went crazy and the program was shelved. We also find out that the police department kept this a secret from Gordon. It was all headed by a man named Doctor Simon Hurt.

I've got to show this because this is so implausible and pretty awesome at the same time. 

Batman also begins to remember that he actually faced these three fakes but he doesn’t know why he forgot about them. Batman is able to free himself (in one of the craziest ways possible) and fights Bat-Devil. Bane-Man shows up to help out the fake Batman but he gets a bullet to the head from a cop. As he escapes, Bat-Devil tells Batman that there an ultimate evil out there that wants to destroy him. All Batman has is a name: The Black Glove. After Bat-Devil escapes, Bruce heads back to his date.

This arc was one-part cool, one-part weird, and one-part cuckoo. First off, the story is pretty good. We finally get the answers on the three fake Batmen. Things then take a turn for the weird with all of the brainwashing and Bat-Mite. I wonder if Paul Rubens approves. Anyway, my favorite part of the arc is probably the trippy second chapter. You really have to pay attention to it. The artwork from Tony Daniel is really good and elevates the story. This arc’s style and the arc itself really prepares you for the next major story arc, Batman R.I.P. It’s a good one and definitely something to read.

The Prelude to R.I.P (#675)
The last issue to the trade has Nightwing and Robin taking out some crooks while Bruce has dinner with Jezebel. All is not well since Ms. Jet has had enough with Bruce’s disappearing antics. The two are about to break up when the restaurant is attacked by a group of terrorists. Their leader is from the Ten-Eye Brotherhood and is someone Bruce tangled with in the maxi-series, 52. They’re here for Jezebel. Bruce tries to intervene but gets knocked out. When taken out of sight, Bruce goes all Batman on the terrorists. Robin and Nightwing see the damage from afar and head to the restaurant. As he beats all of them, Jezebel pieces the puzzle together and realizes that Bruce Wayne is Batman. Elsewhere, Talia finds out that the Black Glove is out to kill her “beloved,” and she wants to stop them.
Symbolism!!!  Also, the artwork sucks!!!

This is an okay issue. The story is pretty decent. It furthers the Bruce’s and Jezebel’s relationship in a big way. Now she knows why Bruce is so reclusive. We also get a call back to 52, which is a series I still might look at. The artwork is this issue is pretty bad. It’s done by Ryan Benjamin and it’s really not appealing. The faces (especially Bruces’s) look weird at times. It’s definitely the worst art in the whole trade. Overall, this issue is okay. It’s really is just a precursor to Batman R.I.P. and sets up some characters for that storyline.

……………………………………………………………….

Overall, I really thought this was a good read. It’s not completely perfect, but it’s far from average. We have Batman doing a variety of stuff here. He’s traveling the world and fighting crime instead of being just centered in Gotham City. He’s facing Ninja Man-Bats for Pete’s sake! That’s freakin’ awesome!!! Instead of being all-broody, he’s a little lighter here. He even has a couple of quips. I’m guessing this was around the time where DC was trying to get away from the “All-Dark, All-Douchey” Batman that had been around since the 80’s.

All of the stories ranged from pretty good to okay. All of the multiparters are really good. My favorite out of all of them may be the arc featuring the Club of Heroes or the arc where Batman goes up against Bat-Devil. The whole concept of the GCPD creating different Batmen was actually pretty interesting. Since Batman himself is such a symbol, it makes sense that someone would want to use it to their advantage. The single-issue stories were okay but not that great. I will say that the Joker-centered story was probably my favorite from those stories.

The artwork is good overall. Kubert, Williams, and Daniel are the good spots to the art. As I said before, Williams was probably the standout artist of those three because his artwork was pretty unique. The colors and inks in all of the issues are pretty good as well. There are a couple of rough patches in the trade though. The images from the Joker-centered story weren’t my favorite in the trade. They’re not bad, but they’re not my cup of tea. Benjamin’s artwork in the last issue just looked sloppy for the most part. Other than those rough patches, the artwork is pretty awesome.

Overall, I recommend the trade. It's full of good stories and good art. It’s definitely something you’ll need if you ever plan on reading Morrison’s next storyline, Batman R.I.P. This will be something I’ll be looking at later this year since it is Batman’s 75th Birthday. I’ll also look at other stories from the different decades in the same way I did with Superman last year. Well, that’s all I have for those pretty long post. Peace, God Bless, and watch out for Ninja Man-Bats.

Nice.

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