Batman and The Flash each reached issue number fifty recently and I wanted to write about what I thought about each. One comic was exciting and riveting and one was not. One comic had a great build up and the other did. Let’s get to it, shall we?
Batman #45 – 50, Prelude to the Wedding parts 1-5
Writer – Tom King (Batman), Tim Seeley (Prelude)
Artist – Mikel Janin (Batman), Prelude (Various)
Colorist – June Chung
Letterer – Clayton Cowles
Over the weekend I got caught up on Batman. I read “The Gift”, “Prelude to the Wedding”, “The Best Man”, and of course “The Wedding”. I’m normally a big Tom King fan, but I do not think this was his best work. While the lead up was interesting, I felt let down in the end. I thought the Prelude comics were quite good, but since they had no bearing on the outcome of what happened in the wedding issue and I felt like I got scammed. It was not all bad though, there were some good things, like Booster Gold showing up, Robin fighting his grand dad and breaking his favorite arcade game, and we find out Superman has a pocket universe where he can just go fishing.
“The Gift” runs through three issues and we get a story about Booster Gold and the wedding gift he gets for Batman. The gift we come to find out is Bruce Wayne gets to see what life would have been like if his parents were not murdered. Booster Gold has traveled to the past to change history and now the present is a mess. Gotham is constantly on fire, there are Jokers everywhere and Hal Jordan may have blown his mind out with his ring. The best thing about the story is great dialogue between Skeets and Booster.
My biggest gripe about the story is not the things that are wrong with the present in this reality or the very disturbing end of the arc, it is something small. At one point Booster is explaining what he did for the adult Bruce Wayne. In Booster’s explanation he references the Black Mercy from the classic story in Superman Annual #11, “For the Man who Has Everything”. This is the story where Superman is trapped in his own mind, living out his greatest wish, that Krypton had not been destroyed. In the story Krypton is still dying and Superman knows it is wrong and even though he gets what he wants it still all ends up going poorly. Well Booster Gold thought the same “what if” scenario would be good for Batman, what if his parents had not been killed after the movie.
There are several things wrong with this line of thinking. First of all, Superman doesn’t really get what he wants and Booster knows that, but he still thinks Bruce Wayne might? Second of all, I don’t think DC can have it both ways. They cannot write stories with loose or no continuity with the old DCU, to make it easier for new readers and then reference parts of their history and ignore others. How can Booster Gold know about the Black Mercy but not remember when he tried repeatedly to prevent Barbara Gordon from being paralyzed by the Joker and failed because certain events in the time stream cannot be changed? I’m sorry but they don’t get to have that cake and eat it too.
I don’t want that to sound like I am against everything that DC is trying to do with Rebirth. I am totally okay with their goals of having less titles crossover all the time and having less continuity focused stories. I think these are great ways to encourage creativity and gain new readers. Moving on.
The Prelude to the wedding stories were generally pretty good. They all involve members of the Bat Family trying to help get things ready for the wedding. I thought the stand out stories were the Robin / Ra’s al Ghul and the Batgirl / Riddler issues. The Robin story was fun because I have not read many of the Damian Wayne comics and it was cool to see Ra’s show up. There is also a great moment at the end between Damian and Selina that was worth the price of admission alone. The Batgirl story was fun, again because I don’t read Batgirl, and it was great to see her save the Riddler’s victims while she deciphered his audio cassette riddles. I could easily appreciate these comics on their own and don’t hold my disappointment with the whole wedding arc against them.
“The Best Man” issues, number 48 and 49, were not my favorite issues in the series either. The Joker is doing everything he can to get “invited” to Batman’s wedding as we see in the DC nation zero and the Prelude issues. I found these two comics to be more violent than was necessary and the overly psychotic Joker to be getting a little old. Scott Snyder really pushed it with the Joker in his new 52 run, there is no need for King to try and top that. The one thing that these issues did for me is that they did explain why the Wedding was not going to happen in the next issue.
Finally, “The Wedding”, the big deal issue, what the previous forty nine issues have been leading up to. All I can say is wow, what a let down. Batman and Catwoman, don’t get married after all that. “I for one am shocked, shocked I say. Well, not that shocked.” King telegraphed his out in the previous issues. It was no surprise that the Wedding did not happen (even if you didn’t see the coverage before the comic’s release). Honestly it would have been a bigger surprise to the fans if the wedding had happened. The last issue is filled with some great art and pinups but not much else. The writing goes on too long and the surprise ending is just a vague teaser for what’s to come. King has tried to assure the fans that there is more to come in the Batman / Catwoman saga. I enjoy his writing enough that I’ll keep reading and maybe in the end he’ll have put together such a great story that I’ll end up eating all these negative comments. Until then, let’s move on to The Flash.
The Flash 49 – 50, The Flash War part 3 & 4
Writer – Joshua Williamson
Artist – Howard Porter
Colorist – Hi-Fi
Letterer – Steve Wands
I’ve been more caught up with the Flash so there were less issues for me to read. I am also not a long time Flash reader so there are quite a few references and other things I probably missed in this series. What I do know is that the Flash, Barry Allen, and the Flash, Wally West, are racing across the Earth in order to find Wally’s kids who are possibly trapped in the Speed Force. Or at least that is what Hunter Zolomon would have them believe.
Since the beginning of Rebirth and the return of Wally West, things have not been quite right. We received lots of clues that the heroes are remembering things from before the Flashpoint event. They are realizing that people are missing from their lives. Throughout this series Barry Allen has struggled with how to deal with Wally’s return, how to explain it to Iris West, and her current nephew Wally West and the current kid Flash. It has been quite a web that Williamson has been building.
The series of challenges that Barry and Wally have faced are finally all coming to head. In the Perfect Storm story Wally decides enough is enough, that Barry cannot control everything and protect everyone. Wally has to get out from under Barry’s protective influence if he is every going to figure out what is going on. Hunter Zolomon, Zoom, gives him the final push hinting that Wally’s kids, pre Flashpoint, are still alive, stuck in the Speed Force just like he was. As Wally starts to remember his kids he realizes how bad they must have it, because he too was stuck in the speed force. Barry tries to stop Wally from going back into the Speed Force. He tries to convince Wally that no good can come from what he is trying to do. Wally’s not having it, so they race, faster than anyone can go. As they race they are causing a lot of problems around the world. The Justice League tries to stop them but even Superman can not catch them.
As Wally tries to enter the Speed Force something goes wrong and they stop. Turns out they have done what Zolomon wanted all along. They broke the Speed Force and / or the force barrier and unleashed new forces on the world. Similar in the way that Metal introduced the Dark Universe, broke the Source Wall, and introduced Metal X, the Flashes have introduced the Sage Force and the Strength Force. Hunter Zolomon, Zoom, has tricked the Flashes and plans on using this new power to make the future as he desires.
The fiftieth issue has Barry and Wally trying to fix the problems they’ve caused. A lot happens that I don’t know what it means and the last couple of pages have some huge reveals. Barry and Wally realize that Zoom tricked them and that they have to fix that. Just like in Batman fifty the heroes reach the end of one journey and a new one gets launched.
King’s Batman and Williamson’s Flash have both been very engaging but very different reads.
King has been using seemingly unrelated stories to build to something; however, unclear that something is. There have been a lot of highs and lows in the first fifty issues with the art being the only consistently great thing about the series. King’s issue fifty ends a long running wedding story in the way he telegraphed throughout the run. There was no surprise, just a disappointing comic where almost nothing happened, that ends up being the stepping off point for the rest of the story.
Williamson has been doing something similar, using shorter series to build one one big story. The difference with what Williamson is doing though is that each arc built on the previous one and advanced the story. In each series we get a little closer to the end game. As the story progresses, just like Wally West’s memories returning, we get closer to a Crisis / Flashpoint like event. We get more clues that things that are missing are meant to be found. Could this mean the return of the JSA characters? Maybe. Could it be an event that returns DC to pre-Flashpoint continuity? Maybe.
All we know at this point is that with each excellent story Williamson writes, we the readers, are getting closer to something that is probably going to be really great, and really significant. In King’s case many of the stories seem to be very well written but complex riddles that make the reader more puzzled than they were at the beginning and still wondering where it is all going at the end.
The one problem that both series have is that they are taking way too long to get where they are going. This pattern can be found all over DC. Metal was two issues too long and took too long long to come out. The Button Story was awesome but came out a long time ago at this point. Doomsday Clock is consistently late. I know that the object is to keep the reader coming back for more and that is what all these series do. For all the negativity, as long as DC has creators as talented as Tom King, Joshua Williamson, Mikel Janin, and Howard Porter I’ll be right there with them loving it, being disappointed by it, but having a good time on the journey.