It’s not the best issue. It’s maybe the weakest art I’ve seen from Don Newton (with Alfredo Alcala inking him). A lot of the art is still amazing–most of it probably, but there’s also a lack of detail in a lot of places. Not like Alcala’s rushed because he still over-inks a couple faces. Very strange art this issue. Unfinished or over-cooked.
But then there’s the story itself. Or, how Doug Moench tells it. He tells it in a rhyming homage to How the Grinch Stole Christmas. It’s hilarious and wonderful. The opening is good and poetic–Moench’s narration, I mean–but later on it gets funny. It’s extremely creative and Moench has some great couplets.
There’s also some good stuff with Vicki and Alfred’s daughter teaming up for an adventure. Moench writes them better than Jason and Bruce; he hasn’t found a good chemistry for them.
The Glacier Under Gotham!; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Don Newton; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Todd Klein; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.
This issue is particularly strong. There’s great art from Newton and Alcala on the Penguin, but there’s also a lot of good stuff from Moench.
After many issues of ignoring the supporting cast, he’s got great scenes for Vicki Vale, Alfred’s daughter and even Bullock. The Vicki Vale one is the best though–the Penguin comes in looking for her to take his picture as a promotion of his crime spree; she’s the best photographer in the city, it’s going to be art.
It also sounds a lot like the Tim Burton Batman movie with a character change.
Moench nearly brings Bruce Wayne in, something he’s not comfortable doing normally. It’s like Jason Todd was an addition to keep Bruce from having any actual stories. But here, there are a few hints Moench might change his approach.
Again, the art’s simply gorgeous. Newton and Alcala outdo themselves on this issue.
Pieces of Penguin!; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Don Newton; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.
Bob Smith inking Don Newton is something to see. There’s almost an Eisner-like quality to the faces. It’s beautiful art on the feature.
But Moench’s writing is awesome too, whether it’s the main plot line with Batman teaming up with the Rocky stand-in to hunt down a killer or Jason feeling bad he was so crappy to Alfred’s daughter. Moench actually asks a bit of the reader–Vicki Vale figures in, but she hasn’t even had an appearance recently–but the scenes pay off.
The big boxing finale is only okay, however. Something about the way Batman stands down doesn’t play right. The epilogue’s very strong though. Moench’s trying hard to do something special with the comic.
Sadly, slapped on to this ambition is another odd Cavalieri’s Green Arrow backup. Half of this one is dedicated to the evils of corporate journalism. Cavalieri just can’t make Ollie likable.
Boxing; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Don Newton; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Adrienne Roy. Green Arrow, The Devil You Don’t Know; writer, Joey Cavalieri; penciller, Shawn McManus; inker, Sal Trapani; colorist, Jeanine Casey. Letterer, Ben Oda; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.
Moench retells Rocky with a handful of changes. Batman isn’t the biggest one, instead it’s how upfront Moench is about race. The champ’s black, the challenger is white and Moench talks about it length. It’s not just the boxers and their managers, it’s the regular people of Gotham. It’s kind of incredible.
And the majority of the issue doesn’t have anything to do with Batman. He gets something like three or five precent when Alfred’s daughter is jealous Bruce likes Vicki Vale more than her and then a little thing about Jason wearing Dr. Fang’s fake tooth.
Otherwise, the issue is about the boxers. Moench introduces three lead characters–boxers, trainer–and gives them a bunch ambitious scenes together. His conversations don’t always come off. For instance, the hardest talk about race pushes too much on honesty.
But he always tries. Moench doesn’t wimp away from the issues he’s raising.
What Price, the Prize?; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Don Newton; letterer and inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Adrienne Roy; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.
It’s a goofy issue to be sure, with Moench writing Catman as compulsively using words beginning with cat-. It gets annoying fast, probably before Batman even knows up.
As for the Batman and Robin development, there isn’t much to it. Instead, Moench concentrates on some subplot work with Alfred’s daughter maybe liking Bruce, which is icky, and Vicki Vale gets a brief appearance. Dr. Fang comes back for a moment too.
Moench’s Batman is a lot lighter. He’s looking forward to a new case, he jokes about the big street fight from the last issue. Then, once Catman reveals himself the villain, he’s “serious.” Or Robin keeps thinking about how he’s serious. It’s like Moench can’t decide how to characterize him. It’s Batman but Batman never gets to run the comic.
And Jason figuring out where Catman is going to strike from something at school just sounds stupid.
Nine Cradles of Death; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Don Newton; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.
Moench certainly does have an interesting take on Bruce Wayne–he ignores Jason, who is trying to fill him in on important Batman and Robin business, because he’s trying to score with Alfred’s daughter.
In front of Alfred. It’s exceptionally seedy and kind of funny. Moench opens the issue with Robin out on patrol by himself (doesn’t make sense, but whatever) so Batman is never really the protagonist this issue. Instead, Moench sticks with Jason throughout. It’s an interesting viewpoint, even if it’s a little silly at times.
And then Bullock reveals himself–it’s not a surprise–and there’s a huge action sequence with Batman and Robin fighting like fifty thugs. Don Newton, Alfredo Alcala, fifty thugs. It looks fantastic. It doesn’t make much sense and it doesn’t matter one bit. The art’s so good, Moench can practically do anything.
And his villain, Dr. Fang, proves it. He’s super lame.
Up Above the Sin So High…; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Don Newton; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.
Moench ends on a literal rough point–Batman smacking Deadshot around for information. The scene just feels wrong, maybe because it doesn’t seem like Deadshot should just reveal the information after one hit.
The issue opens with Alfred and his daughter on the run from Deadshot. This section is the best part of the comic, even though Moench drops too many hints about it being Deadshot after them. The cover kind of gives it away.
Batman shows up around halfway through to help them. At that point, Alfred and the daughter take a back seat to Batman going through all the clues. The clues lead to Deadshot and then Moench does these crazy thought balloons where he tries to explain both men’s motivations. It’s more for him, trying to justify their actions.
Not many subplots–Bullock maybe going dirty again, probably not.
Alcala goes overboard inking; otherwise the art’s good.
Target Practice; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Don Newton; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda; editors, Nicola Cuti and Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.
It’s a very simple issue, but Doug Moench really does pace it all out beautifully. It’s goofy even–Moench hasn’t got down how to get his superheroes not sound silly when talking about being superheroes–but it is beautifully paced. The issue features Jason Todd’s first two nights as Robin, which end in tragedy.
Pre or post-Crisis Jason Todd was apparently always a lot of trouble (more like the writers finally realized how nuts it was to have a kid running around beating people up). There’s also a cameo from Dick Grayson and Moench, along with artists Don Newton and Alfredo Alcala, figure out how to turn it into a great guest appearance.
Even with iffy dialogue. There’s just so much texture to the characters’ interplay.
The art’s fantastic, the pacing’s fantastic, the dialogue’s problematic… it’s a pretty darn good comic. Except maybe the cliffhanger, Moench tries too hard.
A Revenge of Rainbows; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Don Newton; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda; editor, Nicola Cuti and Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.
Conway does a riff on High Noon with Batman protecting a drug dealer from the vigilante, the Black Spider. Because Conway keeps all Batman’s plans from the reader, it does have some successful plot twists.
Except maybe when Batman falls down the entire Wayne Foundation tree and lives. The only real damage is to his costume–the cowl and pants survive, but it’s shirtless Batman for the final showdown. Very, very odd.
Calnan continues to be ambitious, particularly during action scenes and they still don’t come off. But it’s not a bad feature.
Rozakis’s backup, with Batman trying to discover the identity of his master blackmailer, is pretty good. It ends unsatisfactorily for Batman, which one has to assume would happen a lot. There are some great summary panels from Newton too.
I think the backup might have more subplots than the feature… Conway’s story is professional, Rozakis’s is passionate.
Night of Siege; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, John Calnan; colorist, Jerry Serpe. The Mystery Murderer of “Mrs. Batman”!; writer, Bob Rozakis; penciller, Don Newton; colorist, Adrienne Roy. Inker, Dave Hunt; letterer, Ben Oda; editors, E. Nelson Bridwell and Julius Schwartz; publisher, DC Comics.
There’s something off about the art in the feature story. John Calnan is actually really ambitious–interesting composition, lots of dynamic movement–but none of it works. There’s no depth; someone’s hand–gesturing–will look affixed to his or her face.
Not sure if it’s inker Dave Hunt or Calnan, but since Hunt does all right inking the backup, I’m assuming Calnan.
Gerry Conway writes the feature. It’s Batman versus terrorists with a subplot about Gotham millionaires losing their fortunes. Are these two plots somehow related? Sadly, yes. Actually, Conway pulls off the connection relatively well, he just has a goofy resolution for the terrorists. There’s the reality of a terrorist threat and the unreality of a giant slot machine.
Bob Rozakis’s backup has beautiful pencils from Don Newton and goes through Batman’s investigative process. It’s pretty cool, with Batman following leads without them panning out.
Incredibly weak cliffhanger though.
Death-Gamble of a Darknight Detective!; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, John Calnan; colorist, Jerry Serpe. With This Ring Find Me Dead!; writer, Bob Rozakis; penciller, Don Newton; colorist, Adrienne Roy. Inker, Dave Hunt; letterer, Ben Oda; editors, E. Nelson Bridwell and Julius Schwartz; publisher, DC Comics.
Moench makes an endless amount of strange narrative choices this issue. Only a couple of them are bad, but the rest might go either way.
The lesser bad one is how he handles Poison Ivy’s return. The issue is a direct sequel to her last appearance but there’s no flashback and almost no explanation of the previous events.
The worse bad one is the lame soft cliffhanger. Bruce brings Jason along on patrol and calls him Robin, even though Bruce previously said he couldn’t be called Robin. Big yawn. Moench’s fumbling the pair every issue now. He’s pacing it all wrong.
The strange bits include Bruce’s lack of interest in Alfred’s problems, Gordon’s recovery and the continued presence of Vicki Vale. Moench seems to be building these elements towards more importance, but he’s not giving any hints.
It’s a shame he’s not as effortlessly subtle with Bruce and Jason.
While this issue isn’t bad–the Newton and Alcala artwork is fabulous as always–all the things Moench has been playing fast and loose with build up and collapse here.
The first example is the Joker. Here, Moench’s Joker is a self-aware loon, out to have fun while he kills people and torments Batman. Only he doesn’t really kill anyone so there’s no danger. He’s just acting like a twit… one with a deep understanding of Guatemalan politics.
Next is the whole Jason Todd thing. This issue features Jason Todd in costume, freaking Batman out (because he thought Dick suddenly shrank, apparently) and another argument. There’s an argument every issue between Bruce and Jason about it; Moench’s drug it out way too long at this point.
It’s also unbelievable Jason could leave the country on his own.
However, the two subplots Moench’s been nursing–Gordon and Alfred–are blooming.
Lame cover and predictable villain reveal aside, this issue is pretty good. It’s Batman meets Indiana Jones, with Batman jetting down to South America to save Vicki Vale, who’s on assignment.
Moench takes the time to work on his Bruce and Jason storyline, which is mostly just Bruce giving in on the argument. Though, as he’s Jason’s guardian, it seems odd he should leave him unattended (Alfred’s off on his still unrevealed subplot).
There’s also enough time for some more on the Gordon storyline. And Moench’s trying to make Harvey Bullock sympathetic, but he’s cried wolf too much. It’s impossible to believe. That sequence, which should feature Bruce’s despondence over Gordon’s coma, goes too fast. Moench has trouble juggling the human and superhero elements in the book.
The end, Batman in the jungle, is fine. It’s Newton and Alcala. It’s absurd content, but beautifully illustrated.
The issue works surprisingly well.
In hindsight, there’s not much mystery to Doug Moench’s new villain. He has a limited pool of suspects–though it’s seemingly larger–but his execution of the investigation is so strong it doesn’t matter.
The issue opens with Jason Todd, run off with the old circus, feeling depressed. He’s investigating a series of home invasions in the towns the circus visits. It almost seems like the issue will be his, but Moench contrives to bring Batman in. It’s hard to get upset, because Don Newton and Alfredo Alcala do an amazing job bringing Batman to the circus.
The final half or so of the issue is just a long chase scene. Batman and Jason separately chasing the bad guy. Moench loses track of Jason for a little too long, but it’s a fantastic sequence.
Moench paces out the ending well. He devises a final, unexpected twist and a solid cliffhanger.