One of the fundamental tensions of Batman as a character is that he’s a criminal. Leaving aside the funny suit and Gotham’s seemingly inexhaustible supply of homicidally insane chemical weapons engineers, he’s a grown man who goes out and beats the crap out of people at night as a way of dealing with his parents’ death. So who’s going to hold him accountable? What if he screws up? What’s so fascinating about the last few issues of Batman, in an arc that ends today with issue #53 called “Cold Days,” is that DC Comics is letting Tom King, Lee Weeks, and Elizabeth Breitweiser answer those questions.
The premise looks, at first, like Twelve Angry Men. Mr. Freeze is on trial for several murders, after being beaten nearly to death by Batman, who isn’t taking his dumping by Catwoman very well. On the jury is Bruce Wayne, who is, essentially, putting himself on trial, because Bruce isn’t Bruce if he’s not being absurdly hard on himself. At root is the question: Is Batman infallible? Really this becomes an eloquently argued courtroom monologue.
King has an answer in mind, but what’s great about this book is that he lets you find the answer and, more importantly, it makes sense for Bruce Wayne to come to the conclusions he does. Of course Bruce should question himself, and sometimes his mistakes have costs. Weeks and Breitweiser, meanwhile, offer some beautiful art to go along with King’s jury room monologue. Taken together, this is one of the more compelling arcs we’ve seen featuring Batman in a long while, and worth picking up if you’ve ever asked just where the Caped Crusader gets off with his vigilantism.
Ninja-K #10, Valiant
One of the ongoing themes of Christos Gage’s run on this book, here assisted by Larry Stroman and Ryan Linn on art, is that being a spy has moral costs, and being a superspy and assassin has ruinous ones. As we’ve delved into the ugly history of the Ninja program, we’ve seen the many different facets of this, not so far removed from some real-life intelligence agency moves, but none more vivid than the story of Ninja-H, the Thatcher era Ninja turned into a cyborg, with an evil AI on board. The core twist of this book is a painful one that sticks to the theme, pointing out all the costs of killing for your country, right or wrong.
Volition #1, Aftershock Comics
Ryan Parrott and Omar Francia skip all the usual robot apocalypse tropes. Robots aren’t here to kill us all, they don’t act with one purpose, they have their rights… but the constant upgrades of technology and the social weapons of discrimination and neglect still keep them second-class citizens, and a transmittable computer virus called “Rust” isn’t helping matters. This unabashedly old-school SF tale moves fast and is a lot of fun, not least thanks to Francia’s slick, ’80s-style designs of the various robots.
Crowded #1, Image Comics
Christopher Sebela, Ro Stein, Ted Grant and Triona Farrell deliver a mix of caper and cautionary story about a future where every job is in the gig economy, and anybody can crowdfund for anything, including, apparently, the murder of a selfie-obsessed airhead with a Chihuahua, and the hiring of a bodyguard to protect her while a month-long bounty sits on her head. The riddle, of course, is why this seeming nobody is in the crosshairs, but Sebela wisely leaves that for another issue, while Stein, Grant and Farrell have a grand old time offering up a candy-colored, app-driven future that’s a little too close to our own for comfort.
Edge Of Spider-Geddon #1, Marvel
Jed McKay, Gerraro Sandoval and Brian Reber kick off the seemingly obligatory crossover prequel miniseries with a rather pointed satire of corporate iconography starring the Anarchic Spider-Man. Who gets his ass kicked by an army of Tsum-Tsum dolls. Hey, punk isn’t famous for subtlety. That said, this snarky, snot-nosed middle finger to how culture and money masticates even the toughest anarchist gristle into merchandise is a brisk, funny read that gives the current superhero culture a needling it deserves.
Archie Meets Batman ’66 #2, DC/Archie: Jeff Parker and Dan Parent’s gut-busting crossover continues with an even funnier second issue.
The Weatherman #3, Image Comics: Jody LeHeup and Nathan Fox continue their SF buddy comedy as the titular weatherman comes to accept his bizarre circumstances, which isn’t the same as liking them.
Terminator: Sector War #1, Dark Horse: Brian Wood and Jeff Stokely tell a parallel story of a Terminator in 1984 New York, and the pregnant rookie cop who has to face him down.
The Wild Storm #16, DC Comics: Warren Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt take a slight breather in their brilliant superhero conspiracy thriller.
Fence #9, BOOM! Studios: C.S. Pascat and Johanna The Mad pay off the fencing match this book has been leading up to, with surprising results for both the arrogant prodigy Seiji and the perpetually angry Nicholas.
This Week’s Best Collections
Sanpaku, BOOM! Studios ($25, Softcover): Kate Gavino’s look at the weird superstitions and fears any teenager struggles will strike a chord with anybody who not-so-fondly remembers the anxiety and dread of high school.
Kill Or Be Killed: Vol. 4, Image Comics ($17, Softcover): The brilliant deconstruction of vigilante stories from Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, and Elizabeth Breitweiser ends on a high note.
Astro City: Broken Melody, DC Comics ($25, Softcover): Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson wrap up the latest run of their humanist superhero tales with a superb set of stories about the little guy in a world full of titans, gods, and monsters.