Batman #26 Review

  • Written by Tom King
  • Pencils by Mikel Janin
  • Inks by Mikel Janin
  • Colored by June Chung
  • Cover by Mikel Janin

This is the first time in memory that I’m enjoying a monthly Batman comic.

Gang war between The Riddler and the Joker continues with the narrative gaming device of Batman telling this story of his early days in the cowl to Catwoman in bed. Every person killed in the war is named with personal details Batman knew of them. Even dead gangsters have details like, “Played Santa every year at his church festival.”

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It is the second issue in this arc and the war is ramping up with Gotham’s police and vigilante still reacting and cleaning up the mess left in it’s wake. Batman is in this odd role, using his skills as the World’s Greatest Detective to record the dead and remembering their names and who they were. Most of the narrative oomph of the issue is given to those who are killed.

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It is pretty clear that this arc is about a mistake Batman made during the course of the conflict, maybe not a big mistake but something he should have done differently. I’m curious to hear what he wants to to learn and how it will effect the next arc of the series.

Thinking about the Suicide Squad trailer and post-9/11 super hero movies.

If I were a media studies professor, I’d be writing a book about how post-9/11 super-hero movies are how America is digesting the attacks and the ensuing wars and politics. In some cases, they are highlighting who they think can save us from catastrophe and how.

Most are in some way about the towers falling – dust in the air, buildings falling, people running. This one might be kinda/sorta be about Guantanamo. I am intrigued.

Marvel Heroic Role-Playing: A Tour of Marvel’s Golden, Silver, Modern and Heroic Ages w/ Superman, Batman & Wonder Woman

The last post, in which Golden Age Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are statted out.

tl;dr Batman, Superman and/or Wonder Woman were stranded in Marvel’s 616 during World War II. The game sends the players careening through Marvel’s history, taking part in your favorite flashpoints.

Golden Age

“The world needs Captain America more than it needs Bucky.”

If you are Diana, you are flying Captain America and Bucky in to the Red Skull’s fortress where his rocket ship is hidden. Batman and Superman would likely be flying in a bomber alongside them.

Action Scene Ideas:

  • Messerschmitts get on your six and start lighting you up, threatening to put you in the ocean, forcing you to have to swim to Norway.
  • A horde of HYDRA goons in the way.
  • Thor, god of Thunder, mind-controlled by the Spear of Destiny is guarding the Red Skull’s retreat into his rocket ship.

Does history repeat itself or does Bucky live and Captain America stay out of the iceberg?

P.S. I know it was really Baron Zemo but Red Skull is so much cooler.

Patriotism

“I’ve become a political liability and you, you’re a joke.”

1XP When you discuss what it means to be an American.
3XP When you do violence on behalf of the United States.
10XP When you either walk away from this mission with a patriot’s heart or create Distinction or Milestone about your troubled relationship with United States politics.

Mission or the Man?

“This Ryan better be worth it.”

1XP When you bark orders or follow orders.
3XP When you change the plan.
10XP When you either complete the mission and bring the Red Skull to justice or set that aside in order to save your friends.

Silver Age

The Night Gwen Stacy Died

You hear on the radio that some kid in a spruiced up luchadore mask and some jury-rigged “web” shooters is fighting with a madman dressed in a goblin suit while riding a jet sled over the Brooklyn Bridge. A young lady is involved.

Action Scene Ideas:

  • This kid is an amateur. Can you get him out of the way so you can save the young lady?
  • The Goblin is tossing grenades.
  • Is this all a smokescreen for the Rhino to knock an armored truck off of the bridge into the water below and rob it? Maybe.
  • Cars careening out of control. Cops pulling guns on anyone who looks the least bit super-heroic. These are the early days of New York City’s super-hero tradition, before Iron Man flying by your office window was a kinda cool tweet.
  • Again, does history play out and if so, does Parker kill the Green Goblin or do you?

Parker’s Mentor

“Don’t loan anyone named Mockingbird or Wolverine money.”

1XP When you tell Spider-man or Gwen Stacy what to do.
3XP When you ask Parker or Gwen Stacy for advice.
10XP When you either take Spider-man or Gwen Stacy as your sidekick or give them a stern talking-to about future super-heroic dalliances and walk away.

The Osborn Solution

“In this world there is right and there is wrong and that distinction is not difficult to make.”

1XP When you threaten Osborn.
3XP When you try to help Osborn.
10XP When you either kill him once and for all or bring him to justice, hoping that his money doesn’t just buy him out of his criminal acts.

Modern Age

The Mutant Massacre


A young Morlock girl whose power is the ability to turn paper-thin runs up to you in (at your home?) and begs for help as the Marauders are hunting her for sport.

Action Scene Ideas:

  • Hunting Marauders in the tunnels.
  • Batman vs. Sabretooth or Wonder Woman vs. Sabretooth
  • Thor’s back…he seems to be a good guy…do you trust him or are you still holding a WWII grudge? Sure, a good old fashioned misunderstanding super-hero fight.
  • Showdown with Apocalypse as he uses the slaughter to gather his 4 Horsemen.
  • Confrontation with Mr. Sinister…

Mutant-friend

“Magneto was right.”

1XP When you ask mutants about their points of view, history or struggles.
3XP When you offer your skills to aid the mutant community.
10XP When you either go before the U.N. and speak on behalf of mutant-kind or walk away from the X-Men and all of their struggles, leaving mutant problems to the mutants.

Barry Windsor Smith, X-Men #205

Marauder Hunter

“We’re the best at what we do…”

1XP When you plan an attack against the Marauders.
3XP When you deal damage to a Marauder.
10XP When you either track the Marauders down to the person who put them into action or stop them all from ever being able to murder again.

Heroic Age

Civil War

Start with the Congressional hearings, having the Trinity choose sides and then launch into either hunting down non-compliant heroes or going on the run.

I don’t feel like I need to list cool ideas for action scenes because the supplements will be chock full-o-ideas. I love the idea of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman tipping the scales. And Clor gives them another excuse to beat up a quasi-Thunder God.

Structure

Action Scenes and Transition Scenes


Between each Age, I’ll ask the players how their characters are showing their years. If they are getting old, how are they able to continue? Or is this age the birth of someone new taking the mantle with appropriate changes to the character sheet. That said, I’m happy with the players giving answers that amount to Kingdom Come cosmetic changes that are not reflected on the character sheet or Batman taking Fury’s Infinity Serum or Superman handing the Big Red S to Hyperion or Wonder Woman handing the golden lasso to Carol Danvers or Batman taking Rick Jones as Robin.

Do they become more and more like their Silver and Modern age equivalents or do they stay as they were when they arrived during WWII?

I’d set it up like Mouseguard’s Players’ Turn and GM’s Turn. In the Action Scenes I set up in media res action scenes like the first pages of a comic book. The Transition Scenes being those bits in-between be it fun social interactions, building something, training someone, seeking solace or healing or good ole fashioned investigation. If they had no ideas, just set them up with a conversation in very mundane circumstances with a cool super-hero.

Low-Key Transition Scene Ideas:

  • Bruce Wayne and Matt Murdock talking law.
  • Bruce Wayne and Marc Spector talking about mental health.
  • Clark Kent  and Ben Ulrich talking about journalism.
  • Diana Prince and Ororo Munroe talking about leadership.
  • Superman asking Reed Richards for help finding Krypton or discussing if there even is such a planet in this reality.
  • Wonder Woman out drinking with Hercules.
  • Batman trying to mentor the Punisher.
  • Batman out on a date with Black Cat.
  • Being wooed by Namor.
  • Talking to Dr. Doom or Dr. Strange about returning to their own reality.
  • Dinner at the Avengers Mansion.
  • Helping with training exercises in the Danger Room.

Essentially, Action Scenes are exciting set pieces with interesting outcomes based on player choice and success. An Action Scene might grow organically from a Transition Scene and if so, Praise be to Clor! Some Transition Scenes might grow from the Action Scenes, with Batman researching Norman Osborn’s business dealings with Roxxon or Superman scanning the Morlock tunnels for survivors or Wonder Woman training Morlocks to defend themselves.

Milestones

The Authority and Marvel milestones might be relevant at different times.

I ❤ Batman

“…and I’m a rich kid with issues, lots of issues.”

1XP When you show affection to the Caped Crusader during an Action Scene.
3XP When you save his ass from serious trouble.
10XP When you either marry him, mask and all or break it off forever, after telling him that he is effing crazy.

I ❤ Bruce

“This would be a good life, good enough.”

1XP When you show affection for Bruce, the man behind the mask or downplay Batman.
3XP When you talk about Batman as a sign of serious psychosis.
10XP When you either get Bruce to quite the cape and cowl or accept the Bat as an integral part of Bruce’s life.

Oh, Diana.

“You’re a princess from a society of immortal warriors… “

1XP When you help Diana get in touch with her Amazon roots or do something romantic with her in a place that has mythical significance.
3XP When you get into an argument with Diana about gender and patriarchy or mansplain.
10XP When you either pledge your undying love to Diana or do something shitty and passive-aggressive that you know will force her to dump you (and it does).

Oh, Kal

“You’ve got me. Whose got you?”

1XP When you help Superman get in touch with his Kryptonian heritage or spend a Transition Scene doing something romantic with him.
3XP When you cause Superman mental stress, letting him know that he isn’t responsible for saving everyone.
10XP When you either move in to his Fortress of Solitude and get serious about making a family together or declare his messiah complex bullshit unbearable and move on.

Oh, Clark

“Hey there, Smallville…”

1XP When you show affection for Clark Kent.
3XP When you point out how Clark is being hopelessly naive.
10XP When you either marry Clark Kent or end the relationship because he is too much of a boy scout or you believe he is better than you deserve. If you break it off, choose on and tell him.

Trinity Triangle

“Dating within the team always leads to disaster.”

1XP When you do something petty and jealous.
3XP When you help the other two get together.
10XP When you either step away from any romantic entanglements within the Trinity or find a way to make the relationship with all 3 together work.

Thomas and Martha

“How, father? How do I do it?”

1XP When you talk about memories of your parents.
3XP When you talk about the night they died.
10XP When you either find peace and put your grief to rest or have the injustice of your pain rubbed as raw as the day it occurred.

Last Kryptonian

“My son, you do not remember me. I am Jor-El.”

1XP When you talk about your Kryptonian heritage.
3XP When you talk about something you learned in Smallville or Metropolis.
10XP When you either try to being back the philosophies of Krypton through your own traditions and lifestyle or find peace with your Kryptonian heritage and your adopted home.

Themisciryan

“…in a world torn by the wars and hatred of men…”

1XP When you discuss an injustice of the Man’s World.
3XP When you discuss something you enjoy that was not available at home.
10XP When you either return to Themiscrya never intending to return or find peace in your role as diplomat on behalf of your mother and sisters and teach your sisters here.

Marvel NOW! #1’s: A few short reviews

My main problem with the creative shuffling going on at Marvel is that there are too many books that I am interested in adding to my pull list.

I get my comics once a month, so forgive me if my reviews will be a bit behind.

All-New X-Men #1 by Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonem

My only criticism of Bendis’ writing is that it often feels like he writes to the graphic novel, sometimes leaving single issues that feel a bit thin. By the time I picked this issue up, I knew the premise of the comic. The first issue pretty much shows how that premise comes to be. That said, I’m in.

I really like the concept, of our present time being a dark future that the X-Men always feared and the original 5 X-Men, all fresh-faced, naive and young, come to the present to deal with the state of mutant-kind. The modern-day Cyclops has become the most interesting kind of villain, in the tradition of Magneto, the kind who thinks they are right and have a damned good point. This is the first time I have been excited by an X-Men comic in my adult life.

The art by Immonen is amazing, the best looking book of the Marvel NOW! lot so far.

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Uncanny Avengers #1 by Rick Remender and John Cassaday

In a way, Uncanny Avengers is the flag ship of the post-AvX, Marvel NOW! world, a world in which the Avengers and X-books will blend a bit more. We get Wolverine’s funeral speech and Havok visiting his brother in jail, some tension brewing between Rogue and the Scarlet Witch and the introduction to the main villain – a clone of the Red Skull that has been in cryo-freeze since WWII.

Based on Remender’s splendid run on Uncanny X-Force and Cassaday’s stellar art I’m buying in to this madness and imagine that it will be good fun.

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Captain America #1 by Rick Remender and John Romita Jr.

I wasn’t going to buy this one but made an impulse buy at the comic book store and this was in that impulsive pile along with Iron Man #1, reviewed below. I like Remender’s take on Cap, he talks a bit like your grandpa and somehow I got a glimpse of conservative politics that I might be making up but I don’t think so. Rather than seeing flashbacks to WWII, we are getting flashbacks to Cap’s childhood growing up in the Great Depression with a tough mom and an alcoholic abusive dad. The book needs some kind of grounding flashbacks, not just to give us a new glimpse into Steve Rogers but because the first issue sends Cap to another dimension ruled by Arnim Zola.

I liked this book and think it will be good fun but I’m buying too many comic books as it is, so this one has to go. If I hear good things maybe I will pick up a trade paperback or keep my eye open for a sale on at Comixology if I should become the owner of a tablet.

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Iron Man #1 by Kieron Gillen and Greg Land

I’ve never been a big Iron Man fan but I tend to follow creative teams, mostly writers, rather than a particular hero or team. That said, I have always liked AIM and loved the movies. I just couldn’t get into this one. The plot didn’t do much for me and Land’s art makes everyone look like underwear models (even more than they usually do in comic books). It was the only book of the lot where I put it down and did not care what happened next week.

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Thor: God of Thunder #1 by Jason Aaron and Esda Ribic

This comic is showing three different Thor’s in three different eras. We’ve got the current Thor, a young pre-mjolnir viking Thor and a grizzled King Thor with one arm, sitting on the throne of a deserted Asgard. The art is luscious and the premise, Thor coming across a faraway planet with a dead pantheon, killed by a serial killer who murders deities is Thor at his best, cosmic and a touch gonzo. That said, it felt like they put an unnamed Native American deity into a fridge on the first issue, a victim of the God-Butcher. That bugged the hell out of me. If future issues don’t somehow make this right, I’ll likely be putting it down.

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Fantastic Four #1 by Matt Fraction and Mark Bagley

A father wants to teach his children about the world around them, so he is bringing them all on a road trip. Only, this family is the Fantastic Four, so the road trip is a cosmic romp through the galaxy and the father’s cosmic radiation-granted super-powers are unstable and he needs to find a cure.  I loved Hickman’s run on the Fantastic Four, so I am really excited to see where Fraction takes the book, as I am a fan of Hawkeye.

Fantastic Four is a book that I always want to be great but only rarely satisfies me. I’m strapped in, hoping this run does the trick.

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tl;dr: I’m adding All-New X-Men, Thor: God of Thunder, Fantastic Four and Uncanny Avengers to my pull list but not Captain America or Iron Man.

If you have any thoughts about this comics, please let me know.

Next Issue: I’ll look at FF#1 and Indestructible Hulk #1. I won’t be reviewing each issue but will go back and look at the titles that hold my interest’s first arcs.

Marvel Heroic Role-Playing: “NPR is giving Ohio to Tony Stark but Florida is Rogers all the way.”

In the Ultimates, Captain America was just elected president. President Bruce Banner, Vice-President Jennifer Walters and Press Secretary Peter Parker all interest me.

 

Executive-in-Chief

“I have saved you all, now I am honored to be elected to serve you all.”

1XP When you give a presidential order.
3XP When you seek out political counsel during a Transition Scene.
10XP When you either step down as president or announce that you are running for another term.

Veep

“I am behind our POTUS, 100%.”

1XP When you support the POTUS.
3XP When you disagree with the POTUS.
10XP When you either step up and take over as the POTUS or leave the life of politics.

Cabinet Member

“Mr. President, you cannot lift the sanctions against Latveria.”

1XP When you counsel the President.
3XP When you use your cabinet position for your own gain.
10XP When you either step down from your cabinet position or announce that you are running for a more prominent elected position.

Interviews on Thor: God of Thunder, The Indestructible Hulk and All-New X-Men.

Newsarama published 3 interviews about the upcoming Marvel NOW! books, Thor: God of Thunder, The Indestructible Hulk and All-New X-Men. Here are the quotes that grabbed me and some thoughts.

Thor: God of Thunder

Stringing all three of these stories is one new villain, basically a serial killer of gods,” Aaron says of new antagonist, Gorr the God Butcher.

The series, as noted previously, features Thor from three different eras: Viking-era Thor, current Thor, and “old King Thor.

The story introduces a lot of new “space gods,” Aaron discloses.

In battle, King Thor replaces his missing arm with the arm of a Destroyer.

I like it when Thor goes strange and cosmic.

The Indestructible Hulk

“As it was with Daredevil, part of the edict was, ‘let’s make sure we strengthen Hulk’s ties to the Marvel Universe in general,'” Waid says. Accomplishing that involves Hulk facing off against familiar villains he’s not known for interacting with, and taking him to new (to Hulk) locales. The best way to accomplish this, Waid says, is to make Hulk an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.

“Bruce Banner’s biggest takeaway of Avengers vs. X-Men is, he never gets to be the science hero,” Waid says. “He’s the guy who smashes stuff. In the context of the Marvel Universe, Banner spends almost all of his time in a lab trying to make himself not the Hulk anymore. He realizes, after the events of Avengers vs. X-Men, two things: Hulk is a chronic condition. Hence ‘Indestructible Hulk.’ No matter how hard he tries, he can’t seem to get rid of the Hulk permanently.”

Next question, from iFanboy: “What kind of leash does S.H.I.E.L.D. have on this guy?” “S.H.I.E.L.D. has what they believe is a fairly tight leash on the Hulk,” Waid says. “They are mistaken.”

There was a while in David’s run when I was a kid where Hulk and Banner were pretty integrated but Doc Sampson made it clear that he wasn’t thinking like a scientist but like a Hulk, smashing his way out of problems.

All-New X-Men

I like where Bendis took the Avengers. I’m curious to see what he does with the X-Men and his concept, with the original 5 X-Men coming forward in time to see what has become of the world is damned interesting.

“Sometimes I get a reputation for torturing characters, but it is because I love the characters so much, that I want to put them in the most interesting situations to see where the heroism lies,” Bendis says.

Reminds me of Mouse Guard and Burning Wheel.

Every scene with Jean Grey in it has been just the best. I literally have to stop myself and move onto other characters. Young Jean Grey, in this situation, is everything I love about comics.”

What I like about a young Jean Grey, is he can take this whole cycle of women not being able to handle power that has been present forever and turn it on its head through this character.

Next press question, from us: Any lower-rung X-Men characters you’re looking to develop? And what villains might we see? “Yes and yes,” Bendis says. “There will be quite a lot of question as to ‘Who is a villain?’ Some people will see modern-day Cyclops and his associates as the villains, and some will see them as the heroes. I’ll be showing it to you from all angles, and let the reader decide.”

I like how he’s turned Cyclops into the most interesting kind of villain, the kind who truly believes that he’s a hero.

Next question, from iFanboy: What generation do the original five come from, given the sliding scale of Marvel time? Bendis says “specificity of this would be the death of this book. It’s not Back to the Future, it’s not Austin Powers. I’m very specific on where they’re coming from, after that, it’s just a general idea that you’re 16-year-old, and you’re looking at yourself at however old Cyclops is now, and acting accordingly.”

It is a fun time to be a Marvel fan.

I have a blog post coming on using Previews and monthly comic book solicitations to jump-start a Marvel Heroic campaign.