Batman Annual #27
This is the first half of a story intended to herald Azrael's return to Gotham. Actually, I never liked Azrael and I still don't care for him after reading this issue. The story is that a mysterious group dressed as the seven deadly sins are kidnapping the children of various influential Gotham families in an attempt to bring back the eighth sin (whatever that means). Yeah. The story is an Azrael story through and through so I didn't care for it but the characterization of Dick and Damien as the new Batman and Robin is amazing! And to top it all off, the artwork of J. Calafiore is very fitting of the new Batman. While he makes Dick look like Batman, it's obvious that he's a slimmer and lighter version and definitely not Bruce. You know what? It actually reminds me of Neal Adams' Batman and that is a wonderful thing!
After the main story is over, there are two other back-up tales. The first is a fun little romp with Derek Fridolfs and Dustin Nguyen's "Li'l Gotham" version of the Bat-characters who I believe make their first appearance in this issue. It's a two page hot rod race between Batman and his rogues gallery. The humor and artwork just come together for me on this one. It's not quite the mini-JLA that appeared in Superman/Batman a few months back but it'll do in a pinch.
"Darker than Black" part 1 is the final story in which Barbara Gordon investigates a vampire. This story really doesn't cut the mustard for me. The artwork fits the story well enough but the story is just odd and seems out of place in a Batman book. But I guess it would be in line with Azrael so fans of the supernatural tales may like this more than I did.
Score: 3 out of 5
Batman and Robin #5
The "Revenge of the Red Hood" continues here as Red Hood (Jason Todd) and his sidekick Scarlett battle with the new dynamic duo of Dick and Damien. We get a look at what Jason looks like under his red hood and some insight into how he plans to overtake Gotham. His ideas on marketing and branding his campaign of violence is pure genius! However, his violent tactics against Gotham's underworld brings him unexpected results when a madman named Eduardo Flamingo arrives on the scene in some sick scenes that you can only get from a book written by Grant Morrison. The artwork is great on this issue as well. I thought when Frank Quitely moved to doing only covers we'd lose something but Philip Tan really stepped up to the plate and kept this book moving.
Score: 4 out of 5
Justice League of America 80-Page Giant
I'm always leery of one-shot titles and the cover price on this issue made that doubly true. But this tale of the JLA battling the Time Commander is actually quite inspired. There's a main wraparound story that serves to setup six mini-tales with the JLA scattered throught history. A couple of the best are with Hal Jordan and Red Arrow in the old west (Having them meet with Jonah Hex would've made this book near perfect for me... but alas! It didn't happen.) and Firestorm and Green Arrow meeting Ra's al Ghul in World War II. Brilliant! And the others are decent as well. All in all a surprisingly good one-off which justified the cover price... and setup a new villain for upcoming JLA storylines.
Score: 4 out of 5
Detective Comics Annual #11
This is the second half of "The Eighth Deadly Sin" starring Azrael which continues to serve to setup some villains for the new Azrael series that starts this week. The story is the supernatural tripe that's come to be a par for the course where Azrael is concerned. As with the first half in the Batman Annual, the characterization of Dick and Damien as Batman and Robin is very well written and this one gets an extra half point for the artwork from Tom Mandrake which is gritty and very befitting of Gotham City.
As with the Batman annual there are two back-up tales. There's another "Li'l Gotham" tale which is just as brilliant as the first one. Lastly, the Barbara Gordon "Darker than Black" vampire tale wraps up and doesn't get any better than the first part.
Score: 3.5 out of 5
Green Lantern Corps #41
The Corps continue to battle the Black Lanterns that have attacked Oa. Soranik and Iolande fight to save the injured Lanterns. Guy Gardner kicks ass (as usual). Soranik comes to the rescue of Kyle Rayner. But the best of storytelling in the issue comes from Lantern Arisia coming to grips with her family's Lantern lineage and Kilowog facing off against his old drill sergeant Lantern Ermey. Yeah. You heard that name right. I squeed a little when I read it. The "Children of the Corps" title doesn't come into play until the last few pages but after the title "children" arrive on the scene, so does an agent of the hidden corps. A great issue all around.
Score: 4.5 out of 5
Blackest Night: Batman #3
The final issue of this mini-series sees the Gotham heroes trying to defend their city against an army of Black Lanterns which are far too much for them to handle. Before it's all over, Dick and Tim have to come to terms with their parents' deaths and, to put a hurtin' on the undead Lanterns, they enlist the aid of a certain rhyming demon. A great side-story to the main Blackest Night series.
Score: 4 out of 5
This is one of my favorite Batman issues since Dick took the cowl. Continuing where the last issue left off, Dick is at the mercy of Two-Face who has teleported into the Batcave to kill what he believes is an impostor Batman. But Dick holds his own and, in the end, proves to Two-Face that Batman isn't dead. Then Dick's story takes an interesting turn as he tears down the Batcave and prepares to move to his new bunker beneath Wayne Tower. Dick discovers a secret about his parents' murder that it seems Bruce had been hiding from him.
Score: 5 out of 5
Action Comics #882
The "World Against Superman" continues here with Squad K tracking Supergirl, Nightwing and Flamebird (now dubbed the "Metropolis Three"). After taking a quick breather and some downtime with Lois, the on-the-run heroes finally have a Squad K and Reactron. When they try to explain that they were framed, things go from bad to worse as Colonel Hazard discovers too late the real enemy behind this scenario.
Score: 4 out of 5