I Am Batman #1 Written by John Ridley Art by Olivier Coipel, Alex Sinclair, and ALW’s Troy Peteri Edited by Ben Abernathy Published by DC Comics Release Date: September 14, 2021
Jace Fox’s Destiny has arrived. We’ve been following the estranged son of Lucius Fox and his quiet reintroduction to the DC Universe but it’s here that he (literally) steps up to be something more real, concrete, for Gotham. The Batman, albeit differently, is already showing signs of the type of hero he’ll set out to be. I Am Batman throws Jace into the fires of Fear State in an #1 that gives an idea of Ridley’s mission statement for our new Batman.
Picking up from I Am Batman #0, Jace is moving comfortably in his Father’s world with reservations remaining given their past. It’s the work that takes place outside the offices and boardrooms that Jace is more attentive to. Coipel’s exquisite pencils sharply have Jace suit up in his freshly printed Batsuit with details that describe how grounded of an approach this Batman and the person behind the symbol will be. Ridley writes our Hero as someone who is well aware of Batman, as far as what he stood for and acted like. He doesn’t want to be that. He wants to be a man of the people and that starts in times of unrest. A Batman that is seen and heard, a vocal and physical reminder in the face of danger.
It’s a great contrast from our traditional and mainline Bruce Wayne’s characterization when it comes to being Batman and what he does with it. Ridley has been charting Jace’s character backward and forwards through time given his introduction with Future State and then working backward with the prequel series The Next Batman: Second Son and now the current present-day series. We’re understanding more about Jace through this investment in this character and it’s slowly paying off as he steps up as his own character taking on a mantle that plenty of characters have before.
As Coipel’s pencils guide our next Batman around the Gotham City streets, he’s presented as a smaller…a more intimate figure on his cycle. A man in a suit really as he catches two kids tagging walls with graffiti. He humors but sternly attempts to warn them away from the activity and it’s the small acts that set Jace apart, the honest effort to be seen and heard as the Batman. We zip through the city streets in a widescreen page that features some stylized nightlife, pedestrians, and a speeding car giving Jace another bout with both citizens and police in his newfound crusade.
Coipel’s mastery of the page can’t be overstated as he uses both small and large panels, sometimes window-like to show actions all contributing to the overall action and always taking care to never lose the characters in the process. He’s aided by Alex Sinclair on coloring duties and even at night, the backgrounds and surroundings never make Jace a darker figure, losing him in the nighttime. Instead, he’s the focus as he rides and battles his way across Gotham with a crisp and kinetic Coipel drawn ferocity.
While I Am Batman #1 is a first issue and I would say that it is reader-friendly to a point…it also lends itself to be read like a Part 2 or a continuing piece of a narrative given how much of Jace’s backstory and prequel series has led to this point and story threads are mentioned to give readers enough information to know what’s happening. If someone chose this as their first introduction to Jace Fox, I’d probably hand them the #0 issue as well just to be on the safe side.
What makes Batman Batman? With the hero not being a billionaire anymore and not being able to afford his famous toys, it might be the right time to ask that question.
Just prior to the Joker War, when the Joker stole Bruce Wayne’s fortune, it was revealed the billionaire had been embezzling money through shell companies and illegitimate accounts. That money, of course, was intended to fund Batman’s war on crime, but Bruce couldn´t explain that to the financial regulators and, even if he could, it was illegal anyway.
Catwoman then outsmarted the Joker and transferred the fortune to Lucius Fox, who offered to transfer it all back to Bruce. The problem was that, with the embezzling revelation, the USA government was sure to keep an eye on each penny spent and that would make secretly funding Batman’s activities impossible.
That put the Dark Knight in a delicate situation, in which his operations would need to be less costly and his resources less vast.
And this invites the question of what does this mean for Batman? Who is Batman without his deus ex machina gadgets? Is he even defined by his money?
Every time I see a status quo change in Batman or a different media interpretation, I always remember that interview Grant Morrison gave to LA Times in 2010:
“It’s really weird. Batman can take anything. You can do comedy Batman; you can do gay Batman…it all works. It’s something intrinsic to the character. It’s so strange and amazing”.
Of course, Batman is famous for paying for the Justice League Satellite in the JL cartoon and for joking that his superpower is being rich in the Justice League movie, but stories in which his mega-expensive tech isn’t all that important aren’t rare. Just a grappling hook and some batarangs and he’s ready to go.
Quoting Frank Miller,
“Batman isn’t interesting because he has a cool car. It’s great that he has a cool car. But he’s interesting because he straightens the world out. And he brings order to a very chaotic world. Especially when you’re a child. You need somebody, even if it’s a fictional character, to tell you that the world makes sense and that the good guys can win. That’s what these heroes are for”.
Miller even writes that Batman in his seminal work “Year One”, in which we see a Batman with no technology, outside of a sonic device designed to attract bats. In Alan Moore’s “The Killing Joke”, considered one of the best Batman stories ever, he doesn’t use any kind of tech at all. In “The Long Halloween”, another beloved story, Batman doesn’t use any expensive gadget either.
During the 90s, in the famous Alan Grant run, Batman might have used special suits and fancy computers, but they are mostly a device to accelerate the development of the plot as opposed to an actual necessity or an integral part of the character. What is essential to that era is how the rich hero reacts to the constant social and political issues present in the stories: there is an extreme effort to present Batman as a compassionate person, using his money to help people in need.
In Alan Grant’s words,
“Because Batman is human. He’s experienced the full gamut of human emotions – grief, fear, rage – so he understands how people feel. Plus, he’s a self-made hero. He didn’t need an alien with a power ring, or to be born on a high gravity planet, or have an accident with chemicals. Instead, Batman took human powers to their limit with no external help (except for Alfred, perhaps). It just made sense to me that he would be a man of huge compassion – not obsessed to the point of insanity which some writers have proposed”.
Grant’s Batman is probably the most compassionate and least emotionally detached version of the character we’ve seen in the Modern Era. While it is very interesting seeing him engaged in social justice activities, it is sometimes very easy to overlook the role rich people have in the unequal distribution of wealth. There is a danger to reading stories that humanize the rich and save them from scrutiny, even though that isn’t the writer’s intention. I will come back to this in a moment.
What Grant brings upfront in his stories is Batman’s heart. That is the foundation for Bruce Wayne to become a hero. Alan Grant clearly sees Batman not as a selfish figure who dresses like a bat to avenge a personal tragedy, but as an altruistic hero who doesn’t want what happened to him to happen to other people. That’s why he trained to be one of the world’s greatest martial artists and detectives: for other people, not for himself. But with all that altruism, it’s difficult not to question his relationship to wealth distribution. A gold heart without sharing is an awkward capitalist invention.
If we look at the reason behind James Tynion IV’s creative decision to take away Batman’s money, we will see that there is a plot reason and there is a civic responsibility reason:
“The hero’s endless fortune doesn’t just invite questions about his civic responsibilities, it’s also come to function as a deus ex capitalism, handwaving any level of property destruction and excusing any reveal of a new gizmo or vehicle.
Batman’s money allows writers to transform him into a grim version of Silver Age Superman, who could travel backwards in time by accidentally flying too fast. And while that may be a realistic depiction of the power of a multibillion-dollar fortune, it’s not particularly good for creating high stakes comics.”
The plot reason has more to do with the writer himself, while the civic responsibility reason speaks more of Batman as a character. Is he socially responsible? Getting rid of his fortune is a smart way to avoid that question, but that’s not what I am going to do. If the heart is part of him being a hero, then we should ask if Batman’s heart is in the right place.
Some characters like James Gordon expressed concern that Batman might attract his mentally ill villains, but what about the common villains: the robbers, the thugs, and the muscle for the crime lords?
Some scientific studies suggest there is a relationship between income inequality and crime. When money is concentrated in the hands of a small number of people and a great number of people in need, the result is a great crime rate.
The French economist Thomas Piketty discussed in his best-seller book Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2014) the history of wealth and income inequality in Europe and the United States since the 18th century and demonstrated how an unequal distribution of wealth causes social instability. The problem is that the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few means a lack of wealth in the hands of many. Billionaires are made out of the exploitation of labor, oppression of marginalized people, and the neocolonialism of underdeveloped countries.
This means that for Batman to be a billionaire, several Gothamites, and people everywhere there is a Wayne Corp., need to be poor and if there is poverty, there is crime. So with that said, it stands to reason that the Wayne family wealth is partially responsible for Gotham City’s crime rate.
When Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted in 2019 that billionaires should not exist, he brought to the general public a discussion about the moral question behind the existence of super-rich people.
More and more people are seeing billionaires not as an epitome of success, hard work, and talent, but as an epitome of greed, privilege, and exploitation; characteristics that do not fit a hero.
Comics have always been political and a product of their time, so as society’s view of super-rich people starts to change, maybe Batman’s relationship to wealth needs to change too. If part of what makes him a hero is his heart, it should be in the right place and associated with good characteristics.
Maybe, if we don’t see more social responsibility, Garth Ennis’s view of Batman could one day become the mainstream view:
“What we’re talking about here is a billionaire aristocrat who beats up poor people, as well as the mentally ill. I don’t know what that has to do with a code of honor.”
If you missed last week’s report, check it out here.
(Words in italics signal actions)
The GC52 Logo appears on televisions, computers, and all other types of viewing devices at its normally scheduled time. Intern Jerry sits at the center of the newsroom behind his desk. This week he’s wearing a t-shirt that says “Jokerize deez nutz”. The large window behind him looks out over Metropolis. The setting sun sparkles off the Daily Planet Globe, the crown jewel of the City of Tomorrow. The GC52 theme music begins to dim as the actual program begins.
Jerry: Good Morning, Good Afternoon, and Good Evening to all our wonderful viewers from the docks of Coast City to the furthest reaches of Oa, you are watching the multiverse’s best news show that brings you the news that you need to know! Jerry here filling in for Dan while he is on assignment in Gotham. Just doing my part to bring you up to the minute updates on the worlds you live in!
So you remember when Dan went to that nice house on the lake? They got an email over to us, well to Dan…but I’m sitting at his desk so I opened it. They were running out of food and stuff but they got some magic notepad that makes packages appear the next day. I would just write 900 copies of Shrek 2 to see if it happened. Sorry, that was insensitive, I’m really nervous doing this. Bad things are happening to those people. They can’t die and things are looking… bad. Just really bad. I hope they’re alright.
Our next story comes from an unusual source, this message in a bottle found floating in the sink of the GC52 office break room. While we don’t usually endorse weird ways to submit stories like this, it’s about time someone investigated these strange headaches people are reporting worldwide.
Jerry begins reading the message.
Dear Diary, things have been pretty tense aboard the Manta-sub recently. Ever since the boss found that weird rock he’s been a man possessed. Even when we’re after the fish-man he never gets this intense. It all started when he began getting these strange headaches and had to hunt down this artifact, but Captain Demo went and stole it from him. So Black Manta went after him on his own and took it back with ease and we even got some fine plunder from that loser’s ship. Picked up some new recruits from his crew too!
I got a peek at this rock a while ago and I really don’t see the fuss. Just a stone with weird red lines on it. Boss is working with Gallous the Goat (who is a human woman, not an actual goat) to figure out what’s going on, and all the bickering between those two is making the sub miserable with all this talk of “morality”. I hope this rock stuff is figured out soon, we haven’t tried to kill Aquaman in weeks! Anyways, time to throw this diary entry into the ocean to annoy Atlantis!
Mark the Manta-man
Jerry: We sent out the best reporter the seven seas have to offer in order to investigate further. There…aren’t many reporters that live on the seas though, so all we got back was a jumbled voicemail from a “Captain Jim”.
Captain Jim: OK OK OK. HEAR ME OUT HERE. The Human Flame’s the key here. It all comes back to him. Word on the high seas is there’s someone running around stealing the Human Flame’s essence and doing Doctor Fate magic. Speaking of magic, my friend Dead Dave also told me there’s a lady with a fire sword causing trouble in the underworld and there’s no such thing as a coincidence where magic is involved. Probably a magic rock causing all of this too!
Jerry: I hope you enjoyed those random unrelated facts and just remember, it’s easier to teach a reporter to sail than a pirate to report.
An overlay image of Crush appears to Jerry’s right.
Jerry: Did you all hear that Crush escaped space prison? Honestly, good for her. Sounds like her dad betrayed her which ya know…tracks for Lobo from what I know. Maybe she had some time to really think about how she is betraying herself in all of her relationships with the issues she has with… never mind not her therapist. I just love gossip and I love people getting through their baggage. Oh, emergency report coming in!
On the screen, bold letters flash in front of a blaring red background reading, UPDATE. The camera cuts to Katie wearing a SAVE THE GREEN! T-shirt. Felicia also appears to be donning a verdant-colored shirt on her little cat body.
Katie: Urgent news today, Earth-lovers! Felicia and I finally bought matching outfits. Doesn’t she look purr-fect in her tiny kitty shirt!
As if on cue, Felicia stands up on her hind legs and lifts her paws to reveal her SAVE THE GREEN! shirt.
Katie: Look at that! Talented and beautiful. She’s a cat of all trades! On to the actual news report I’m required to give you now. We last heard word from intel relaying information about Task Force X’s plan to capture the mysterious green force disrupting Kaziranga forest. Sources report a deluge of trouble raining down on the infamous Suicide Squad members deployed inside. Antihero Heat Wave was recovered after team leader Rick Flag found Heat Wave’s body half-drowned, along with his equipment. It must have taken an immense threat to extinguish his flame!
A green god himself, Chemo split off from the rest of the group, leaving destruction in his wake. Who told him he could fight fire with fire by decimating the marshland even further? SAVE THE GREEN PEOPLE!!
Again, Felicia rises. She points a black paw at the barely scrutable words on her shirt and taps in consolidation.
Katie: See! Even Felicia doesn’t like what she’s hearing about all this mangled forest mess. I have scarce details about the location of the other Task Force members, Parasite and Asa. Amanda Waller must be feeling the heat now! Oops, too soon?
All we can say for certain is this: The Suicide Squad is scattered throughout Kaziranga, and the “Swamp Thing” they are hunting remains at large. I believe a supernatural force is battling against — or with? — Mother Nature here. It sounds like a nightmare out there. No one will be resting easy tonight. The search for the “Swamp Thing” has run into some major roadblocks. Thankfully, we can’t hear anyone scream in the forest…I’ll have a new update soon. Let’s hope we don’t get another visit from King Shark again! Also, SAVE THE GREEN! T-shirts are available on my website at-
The camera cuts Katie off before she can offer unsolicited promotional material on-air.
Jerry: You think Swamp Thing ever… hits the green? Darkseid’s Lettuce? Joker’s Laughing Grass? Poison Ivy’s Smokey Kiss? Speaking of lighting it up, let’s check in with Jordan about Task Force X.
As the camera cuts, a small room comes into view, Jordan adjusts his chair and riffles through different folders and books.
Jordan: Welcome back to our top-secret Bell Reve branch for GC52. It has been an incredibly eventful few days here with a move to a new location which unfortunately is confidential. Anyway, let me get you up to speed. The Squad recently encountered Superboy on assignment on Earth 3. Of course, this was more than a little strange given that Superboy was already on the Squad. Our own Superboy didn’t take well to this imposter, in much the same way as this other motorcycle Superboy.
As the two came to blows, the rest of the Squad fulfilled their assignment. Turns out this assignment was recovering a whole lot of Superboy clones which Waller had kept as a secret, even worse than that is the fact that our Superboy wasn’t the real one after all. Instead, he’s a defective clone called Match who was unaware of his own identity. After securing the clones, the Squad was suddenly teleported back to our new base.
Ambush Bug: Whoa there, you don’t wanna forget the stinger at the end of the annual do you?
Jordan: Ugh. Sorry everyone this is Task Force X’s newest teleporter, Ambush Bug. What are you talking about Bug?
Ambush Bug: Well at the end of the issue Robbie Thompson revealed that the escaped Rick Flag has recruited the original Mirror Master Sam Scudder for a new Suicide Squad designed to stop Waller.
Jordan begins looking progressively annoyed the more Ambush Bug talks.
Jordan: Uh-huh, sure. Look I don’t think I’m gonna be able to get you to leave, so please at least simmer down and stay quiet. Anyway, the Squad got a bit of downtime in a simulated reality. Unfortunately, our friend Ambush Bug here broke some bad news to the Squad.
Ambush Bug: Bad news?! Hey buddy someone needs to keep this story rolling
Jordan: I said be quiet, please. It turns out that Nocturna is from another Earth, was brought here by Bloodsport, and brainwashed into believing she was of this Earth. All this intrigue was promptly interrupted however by a bunch of demons sent into the simulated reality by Waller. She’s testing the Squad to enter hell itself and reach the Rock of Eternity.
Unfortunately, it seems as though the Squad has run into a bit of an obstacle as a group calling themselves the Hell Squad has appeared. These seem to be previous members of Task Force X who died in the field, and they’ve returned with a vengeance. We’ve since lost contact with the Squad and are trying to bring comms back online now. I’ll be sure to update you as this progresses. But in the meantime, just remember that you didn’t hear any of this from me.
Ambush Bug: Ooooo very ominous.
The camera cuts before Ambush Bug decides to teleport into the studio.
Jerry: Thomas is in this week! This should be…enlightening. Get it? Like Green Lanterns ligh-
Thomas stands in front of a dead screen.
Thomas: Hello Jerry, I’m standing in front of the GC52 Smart Report Interactive Screen, which as you can see is powered down. I had all kinds of Blue Beetle and Booster Gold footage queued up for display, but apparently someone told those dunderheads that NFTs exist, and now every smart device that tries to show an image of them…well, see for yourself.
Thomas turns on the display, which momentarily shows Blue Beetle and Booster Gold in an exciting car chase before pop-up ads for “Blue & Gold” shaving kits, mattresses, food crates, and website tutorials fill the screen and cause it to freeze.
Thomas: So that’s what the media is dealing with. This NFT menace arrives on the heels of Booster Gold’s announcement that the two superheroes are available for less-than-Justice-League level jobs and threats on a pro-bono basis. Every recorded moment of their exploits becomes a digital product for sale that, itself, promotes another product with their name on it. Kord Industries is bankrolling the initiative, which goes to show that the only thing trust fund babies have more of than discretionary spending is time and industry to waste.
Jerry: Thomas, is there any risk of “Blue and Gold” clients being used in future advertisements, especially if these, excuse me, en-eff-tees can manipulate devices used to watch them?
Thomas: That’s an excellent question, Jerry. NFTs, or Non-Fungible Tokens, were invented by the Riddler as a means to skim rich people who want to skim middle-class people who want to skim poor people. It’s all tracked on a digital ledger that perfectly accounts for all transactions except when it doesn’t, and uses enough energy to qualify as a Swamp Thing story. This crossover sounds brutal, but I have hope that people can tell the difference between a risky investment and unadulterated bull–
Thomas’s video and audio feed freeze as a 3D rendering of Booster’s face appears in front of him to address the camera.
Booster Gold: Hello, fans and Gold Club members! Blue & Gold Restoration LLC does not endorse this fake news valuation of NFT markets. Any ideas or strategies discussed herein should not be undertaken by any individual without prior consultation with a financial professional for the purpose of assessing whether the ideas or strategies that are discussed are suitable to you based on your own personal financial objectives, needs, and risk tolerance. Blue & Gold Restoration LLC expressly disclaims any liability or loss incurred by any person who acts on the information, ideas, or strategies discussed herein. Stay golden!
The Booster graphic disappears, and regular video and audio resume. Jerry is visibly disturbed.
Jerry: Moving on… Thomas, you’re pulling double duty this week, as there have been quite a few developments among the Green Lanterns. Care to bring us up to speed?
Thomas is drenched in sweat and slurring his words.
Thomas: Umm let’s shee herr… new information indurcates that Lantern Mullein met with Sinestro to discuss potato involvement in the attack on Oa. Lantern Stewart has been deployed to investigate Gold Centurions and their presence in the Dark Section following the Barrier War, including whether New Gods are involved.
Jerry: Thomas, everything okay over there? You haven’t been hitting the sauce between takes, have you?
Thomas: I feel abs…
Thomas begins melting from the top-down, becoming a pile of goo and JCPenney clothing. Jerry is once again visibly disturbed.
Jerry: Oh my. Security? We might have a supervillain attacking us? Someone call janitorial, at least!
The real Thomas kicks in the studio doors, microphone in hand, letting in glorious yellow light.
Thomas: That was just a lifelike model biding for time while I made my way here in person, Jerry. We’ve got CRUZ NEWS!
Confetti and released birds burst forth from all directions as a choir’s powerful chords wash over the studio space.
Thomas: Okay, first off. We knew Jessica was a Yellow Lantern, right? Like, we all knew. But what was really going on there? We finally got the full scoop. Not only did she defeat three Yellow Lanterns while depowered in a derelict space station, not only did she drop the gauntlet at Sinestro’s door, but she used a yellow ring to put Hal Jordan in his cocky place afterward, too! What a hero. What an inspiration.
Jerry: What will this mean for Cruz’s standing within the Green Lantern Corps? Soranik Natu has jumped corps before, but are the Yellow Bogeypeople really so trustworthy?
Thomas: They are when Jessica’s taking point. Her sensitivity to fear means she can find strong expressions of the emotion and act to help those situations. There’s a whole candle metaphor that gets the point across beautifully. Lantern Quintela is some ten steps behind Cruz on using rather than abusing Sinestro’s Corps.
Jerry: That all sounds rather promising. How are other prominent Lanterns taking this power shift?
Thomas: Kilowog returned from some space raid with barely a few survivors, sounds like a rough day. He’ll probably take it well. Kyle Rayner and Guy Gardner are Rao knows where at the moment. If they’re feeling profound fear, though, they have a friend on the way! ‘Til next time, Jerry.
Jerry: Thank you, Tho-
Jerry’s replacement intern rushes in front of the camera, tears off his shirt, and screams “CRUZ NEWS” just before blacking out.
Jerry: Now I know how Dan felt like when I was interning here. You’ll remember viewers that over the last few weeks we’ve been receiving reports from an ex-GC52 reporter, Ethan. He’s actually a DEO agent and has been assisting with an investigation into the Multiverse. Well, looks like everything that’s been happening has drawn to a close. Let’s take a read of what Agent 17 had to say.
Jerry picks up a report from the desk and begins to read.
For storage in DEO Archives regarding Operation: Infinite Frontier.
Compiled by Agent 17.
It’s over. Our heroes are back home. Is it a win? In the long-term, hard to say. But right now, at this very moment, yeah, the Chase, JSA, and Justice Incarnate did it. So once this report is filed, I’m going on break. I’m gonna lie down on a sun lounger at some beach, with a cold can of MultiBrewery, and do nothing for a week.
But first, what happened exactly? Well, turns out Justice Incarnate had been investigating everything that’s happened from their side, just the same as Chase and JSA were conducting their own investigations. After communications were cut off on Earth-Omega as they all converged on Darkseid, Chase filled me in on what went down. It’s a lot, some stuff involving our Earth’s Flash being controlled to chain the universes off from each other. Injustice Incarnate being defeated by the combined forces of the heroes present. President Superman of Earth-23 rescuing Flash. And in the end, with his plans thwarted, Darkseid sending everyone back to their own universe, except Flash. No one knows where he is.
Now, what’s happened with the DEO, well, Bones vanished. No surprise there after his plan failed. So Chase now has charge of the organization. Good I say, I don’t think I’ve ever met someone I trust as much as her. She’ll steer us right. And we’ll find Bones soon enough. Anyway, she’s in New York right now debriefing Roy Harper. He went through some stuff during this old thing but I think he’ll be okay.
Once Chase is back and I’m done with my holiday, I’m going to ask about getting a posting in Justice Incarnate’s base. Having a permanent presence there will be good and hopefully help prevent something like Operation: Infinite Frontier from happening again. But first thing I’ll be doing when I’m back is catching up with an old friend.
Jerry places the report back on his desk and looks to the camera.
Jerry: I think I know who this old friend is and well, that’s gonna be something. To end our report tonight, I’m handing you back over to Dan who is coming live from a Batcave in Gotham City. I will see you next week.
When the report cuts over to Dan, he looks nothing like he normally does. Gotham City is a hellscape where suits and ties don’t cut it. His hair is pulled back by a black bandana with the bat symbol on full display at the front to show his allegiance if it comes down to it. His eyes are bloodshot from lack of sleep due to keeping such long hours. His normal formal attire is replaced with his worn GC52 T-shirt hidden beneath a heavy bulletproof vest with a spray-painted bright teal bat symbol on his chest. The lid to his thermos pops off as he takes a long swig of his coffee.
Dan: Evening viewers, it’s only been a week since I’ve arrived in Gotham but things are not great. Since Oracle was taken over by some hijacker, people have had fear driven deep into their hearts like a stake. But we are out here doing what we can in the city. It’s been a long time since I’ve been home in Gotham but this is what needs to happen…
Dan takes a deep breath as he rolls his neck to release some tension.
Dan: Saint’s propaganda reports continue to run on every major news station but ours… Must be easy to have the Devil’s hands in your pocket to slip you a 20. But he’s trying to make sure Gotham knows his intentions are pure… That he wants to build a new Gotham. I think the people of Gotham know better than to trust the Magistrate program. They’re just Robocop’s with their prime directive to serve their masters’ whim. What Gotham needs isn’t a police state, it needs the Bat.
A loud buzzing can be heard from one of many pouches on Dan’s person as he pulls out his phone to answer. The phone has been patched directly into the Ghost-Net, the network the bat-family is working from in this crisis. He speaks off-camera for a bit before lifting it up again to speak.
Dan: Batman is alive. I hope people see this report because Batman lives. The Scarecrow captured him and things sound worse than we thought. His tech has had a major upgrade somehow… Maybe a tech mogul helped him? But my contact is beneath Gotham with Queen Ivy, Harley Quinn, and Ivy’s ex-girlfriend The Gardener. The Unsanity Collective is down there with them so they’re safe currently. For the time being, things are calm. But eye of the storm… I have a strange feeling that Saint has something much worse coming for Gotham.
Now I have to get back on the streets to help people. As always… be it the Bat Symbol in Gotham, a red streak through Central City, or a golden lasso on Themyscira… GC52 has you covered with the news you need to know. Till next week, I’m your host Dan McMahon. Be strong in all your convictions.
Books covered this week:
Batman #112 by James Tynion IV, Jorge Jimenez, Tomeu Morey, and Clayton Cowles.
Crush and Lobo #4 by Mariko Tamaki, Amancay Nahuelpan, Tamra Bonvillain, and Ariana Maher.
The Nice House on the Lake #4 by James Tynion IV, Álvaro Martínez Bueno, Jordie Bellaire, and AndWorld Design.
Black Manta #1 by Chuck Brown, Valentine de Landro, Marissa Louise, and Clayton Cowles.
The Swamp Thing #7 by Ram V, Mike Perkins, Mike Spicer, and Aditya Bidikar.
Suicide Squad #7 by Robbie Thompson, Eduardo Pansica, Julio Ferreira, Marcelo Maiolo, and Wes Abbott.
Suicide Squad 2021 Annual #1 by Robbie Thompson, Eduardo Pansica, Julio Ferreira, Dexter Soy, Chris Sotomayor, and Wes Abbott.
Blue & Gold #2 by Dan Jurgens, Ryan Sook, and Rob Leigh.
Green Lantern #6 by Geoffrey Thorne, Marco Santucci, Tom Raney, Mike Atiyeh, and Simon Bowland.
Green Lantern 2021 Annual #1 by Ryan Cady, Sami Basri, Tom Derenick, Hi-Fi, and Rob Leigh.
Infinite Frontier #6 by Joshua Williamson, Xermánico, Romulo Fajardo Jr, and Tom Napolitano.
The GC52 Logo appears on televisions, computers, and all other types of viewing devices at its normally scheduled time. Lead Anchor Dan McMahon is pacing behind his desk as his outline moves back and forth in front of the large window that looks out over Metropolis. The Daily Planet globe is visible behind him as the setting sun sparkles off the crown jewel of the City of Tomorrow. The GC52 theme music begins to dim as the actual program begins.
Dan: Good Evening viewers from the docks of Coast City to the furthest reaches of Oa, you are watching the multiverse’s best news show that brings you the news that you need to know! As always, I’m your host, Dan McMahon, doing my part to bring you up to the minute updates on the worlds you live in. I’m sorry that I will be a bit distracted during tonight’s broadcast…
You see, Gotham is in trouble. Yes, yes, it’s a day that ends in Y but this feels different. Who knows? Maybe it will be resolved like every time a mad man takes control of the city, but this state of fear is different. This time there is corporate meddling and an incompetent Mayor giving full control to a power-hungry businessman. Have you seen how other News Stations have been reporting on the chaos in Gotham?
Dan: We are a self-owned station, so our agenda cannot be bought like those other stations. They’re trying to push blame of the City Hall bombing on the Unsanity Collective. A GROUP OF PEACEFUL &*#$ing PEOPLE trying to help Gotham. These other stations are saying they serve the will of Scarecrow… A disgraced academic turned serial killer by his yearning for control through fear. The stations are heralding Sean Mahoney as Simon Saint’s white knight of the Magistrate program. While most of the records from Arkham have been destroyed, former employees said that Mahoney was anything but a saint. And still, Mayor Nakano has full faith in this program.
I was born in Gotham, molded by it into something I wasn’t, and now I can’t sit behind this desk and do nothing. So the entire team that reports on Gotham will be moving closer to the action. We are setting up shop in one of Batman’s micro-caves in the city, thanks to a few favors I called in. Let’s check in with Violet about what’s going on with Harley…
The camera pans to Violet’s corner. A suitcase is open on her desk with her desktop and coffee machine sitting out.
Violet: FAMILY VACAY TO GOTHAM CITAY! WE GONNA HAVE A PARTAAAY WOOO!
Violet continues throwing ridiculous items into her suitcase before remembering about her segment.
Violet: OH! Right, Harley!
She shoves the suitcase off her desk causing everything to clatter to the floor. She fixes her hair for the camera and smiles.
Violet: My bad, Dan got me excited for this business trip! To update you all on the situation; Harley hasn’t had a break in a while, let’s be real. You all remember that new guy, Keepsake? Turns out he takes something from everyone; umbrellas, flame throwers, you name it. Now he’s come for Harley, beckoning her to rule by his side while he takes over the city during Fear State. I told you all we’d be in the shit soon, here we are!
But Harley wasn’t having it at all. Besides, she has a thing going on with Poison Ivy, who needs another madman looking to compensate for something by causing mass trauma and hysteria? Keepsake thinks Harley’s new path in life is a waste of time and to be blunt, Harley is sick of everyone’s shit and how they think they have a say about who she needs to be. That’s the update for now. I’ll continue my reports in the micro-Batcave! How exciting! Byeeeee!!
Violet turns to collect her suitcase from the floor and walks off-screen. When the camera returns to Dan, he’s in his office as Jerry pleads with him from across the desk.
Jerry: Dan, I am telling you that this Magistrate stuff… it’s about to get really really bad. I’ve seen what comes next and you do not get out of this alive.
Dan: Son, I’m a journalist. I was one of those costumed freaks once too… I cannot sit by as people die anymore. We’re going to Gotham. Have you seen the Oracle report? They would never stoke the flames of fear by alerting them that Batman is…
Dan takes a deep breath as he rubs his eyes.
Jerry: This is how the Future State starts! I’m not making this up.
Dan: Sometimes you have to face the future head-on or die trying. I need you to lead the reports till I get back.
Jerry: Right. Okay.
Dan: Switch the feed to Katie, I need to collect some things.
Cutting over to Katie, we see cats asleep in a circle on top of Katie’s desk in the newsroom. Colored all-black and all-white respectively, the cats form a yin and yang illusion. Katie pets both of them at the same time before speaking.
Katie: Hello, and welcome to GC52 with your multiverse news! My feline friend, Felicia, is joined by this white cat who showed up at my doorstep last night! I felt compelled to name her Selina. Welcome my furry little animals!
The best things come in pairs, right? Well, I’ve got a pair of stories today that will knock your whiskers off! Remember that movie buff somehow controlling realities? Auteur.io? The dude got an awakening last week and we will respectfully refer to the god as Observer.io now. Superman and Batman decided to cross over in each others’ realities under the watchful eye of Observer.io. Is anyone else confused by all these Lex Luthors and Bruce Waynes running around multiple realities? No?
Superman traveled to the World of the Knight in Gotham. Another version of Lex Luthor captured a…Lex Luthor and experimented on the guy in Arkham Asylum. How did this Lex Luthor gain warden access over Arkham? I wouldn’t want to visit any of these realities, in my opinion. The cross-contaminated timelines/worlds/whatever they are now allow Superman and Batman access to any place in the multiverse. Luthor’s mysterious omni-battery and his army of villains were no match for Superman! Unfortunately, the controlling device Luthor was using to try to turn Metropolis into…sigh…Lexopolois (man this guy is unoriginal) contained an innocent man trapped inside! Superman brought the man’s family to his imprisonment, allowing him to overcome Luthor’s control over the omni-battery.
I know this is a lot of information. Hang in there, because we’ve got trouble with the Bat awaiting!
The two cats look up, sensing shifts in the multiverse. Annoyed, they circle around one another until they cuddle back into their comfortable position.
Katie: In the idyllic World of the Tomorrow reality, Batman and Robin set off to capture an escaped inmate from Blackgate Penitentiary. Surprisingly, “Bizarro Two-Face” was a familiar…face! Batman and Robin had faced off with the disfigured Bruce Wayne and his notorious mother, Martha, before. This time, Bizarro Two-Face grabbed his mother and rampaged through Gotham before the heroes could put an end to the chaos. However, the dynamic duo learned some crucial tactical advantages from their previous encounter with the renegade Waynes.
Katie: Bizarro returned to Crime Alley, where his father had been killed. In an attempt to rectify the situation, Bizarro’s split personality could not decide whether to kill or not kill Martha! Batman used Bizarro’s opposite logic to make the decision for him with a simple coin flip trick. What a crafty Bat! Detective work was on full display. Now, let’s hope Batman and Superman can save all reality from an…enraged Alfred Pennyworth? The butler? Yin and yang, Batman and Superman, Felicia and Selina: You never know what side of the coin will land face up these days!
From the corner of the main camera, Dan can be seen and heard talking on the phone.
Dan: So Ivy is alive? She’s just…split? I’ve heard much wilder things, but that still gives the side of the good an upper hand as long as Harley can help make her whole again. Love prevails right? Thanks, GM. The team will be in Gotham as soon as possible.
Dan walks into the sight of the camera as Jerry approaches him.
Jerry: Listen, I spoke with Midnighter… He’s the only other person who knows about the Future State. See, he was on Warworld in the Future with Sup- I can’t tell you that. But he came back with this dude Trojan in his head. You know that other “tech-genius” who eventually goes too far. So he has been stuck in this sort of time loop. Every time, his partner dies so he came back to fix things. Well, Trojan made their own mother box but he did end up killing him and ending the loop from what I understand.
Dan: Why are you telling me this?
Jerry: Because maybe you’re right. Maybe things can change if we do something. Just don’t fail. I don’t want to see the Spectre again. Smells like brimstone and a graveyard.
Dan: Thanks, Jerry. Okay, cut over to Bree, let’s check in with them.
A frazzled-looking woman in a white sundress and a large, floppy hat appears on the screen. The sun is beginning to set behind her as she stands in the middle of a quaint-looking street. Small shops and apartments line either side.
Bree: Hello there, folks! I’ve had quite the eventful day in upstate New York following- Er, checking in on- the fresh faces of Titans Academy. It’s the first day of summer break for the youngins’. How do the metahuman and gifted non-humans spend their holidays? A question I was hoping to answer for you today, but things seem to have gotten a little…strange.
The reporter gestures to the storefronts, some of which are boarded up and/or have broken windows.
Bree: A small town previously known for its hospitality towards all types. Now boarded up and seemingly abandoned-
Bree looks over her shoulder before signaling to the camera person and ducking behind the nearest building. The camera follows her but turns slightly to angle between the building and part of the street.
Unknown Voice: …Move fast everyone, Gregg’s depending on us.
A group of four young people can be seen jogging through the street for a moment before they disappear from the camera’s view.
Bree: Interesting…the child that resembles a Gorilla seems to be missing from the rest of the group. I had spotted all five of them together earlier in the day. I do wonder why they’re so concerned with finding someone that seems to be very capable of defending themselves. The other four students go by Chupacabra, Tress, Stitch, and Summer. I’ve discovered Summer has ice powers though, isn’t that a cute bit of irony?! Oh! And…the gossip report in me can’t help but notice an air of romantic tension between Chupacabra and-
A pair of adults- likely townspeople- are seen in the street, seemingly headed in the opposite direction as the teens. They’re carrying pitchforks and torches.
Bree: Oh no…I can’t say I’m dressed for a cult meeting. Uhh…I’m going to end the broadcast until I can figure out how to blend in. Things are really heating up. And people say upstate is boring, ha! Until next time, back to you Dan!
When the camera returns to Dan, he’s speaking to Jerry the intern just off-screen. He seems rather worried, an open file is on his desk, one Dan has clearly just finished reading. His reading glasses lay on top of the report.
Dan: …sure this is legit? I don’t want to read something like this on-air, worrying our viewers about what kind of implications this could have. We cannot be wrong about this especially now.
Jerry: I’m sure, boss. Ethan hand-delivered it to me. He stepped through one of those sliding-door teleporters. Looked like hell, as if he’d just seen something real bad, which I think that report of his backs up.
He gives a silent acknowledgment to Jerry, and then Dan turns to the camera, his calm smile not quite hiding a small hint of worry in his voice.
Dan: Viewers, I have a report in front of me directly delivered to us from Agent 17 of the DEO regarding the latest developments in the multiverse situation I’ve reported on previously. I’m going to read it verbatim so you know exactly what’s going on, and what measures are being taken to stop this encroaching disaster.
He picks up his reading glasses from the desk and begins to read the report.
For storage in DEO Archives regarding Operation: Infinite Frontier.
Report compiled by Agent 17.
I’ve lost any trust in Mr. Bones that I had. Recommendations have been made that he be removed from further DEO operations, providing he survives. The Carrier Arks he was using to transport the captured heroes through the Multiverse crashed. Based on information I’ve picked up through the transmitters embedded in the Arks, they’re on an Earth referred to as Earth-Omega. This one didn’t exist on our radar until the last Crisis (See Case File: Death Metal).
It looks like this X-Tract person that Bones was working with is actually another Cameron Chase, one who was erased during the first Crisis (See Case File: CotE), but has since been returned to existence. I don’t know, it’s bad.
But it seems we’ve at least found where Flash vanished to. He was captured by Psycho-Pirate on this Earth-Omega as part of some plot to close off each universe to its own sector, making multiversal travel impossible. This is what Bones was working towards. He was part of this plan from the beginning.
The heroes that were there joined forces to take on the Pirate’s “Injustice Incarnate”. But just as they were about to finish the fight, he showed up.
And that’s when the feeds cut out. I’ve been awake for 51 hours as of writing this, trying to reestablish some sort of contact, but it’s been useless. I’m filing this now in the hope that my next update will be more hopeful. Superman knows I could do with some right about now.
Dan places the file back on his desk, removes his reading glasses, and looks at the camera.
Dan: So there you have it, folks, Darkseid is… back. You know, Dr. Crane is well known for one theory, especially after he started stuffing the burlap sack. It’s called “The Fear State Theory” and it essentially puts forward the idea that society would evolve if given a tremendous shock to the system.
With everything going on in Gotham and the Multiverse… Seems like the Fear State is upon us. We can only hope that the Bat-Signal is still burning on the other side… ‘Till next week, I’m your host Dan McMahon. Be strong in all your convictions.
Books covered this week:
Batman: Fear State: Alpha #1 by James Tynion IV, Riccardo Federici, Chris Sotomayor, and Clayton Cowles.
Harley Quinn Annual #1 by Stephanie Phillips, David LaFuente, Marco Failla, Jon Sommariva, Miguel Muerto, and AndWorld Design.
Batman/Superman Annual #1 by Gene Luen Yang, Francesco Francavilla, and ALW’s Troy Peteri. Paul Pelletier, Mick Gray, and Hi-Fi.
Midnighter Annual #1 by Becky Cloonan, Michael W. Conrad, Michael Avon Oeming, Taki Soma, and Dave Sharpe.
Teen Titans Academy #6 by Tim Sheridan, Rafa Sandoval, Jordi Tarragona, Ulises Arreola, and Rob Leigh.
Infinite Frontier #1 by Joshua Williamson, Paul Pelletier, Jesús Merino, Tom Derenick, Norm Rapmund, Raul Fernandez, Hi-Fi, and Tom Napolitano.
My local comic shop is your typical hole-in-the-wall in terms of size and outward appearance. The owner’s encyclopedic knowledge of everything from lore to new releases is what keeps his sturdy flow of regulars in every Tuesday to Saturday. He saw me enter the shop and shouted: “Batman ‘89?”, receiving my confirming nod, he waved me to the counter and unveiled a sampling of the various covers. “I can give you this one” he pushed the original cover forward, “everything else is sold out.” Unphased, I took home this remarkable piece of nostalgia and devoured it in one sitting. Upon reflection, it only took a brief glimpse of the covers of Batman ‘89 to transport me, and the rest of the potential buyers back to not just ‘our’ Batman, but the Batman.
In June 1989, audiences were gifted their first live-action Batman since the days of Adam West in the 60s. Though uncertainty was cast on the director tapped to helm the project, and the actor who was to don the cowl, this darker, gritty tone of the film set a staple for the future of this DC landmark. Portrayed by the enigmatic Michael Keaton, his Bruce Wayne showed the disparity between the beloved playboy billionaire, and the creature that stalked the rooftops of Gotham by night. For his part, director Tim Burton created a gothic landscape for the iconic city that the caped crusader called home, one that would inspire the look for future ventures, such as the animated programs and video game series. Flash forward to now, and this beloved film finally found its rightful continuation in the hands of author Sam Hamm and illustrator Joe Quinones.
Batman 89’#1 opens a short time after the conclusion of the film which entailed a showdown in the cathedral between Batman and the Joker. Part one of this proposed 12-chapter series begins with the city approaching a holiday that many in Gotham should be wary of, Halloween. District attorney Harvey Dent, portrayed by Billy Dee Williams in the film and whose image is used for inspiration in the comic, shows off his trademark double headed coin during a romantic dinner. The guest escorting him is the lovely Barbara Gordon. Yes, you heard that correct. Barbara Gordon and Harvey Dent are dating, and after a flip of said coin, are engaged. High above the rooftops, lurking in his normal spot, we see Batman preparing for something.
A countdown leads to an attempted robbery with a prevailing Batman forced to make his getaway, while Harvey Dent’s future villainy is briefly exposed. In an attempt to remain spoiler free, we’ll continue on to something equally important in regards to this comic. Friends, this is not your typical Batman, and some readers may not be ready for it. This Batman is harboring technology of the 80s, where you will encounter CD-ROM as the pinnacle of innovation and his style of fighting is less finessed than those we have seen in the runs of Grant, Tynion, or King. This is a true extension of the film itself and will definitely draw the attention of those who consider Keaton’s Batman the archetype for the character.
The story itself fills in the missing pieces between the first and second of Burton’s films. Hamm paid attention to the sharp dialogue of the movie and its balanced approach of the duality of Batman and Bruce Wayne, creating something really worth reading. To Quinones’ credit, the attention to detail was the first thing that reassured me that this was essentially a love letter to Anton Furst, the man behind the Academy Award-winning design of Gotham. Look no further than the first page where we are greeted with civilians in Halloween costumes, but upon further review, are a collection of characters from Burtons greatest hits. I’ll leave it up to you to find them all, but it was a welcome sight that overwhelmed this reviewers’ sentimental side. Before writing this, it was my goal to establish where this would fall on a new readers list of Batman literature to explore. Rather than creating a full-fledged decision tree, it’d be better to ask one simple question. Have you seen the Burton classic Batman? If yes, this is a must read. If not, rent it then read this. You can keep your Kilmer’s, Clooney’s, Bale’s, and Affleck’s, I will take Michael Keaton’s raised eyebrows and knowing smirk any day of the week. He’s Batman!
I thoroughly enjoyed The Long Halloween: Part One but was trepidatious that it would not make the landing and close out the story in a satisfying way. They did hit that superhero landing, however, and I could not be happier, as this has quickly jumped up high in the list of best films DC Animation has to offer. While still following the basic outline of Jean Loeb’s comic plot, it takes enough deviations to keep those who have read the book interested. In the end, I think, from a story perspective, I enjoyed this a lot more than what Loeb delivered back in the 90s.
While not as stylized as Tim Sale’s art, the animation comes into its own here, delivering some truly stunning imagery and expressive character animations throughout. There’s a fight scene in the third act that is a standout. Its use of a large cast of characters, all with varying abilities, while keeping the action clear throughout is worthy of praise. It will go down as one of the standouts of the current era of DC Animation.
When it comes to the cast, Jensen Ackles ends up being a great Batman, one I hope continues in the role. He has the right kind of voice to switch between the gravelly undertones of the Dark Knight and the carefree playboy veneer of Bruce Wayne. The greatly missed Naya Rivera kills it as Catwoman, balancing the various facades of her character perfectly. It’s a damn shame we won’t get more of her Selina Kyle, especially as it seems these versions of the characters will be returning. And then there’s Harvey Dent. It’ll come as no surprise given he’s on the poster, but Two-Face rears his burned face this time around, and Josh Duhamel rises to the occasion, bringing just the right amount of menace and tragedy to Dent.
As I’m writing this, I realize that all three principal characters deal with dual lives, personalities, the side they show in public, and the side they keep private. Symbolism folks, it works.
If you’ve been on the fence about this given prior animated adaptations of classic Batman stories not meeting the mark (looking at you, Hush), rest assured in knowing you’ll walk away very happy you took the time to experience The Long Halloween.
With an Infinite Frontier on the horizon, you may want to jump into the action going on in Gotham City. I have gathered our own Bat-Family of sorts in order to help you catch up on what’s been going down in Gotham City so you can start reading when the titles return. This article will help you catch up with all of your favorite members of the Bat-Family (and what’s been going on with one Harley Quinn).
Written by Ethan Chamberlain
Following the events of the City of Bane, Bruce Wayne is a changed man. Looking for a way forward after the death of Alfred, he’s no longer living for the darkness of tonight and has instead begun dreaming of the sunrise of tomorrow.
With a plan to shape the future of Gotham into a city that no longer needs the Bat, Bruce sets out to enact his grand design for his home. However, a plot, a long time in the making, is coming to fruition. The Designer has returned to the city, putting in motion his own grand design to bring Gotham to its knees. This plot was formed long ago, between The Designer, Joker, Penguin, Riddler, and Catwoman. With everything now in motion from years past, Catwoman confessed the truth to Batman, and with the help of Harley Quinn, tries to stop it. While successful in defeating The Designer, the design itself is successful. Bruce loses his billions, as they were stolen by Joker’s new accomplice, Punchline. It turns out that everything was orchestrated from behind the scenes by the Clown Prince of Crime. A war is coming to the streets of Gotham. A Joker War.
The war is brutal. Lucius Fox, who has been helping Bruce out with his nighttime activities in lieu of Alfred, is brutally attacked with laughing gas. Commissioner Harvey Bullock and the GCPD are outgunned, outmanned, outnumbered, outplanned. Batman is gassed with a very potent blend of Scarecrow’s fear toxin only to be saved from it by Harley. Finally getting the upper hand, the Bat-Family regroup and take to the streets, to bring peace back to Gotham. Coordinated by Barbara Gordon, retaking the mantle of Oracle, they start winning the fight. This leaves a final confrontation to be had. Bat vs. Clown, with one added element, a harlequin. This added wildcard means Bruce has to make a choice, save Harley, who has tied a bomb to herself, or save Joker, who Harley has tied a bomb to. Bruce saves Harley, leaving Joker to fend for himself. A week later, the city is returning to some normalcy. While Joker survived he has decided to leave Gotham for a while. Why? We’ll find out.
During the Joker War, a new vigilante took to the streets, Clownhunter, who has taken it upon himself to kill those who allied themselves with Joker. Batman attempts to bring him into the light, to stop the killing, and help the kid. However, this coincides with the arrival of Ghost-Maker, an old… acquaintance of Bruce’s from his year’s training. Ghost-Maker has always found Bruce’s method of vigilantism to be left wanting, having found killing a more permanent solution. To show Bruce the error of his ways, he kidnaps Clownhunter and Harley to stage a confrontation between the two, as Harls was the one who set Clownhunter down this path. Batman finds them, and not only convinces Clownhunter to let Harley live but also for Ghost-Maker to stick around and help out, with no killing of course.
The future looks bright for once. But trouble is always around the corner for Batman and his allies. Fear itself is coming for Gotham…
To find out what happens next, check out Infinite Frontier #0, and Batman #106 by James Tynion IV and Jorge Jimenez, releasing 03/02/2021. Then for more adventures of the Bat-Family check out Detective Comics #1034 by Mariko Tamaki and Dan Mora, releasing 03/23/2021. And finally find out where Joker went, and why Jim Gordon is hunting him down in The Joker #1 by James Tynion IV and Guillem March, releasing 03/09/2021.
Written by Colby E.
Dick Grayson was shot in the head. He died. And – by chance – Ric Grayson was born.
The most important thing to know about Ric Grayson – at least according to Nightwing #50-76 – is that he’s absolutely not Dick Grayson. Ric Grayson is cool! He’s got a buzzcut! A leather jacket! He breaks into people’s houses while they’re away and sleeps in them! He’s got an all-new supporting cast! He’s even got a new girlfriend – a Bludhaven bartender named Bea Bennett, in the proud tradition of alliterative superhero partners. But more than anything, Ric Grayson has a chip on his shoulder. No matter who shows up in Bludhaven to convince him to come home to Gotham, to Bruce Wayne’s mansions, millions of dollars, and top-of-the-line medical treatment, Ric just wants to hang out in Bludhaven, drink bad beer, and drive around in a cab. And yet – because of his buried memories, instinctive combat abilities, or just because this is a superhero comic and we’ve gotta have some action – Ric just can’t help but find himself caught up again and again in superhero action.
If there’s a throughline to the superheroic side of the Ric Grayson era, it’s best found in Team Nightwing. Team Nightwing – consisting of three cops and an ex-cop firefighter – are a group of lawmakers that decide that they’re too penned in by the rules of the badge and decide to become part-time vigilantes, a plotline with absolutely no troubling real-world implications. Dressed in a collection of old Nightwing uniforms (found by lead Nightwing Detective Saperstein in the ashes of a burnt-down Nightwing base) they’re an exciting crew with personalities such as The Main Guy, The Girl, The Good-One, and The Nice Rookie Who Keeps Getting Put In The Hospital. Sometimes they have guns. The Good-One has a fire ax.
Team Nightwing takes their best shot at crime-fighting, and things go as well as it ever does when civilians try to become superheroes – at least until they meet a mysterious cabbie, with a talent for ass-kicking and axle grease smeared across his face in what may be the least effective superhero disguise in history. This is of course Ric, and despite his absolute insistence that he’s not a superhero and doesn’t want to be one, he keeps leaping into battle armed with nothing but a tank top and a rope with an unlit road flare tied to the end. Ric and Team Nightwing take on a few of Gotham’s B-List criminals – Scarecrow, Joker’s Daughter – and a single new enemy – Backburn, a fire creature animated by the mind of a comatose cop.
Eventually, Ric Grayson runs his course, as it’s revealed that the specialist that was attempting to fix Grayson’s amnesia was, in reality, a member of the Court of Owls, in yet another attempt to turn him into their latest Talon. Working with current Talon and Grayson’s great-grandpa William Cobb, this specialist brainwashes Ric with a combination of special goggles and a very shiny crystal into believing he was raised by Cobb rather than Bruce Wayne after his parents died, eventually killing Wayne during the events of the original Court of Owls story. This deception lasts about an issue and a half – just long enough to put another Team Nightwing member in the hospital – before Ric shakes it off, only to get brainwashed once again less than an issue later by the Joker in the title’s tie-in to Joker War. Ric spends about three issues brainwashed into believing he grew up as the Joker’s Robin – complete with the truly unfortunate codename of Dickyboy – and battling it out with various Gotham heroes before finally breaking free of his brainwashing to become Dick Grayson once again. A quick wrap-up fight with KGBeast who shot him in the noggin originally, a very cruel breakup with Bea “for her protection” in the worst super heroic tradition, and Dick Grayson is right back where he started – protecting the city of Bludhaven, awaiting whatever adventures happen next.
Check out Nightwing #78 by Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo, releasing 03/16/2021.
Written by Ethan Chamberlain
Having engaged in a rather large heist during the Joker War with Penguin and Riddler (and subsequently betraying them, of course), Catwoman set up shop in her old neighborhood, Alleytown. Selina wasted no time in setting up shop at The Nest, giving the disenfranchised kids of the area a place to stay.
Unhappy with being betrayed, Penguin hired an assassin by the name of Father Valley to take out The Cat. He’s rather different from most assassins, biding his time for the perfect kill, even having helped out Selina a few times.
Unaware of this threat, Selina set to work cleaning up Alleytown of the gangs causing the most hurt to its people. With help from the kids she’s taken in and Leo, an old friend from her days in Alleytown, Catwoman took down Vilos Nahigian’s drug gang and in turn, got the gang of Pit Rollins working for her.
With retaliation held off by Nahigian’s gang, Catwoman left enough evidence with a “colleague” of hers, Detective Hadley, to follow the trail of the plant-based drugs, seemingly being created from a captured Poison Ivy.
To find out what happens next check out Catwoman #29 by Ram V and Fernando Blanco, releasing 03/16/2021.
Written by Alex Smith-Petersen
No more half-measures. Damian Wayne has had a tumultuous, at best, past couple of years. He lost his old mentor and friend, Dick Grayson when he was shot in the head by the KGBeast and turned into Ric Grayson. He attempted to keep villains locked in a prison of his own making, where they wouldn’t be able to escape, unlike Arkham, but his team knew it was wrong and turned their backs on his ways. But worst of all, due to his own brash actions, as well as the machinations of Bane and the Flashpoint Batman, Damian was forced to watch in abject terror as Alfred, ever-loyal-servant to the Wayne family, was murdered in front of him. Damian’s entire life has been ruthlessly upended, and he spirals.
After killing Brother Blood himself, and making a play at getting revenge on the KGBeast for what he did to Dick, Damian is finally tracked down by his father. While Batman tries to reach his son, he ultimately comes up short. It’s too late, Damian is lost to his rage and grief over Alfred, and attacks Batman, lashing out. Despite Bruce’s best efforts, Damian is not swayed and throws away his Robin symbol from his costume. Robin no more?! Say it ain’t so!
Ah, but it is so. Damian leaves the Teen Titans, Batman, and his entire life as Robin behind. Damian is next seen stealing Bruce’s Black Casebook, in an effort to do what his father could not and prove himself, as well as get out of the shadow of Batman. Bruce manages to track Damian down and Damian lashes out once more, knowing that Bruce won’t hit him back, but he still does his best to restrain him and get him to listen. Damian begrudgingly agreed to team up with Bruce to save the rest of the Bat-family from Hush, who had kidnapped them all during a riot in Gotham.
Unfortunately, that truce didn’t last long, and once the rescue was over, Damian briefly opened up to his father. He told him what the death of Alfred did to him, and how he would always blame himself for the rest of his life. He doesn’t know what path is right for him, but he knows he needs a change. Damian will forge his own future in the Infinite Frontier, divorced from all that he’s known for years.
Damian’s story continues in Robin#1 from Joshua Williamson and Gleb Melnikov, releasing 04/27/2021. But first, he’ll appear in backup stories in Batman #106 and Detective Comics #1034 from Williamson and Melnikov as a prequel for his series, both arriving in March.
Written by Alex Smith-Petersen
Ex-Robin and now Ex-Outlaw, Jason Todd has been on the move for years now, never staying still for too long. He ran with Starfire and Arsenal for a time, and then Artemis and Bizarro after that, but now, with the Joker War ended, Gotham’s second-favorite son (or third, depending on who you’re asking) returns to his stomping grounds.
In the Hill-area of Gotham City, Jason Todd reconnects with an old friend named Dana, who has been watching a property of his for quite some time. While he didn’t plan on staying for long, like the aloof Bat-family-adjacent guy he is, he found a reason to hang around for a few days.
A new villain, Tommy Maxx, with one hell of a chip on his shoulder and a penchant for fashion, set out to make Gotham his, with the aid of slick-as-hell-in-his-new-suit Killer Croc. Tommy was not messing around, and struck his competition down swiftly and with style, becoming a problem for Dana and her neighborhood. Dana and her friends took up arms to defend their neighborhood during the Joker War, and do so again to protect themselves against Tommy and his thugs.
Jason ultimately teamed up with Dana to bring Tommy down, restoring peace to their neighborhood, and reinvigorating Jason’s desire for justice. He’s a hero at heart, for the most part, and wants to protect those that can’t protect themselves. The last we see of Jason, for now, is him receiving a mysterious gift from Bruce Wayne, looking on as Batman, as a housewarming present. Things seem to be going well between the two, and we will see them teamed up once more in the upcoming Batman Urban Legends book.
Jason’s story continues in Batman Urban Legends #1 from Chip Zdarsky and Eddy Barrows, arriving on 03/16/2021.
Written by Violet
Harley moved to L.A. for a spell, feeling that a break from Coney Island will suppress any memories of her mother who died from cancer. Unfortunately for Harley, this isn’t the case as the friend she’s staying with is murdered and she sets off to solve the case of who did it. We see her work through the stages of grief and despair, pushing through to the final end…
Tying us in with Joker War, Gotham City falls into chaos when Joker discovers Batman is Bruce Wayne, forcing him into horrible predicaments. Joker’s new girlfriend, Punchline, also crosses paths with Harley quite a bit, making life all the more difficult and giving her a new scar from cutting her throat. Harley follows Batman to the final battle because she doesn’t believe he has what it takes to kill Joker if need be. During the climax of their confrontation, Harley shows up. She shoots Joker through the eye and doesn’t give her the little catharsis she hopped for. She then proceeded to tie one bomb to herself and another onto Joker, making Batman choose, as he only had time to save one. Batman does chose to save her and leaves Joker in the blast.
A few weeks pass before we find Harley getting a new apartment and things seem to be settling down. That is until she and Batman are kidnapped and brought to Arkham by Clownhunter, a young teen whose parents were killed by the Joker and Harley. She apologizes for her wrongdoings, explaining how Joker’s manipulation got the better of her and she states she wishes to do better in the future. Clownhunter leaves, choosing to spare her life. Batman tells Harley to leave Arkham as he faces Ghost-Maker alone.
Harley’s story continues in Harley Quinn #1 by Stephanie Phillips and Riley Rossmo releasing on 03/23/2021.
Spoilers for Man-Bat #1 by Dave Wielgosz, Sumit Kumar, Romulo Fajardo Jr., and Tom Napolitano which is available now from DC Comics.
Batman’s Rogues’ Gallery is full of some of the grandest tragedies imaginable. Take Mr. Freeze for example. A formidable foe that at his core is suffering deeply from the loss of the one he loves. Even with one of the greatest minds around, there was nothing he could to do save his beloved Nora other than freezing her. So many of these famous characters have a human element that so many can empathize with. We see something in these characters that we understand their pain through personal experience or something we have seen others go through.
I cannot tell you that I gave Dr. Robert Kirkland “Kirk” Langstrom much thought before reading Man-Bat #1. It took a single page to move me to tears as it all became clear.
Kirk Langstrom AKA Man-Bat is an addict.
The opening scene is a fight between Kirk and his wife Francine after she seemingly found his vial of Man-Bat serum. The thing is though, she found the vial over a week ago. She had been moving all of her things out of their home before she even told him. This isn’t the first time she’s left but it seems to be the last. Francine tells him that “I never said it would kill you…this will kill everything around you…” and those words have stuck since I finished reading the issue.
Addiction is something that roots itself so deeply in your mind that you cannot truly ever stop it. It’s a constant struggle for your own humanity. In Kirk, it’s the Man-Bat. A state of heightened being where he feels in control. He is riding the high of the power it gives him. A destructive power that hurts everyone in its wake even though sometimes it’s hard for the one suffering to realize it.
As someone who has struggled with addictions of my own and lost too many people to it, this story demonstrates something that I think is extremely important. Your addiction doesn’t make you a villain. Addiction is a disorder where one uses something that can ultimately kill them for its desired effect. It’s a sickness that sometimes brings out the nastiest parts of us. In those moments, we lose ourselves to the monster and do things we could never imagine or say things that we’d never normally even think of.
Kirk is struggling with his addiction, he believes that this serum makes him better or can fix him. The high that comes with the power of Man-Bat has intoxicated him for so long because he feels powerless to it and the world around him.
Becoming Man-Bat has destroyed his life. The person he loves the most has left him. He has lost his entire reason for starting this project, to help his deaf sister. Sometimes realizing you’ve alienated everything that made you who you are is when you have to make the toughest choices. Kirk has struggled with his addiction and often given into the “fix” that Man-Bat provides.
Even if he gives up the serum, that gnawing addiction is always present in the back of his mind. The Man-Bat doesn’t go away. Addiction doesn’t go away but those who suffer can fight back. They can strive to make choices to try to live the best life that they can.
Now Kirk has to make that choice himself to save his own life. All he can do is find a balance with the monster inside. All that he can do now is try to make things right and keep his addiction under control. To save his own life, to live for a tomorrow where he doesn’t need a serum to feel okay.