We have officially completed the third full month of DC Comics latest big direction: Infinite Frontier. This new direction for the DC Universe has reshaped the landscape of what we knew the DCU to be. The impact of the Dark Nights: Death Metal and Future State have been felt across all the ongoing titles that DC Comics has been publishing since March. Now with Infinite Frontier having completed three full months of releases its time to look at how this ambitious direction by DC Comics has turned out for the company.
To do so I’m breaking up the analysis of all the series into three different articles. The first one will be dedicated to the Batman Family series of comic books. The Batman Family by far make up a large part of DC Comics’ Infinite Frontier direction so there is no better place to start than with this franchise.
Writer: James Tynion and Joshua Williamson
Artists: Jorge Jimenez, Gleb Melnikov, and Ricardo Lopez Ortiz
The events of A-Day, which involved the destruction of Arkham Asylum and causing many casualties, that took place in Infinite Frontier #0 has shaken Gotham City to its core. But as big of a deal that A-Day was it is only one of several events that have taken place in Gotham City to change things for the Batman Family and the city’s residents. Gotham City was already in a state of instability due to the events of Tom King’s “City of Bane” and James Tynion’s “Joker War” stories.
To Tynion’s credit as he has continued his run on Batman we are seeing how everything continues to matter. Tynion is maximizing what it is like for Bruce Wayne to find himself without his normal Wayne Family fortune or access to all his normal Batman resources. This has led us to see a Bruce that has to be much more resourceful when it comes to acting as not just Batman but Bruce Wayne the Gotham City resident. That includes understanding that he needs to trust the rest of the Batman Family to help him out as we have seen with Barbara Gordon returning to her role as Oracle to oversee Batman and the others
Tynion is also using all of this to bring the creation Magistrate to the forefront. The company who led the creation of what would become a regime that ruled over Gotham City has during Future State is trying to make the Magistrate a thing. In the process we are seeing Tynion take this as an opportunity to elevate Scarecrow while introducing new villains into Batman’s Rogue’s gallery, such as Miracle Molly. All of this work by Tynion has just reaffirmed how Batman is one DC Comics premiere titles.
BATMAN: THE DETECTIVE
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Andy Kubert
Given how many Batman titles that exist in the current DC Universe timeline it is refreshing to get one series starring Bruce Wayne’s Batman that is not being held in continuity. That is where Batman: The Detective is able to stand out most in its first issue. Tom Taylor and Andy Kubert immediately establish a story where we find a Batman that no longer calls Gotham City his home.
Having Batman get involved in a supernatural story added to how different The Detective is different from the other titles starring Batman. It gives a whole different way for Batman to have to interact with his world. Adding in the underused Knight and her new sidekick, who has taken on her former identity, as Squire mixes things up while bringing elements from Batman Inc. into play.
The only thing that did not completely work was the antagonist dressing up as Batman. There are so many different villains that could’ve been used for this story that only needed slight tweaks to fit into this supernatural story. The addition of Henri Ducard to the story will hopefully strengthen this part of the story in Batman: The Detective moving forward.
BATMAN: URBAN LEGENDS
Writers: Chip Zdarsky, Stephanie Phillips, Brandon Thomas, Matthew Rosenberg, and Cecil Castellucci
Artists: Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, Marcus To, Laura Braga, Max Dunbar, Ryan Benjamin, and Marguerite Sauvage
While Batman is the one with his name on the Urban Legends series this comic book is really a Batman Family comic book. Though characters like Red Hood, Katana, Black Lightning, Grifter, and Oracle could all lead their own comics or a team series like Outsiders having them all in one anthology comic book is a good thing. This has given Batman: Urban Legends its own unique hook as the home for where we can get the stories of the Batman Family members who don’t have their own solo comics at the moment. Its also a good way of experimenting more with the format as we are getting several full-length comic book stories being told in this one series, like the weekly Shonen Jump.
And the stories in Batman: Urban Legends have all stood out on their own as we a strong collection of creative teams working on each story. Obviously the one that has stood out most thus far is Chip Zdarsky, Eddy Barrows, and Eber Ferreira’s Jason Todd/Red Hood story. As the first story in Urban Legends it sets the tone for the series as a whole. It has not only dove into what makes Jason Todd as Red Hood different from the rest of the Batman Family but also presented Zdarsky a chance to modernize Jason’s origin story from his Robin days, something we haven’t really gotten outside the retelling of his death.
Along with Red Hood’s story Urban Legends is doing has done a good job at also giving The Outsiders, who are now Black Lightning, Katana, and Metamorpho, and Grifter ongoing stories. Both these stories could easily stand on their own as individual series as they are tackling different stories in the Batman franchise. Which just adds greater value to what Batman: Urban Legends is giving to the reader as there is a ton of content to get invest in as a fan.
REVIEWS: Batman: Urban Legends #3
Writer: Ram V
Artist: Fernando Blanco
Showing how Gotham City is more than just the main metro area we normally see spotlighted in Batman and Detective Comics is always a major positive with the Batman Family titles. Ram V and Fernando Blanco understand this by having their Catwoman series take place in the Alleytown district of Gotham City. In having Catwoman’s series its own corner it has given the series a different feel from the main two main Batman comics. It unique to the character and the people we see in the series.
It is also giving us another a different view in the new gang war that is building up underground as Ram V has brought Penguin, Riddler, and other criminals into play. This has made Catwoman’s perspective on what is going on in Gotham City even more intriguing. It also helps mix things up for when we get into more of the typical superhero action.
The only thing that is not clicking as intended is Poison Ivy’s current storyline in Catwoman. Poison Ivy’s greater impact on all of the Batman books is something that still needs to be developed to properly see if it is leading to something that is attention grabbing. And it looks like with the teases in Catwoman that this series is where we will get a lot of development from Poison Ivy’s story. Which is something we will wait and see how we view its developments as it progresses.
REVIEW: Catwoman #31
Writers: Mariko Tamaki and Joshua Williamson
Artists: Dan Mora, Gleb Melnikov, and Clayton Henry
Of all of the Batman titles that are on the market Detective Comics is the series that most comes across as a series you’ll buy only if you can’t get enough Batman stories. That is not at all a bad thing because Mariko Tamaki and Dan Mora are doing a good job in further showcasing the current state of Gotham City from Bruce Wayne’s perspective. But more than anything it just feels very similar to the story going on in Tynion’s Batman series.
The big positive for the series is that Detective Comics is spending more time developing the way not just Bruce Wayne is dealing with the chaotic situation in Gotham City. We are seeing more of Mayor Nakano and other Gotham City residents reaction to the current status quo. This gives us further insight into what Bruce is now battling on top of the normal Batman villains. And with Tynion’s Batman going in on developing the Magistrate it is refreshing to have a more classic Batman comic to turn to if elements from Future State wasn’t something you got into.
The start of the Huntress back-up for Detective Comics was also solid. After all the changes to the character during New 52 and Rebirth it is good to have Huntress get a chance to reset and figure out her position as a vigilante. How her story crosses paths with Batman and others will be interesting to see.
REVIEWS: Detective Comics #1034
Writer: Stephanie Phillips
Artist: Riley Rossmo
When it comes to pure fun Stephanie Phillips and Riley Rossmo’s Harley Quinn. This series from both tone and style reminds me a lot of the HBOMax Harley Quinn animated series. Rossmo’s art is over the top in the best ways an animated show normally is. And Phillips nails how Harley Quinn is a character that still finds a way to have her own sense of fun even when being targeted by Hugo Strange.
Through all the humor Harley Quinn also positions her back in the Gotham City environment in a seamless manner. Since being elevated during New 52 we saw Harley get away from her home. Now with this new series she has made Gotham City her home again. Not only that but Harley is using this return home to try to fully break good as she is trying to work with Batman. This direction has led to some fun dynamics between Harley and the different types of characters that are to be found in Gotham City.
With many of the Batman books taking a dark turn as they deal with the Magistrate and other things going on in Gotham City it is good to have a series in the franchise that is just fun. Harley Quinn is a change of pace for fans that shows there can be stories that are pure fun to be had in the franchise without going the route of telling stories in the DCAU to do so. It overall strengthens the line-up of Batman Family comic books DC Comics is publishing.
REVIEWS: Harley Quinn #1
Writers: James Tynion IV and Sam Jones
Artists: Guillem March; Mirka Andolfo
The Joker ongoing series is a good example of starting strong but starting to lose steam quickly. The premise of the series for The Joker is a good one with Jim Gordon actually taking the role of lead protagonist looking to take down the Clown Prince of Crime as his final case. The first two issues did a good job using the Court Of Owls, City Of Bane, Joker War, and Infinite Frontier stories all to create a foundation for The Joker series and why it actually stars Jim Gordon. We even get some strong debuts for a new member of the Court of Owls and the daughter of Bane, Vengeance.
Where this series falls apart is with the title character. At the end of the day having an ongoing series with the Joker causes the villain to lose everything that makes him special. The Joker #3 was a good example of that as we saw the series go from a serious tone with Jim Gordon on his last case to a cartoon when the detective found Joker. The meeting between Jim and Joker showed how there is just not a lot of legs to this series when a major part of the premise for the series has to be stretched out.
The Punchline back-up that is accompanying this series has been solid. As with other back-up stories we’ve had it is taking its time in developing the direction for Punchline, Harper Row, and the other characters involved. The page count the back-up has means that we’ll likely continue to see this story progress slowly with each issue of The Joker.
THE NEXT BATMAN: SECOND SON
Writers: John Ridley
Artists: Tony Akins and Travel Foreman
Given the popularity of Jace Fox’s Batman in Future State, as the character appeared in multiple Future State titles, there was no way we weren’t going to see the character again. Especially with the Fox Family set-up to be an even bigger part of the future of Gotham City post-Joker War there was an route to develop Tim Fox’s evolution into becoming Jace Fox and Batman in the present day DC Universe. That is exactly what John Ridley, who wrote Future State: The Next Batman, did with the Second Son series.
Actually having time to invest in Tim Fox’s character before he even thought of assuming the Batman mantle was a fascinating to see. Ridley dug into Tim’s history with his family and military service period to show how far the character has come as an adult. It further showed how even in a tight family unit as the Fox Family have been presented that there could still be black sheep in the family. Which is what we saw Tim be, especially with the animosity that there is with his big brother Luke Fox. It made having the Second Son name in the title of this Next Batman series take on multiple meanings.
At the same time The Next Batman: Second Son help drive the narrative of the growing influence Simon Saint is having in Gotham City. There were elements in this story and how the Fox Family are connected that felt like were held back for possibly the main Batman series or another comic book. That said we are given a better idea as to why the Fox Family would work with Simon Saint and Mayor Nakano in creating The Magistrate, as we saw in Future State. The ending of The Next Batman: Second Son set things up for the Fox Family to end up going the route we saw them in Future State or something different entirely.
Writers: Tom Taylor
Artists: Bruno Redondo
By far my favorite comic book series that DC Comics has been publishing since Infinite Frontier started has been Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo’s Nightwing. After how much Dick Grayson has been put through during New 52 and DC Rebirth, from being “killed” in Forever Evil to being shot in the head during the City of Bane Saga, the character needed a reset of his life. That is what Taylor and Redondo have been able to do. They’ve done this by respecting everything that has happened to Dick Grayson’s character and using it as a springboard to give him a fresh start personally and as Nightwing.
Using Dick Grayson’s character history and connections with others, specifically with the rest of the Batman Family, has made Taylor and Redondo’s early run on Nightwing such a standout. The letter Dick reads that Alfred left for him to kick off this series set a high standard in how we can expect Nightwing’s history to further define him. And that has continued to be shown through his interactions with Barbara Gordon and Tim Drake how those around him make Dick Grayson a better person, not just character. Embracing how Nightwing strength is connecting with others and extending that to how he interacts with the world that exists in Bludhaven has created a strong foundation for the series.
The new state of Bludhaven with Blockbuster running things has been a story that is slowly building. The way Taylor and Redondo are building this particular aspect of their Nightwing run has made Blockbuster an even bigger bad guy than he was before. They are building the character to be more in control of the city without actually having the villain appear in each issue. The authority of the villain is seen through other criminals and politicians actions in the Nightwing series thus far.
Writers: Joshua Williamson
Artists: Gleb Melnikov
I am a sucker for any series that involves a fighting tournament. Fighting tournament stories are some of my favorite things to read or watch in manga and anime. So when learning through the Robin back-up stories in Batman #106 and Detective Comics #1034 that Damian Wayne was going to enter a fighting tournament I was all in for this new series. And thus far Joshua Williamson and Gleb Melnikov have not disappointed.
The biggest thing that has stood out two issues into the new Robin series is how Williamson and Melnikov are using minor characters in the DC Universe. Damian Wayne is by far the biggest name character in this fighting tournament. Most of the fighters in the Lazarus Tournament aren’t well known but carry some name value as notable combatants in the DC Universe. Adding Rose Wilson and Connor Hawke, two characters who haven’t been seen much or at all over the course of the last decade, does give the tournament some more recognizable faces. Connor Hawke in particular looks to be built to be a major character who will be positioned as Damian Wayne’s major competition.
While the fighting tournament is obviously the big selling point for the new Robin series Williamson is also exploring where Damian’s current headspace is. Afterall, the last time we saw him before Infinite Frontier began he gave up being Robin, something he told his father directly. Now that it seems he is continuing to be Robin instead there are a lot of questions as to which legacy does Damian want to follow. Is it his father, Bruce Wayne, or grandfather, Ra’s Al Ghul, legacy he will end up following or possibly something new entirely? That major question has helped build an even stronger foundation for this series starring the current Boy Wonder.
REVIEWS: Robin #1
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