Deadshirt Is Reading… is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt’s staff, contributing writers, and friends-of-the-site offer their thoughts on Big Two cape titles, creator-owned books, webcomics and more.
Max Robinson and Dom Griffin are reading…
All-Star Batman #1
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by John Romita Jr.
Inked by Danny Miki
Colored by Dean White
(Back Up Story)
Art by Declan Shalvey
Colored by Jordan Bellaire
“Take me and burn him out of me once and for all.”
Max: Given the pure insanity promised by the first issue of Snyder/Romita’s new Batman book, we figured it’d be best to do a conversational review. Dom, I loved this comic. Two-Face is my favorite Batman rogue and Batman maims Black Spider’s doctor octopus arms with a chainsaw. I’ve been hot and cold on Snyder’s writing on Batman over the years, but it feels like Snyder’s got a great groove going here.
Dom: I feel the same way about his take on Batman, where anything not Joker related is amazing and anything where that damn clown shows up is a mess. This feels like his main title run with Capullo but on steroids. It’s so great to see Romita Jr. being treated like a superstar artist. His signature style breathes new life into Batman the way it did Superman during his collaboration with Geoff Johns. Snyder writes to his strengths, letting him run loose on villains like Firefly that we’ve all collectively stopped giving a shit about.
Max: The villain redesigns here are terrific, I love how JRJ has Killer Moth and Firefly in essentially matching uniforms. TO SAY NOTHING OF THE GENTLEMAN GHOST CARRYING AN UZI. Everything with Two-Face here is excellent, from the kind of stripped down suit Romita gives him to the tweaked character thesis Snyder lays down. Two-Face/Harvey Dent’s an amazing character but he hasn’t had a really defining comics story beyond The Long Halloween. So re-imagining Two-Face as a darknet information broker who preys on people’s worst impulses is not only exactly the kick in the ass the character needs, it feels very in-character.
Dom: After his struggles to iconically reinvent The Joker, Snyder shows that he’s got a real knack for rethinking characters we’ve seen again and again in a way that feels new without being a drastic departure from what’s come before. His perspective on Gotham’s most notorious baddies rivals early Johns-era Flash comics, when he was meticulously building the Rogues back from the ground up. Two-Face basically has two kinds of stories: ones that retell his origins, or ones where he gets his face fixed and we all wait around for it to get fucked up again and for him to start digging X-Acto knives into random coins. The central premise here is like a more effective, less maudlin take on The Joker’s boat gambit from The Dark Knight. Also, Batman’s relationship with Dent naturally lends itself to more satisfying philosophical debate, because it hews close to the essence of the character without all that “destined to dance forever” bullshit we see once a year.
Max: All-Star Batman, at least the main story, is apparently set all outside of Gotham, and I’m excited to see where this pushes the creative team. In this issue alone, we get Batman menacing a dude with a chainsaw in the middle of a wheatfield! Maybe you can argue that Batman as a character is overexposed in popular culture but the side effect of that is we can now get balls to the wall craziness like this.
Dom: Continuing from Snyder’s work on Detective Comics and the main Batman title, All-Star features a back-up story, this one illustrated by former Moon Knight artist Declan Shalvey. It’s no surprise that Shalvey’s style suits the Dark Knight quite nicely, but I’m really digging this exploration of Batman’s new Not Sidekick Duke. The repeated refrain that he isn’t the next Robin has drummed up some fascinating potential futures, and I can’t wait to see where Snyder takes this newfound dynamic. Also, that little aside about whether he’ll become a hero or a villain and it not being an explicit reference to Jason Todd? Interesting.
Max: The backup was a (necessary) come down from the pop rocks and cocaine high of the main story but really dug Bellaire’s color work on this, a story *about* colors. There’s not a ton to dig into here but always down for a straightup Batman mystery.
Dom: Hopefully that two-handed approach going forward is enough to slake the nation’s ever-present thirst for New Batman Content. DC’s landscape, as a whole, has been so hit or miss for so long, that it’s really refreshing to see Snyder continue the good work he did throughout the nu52 era in a different kind of cape comic. It’ll be exciting to see what he and Romita cook up next.
David Uzumeri is reading….
The Black Monday Murders #1
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Tomm Coker
Colored by Michael Garland
Lettered by Rus Wooton
“If you’re going to earn money—accumulate real power—then that is done on the backs of others.”
I’m the target audience for this from jump, right? I’m a longtime fan of Hickman’s work, especially the more esoteric and meticulously planned stuff, and this is that aspect of Hickman’s work taken to its logical extreme. The first issue of The Black Monday Murders is fifty pages of procedural detective work and international monetary conspiracy, interspersed with text and design pages of background and the secret magical history of the international banking industry.
This was made in a lab for me.
That said, it’s worth noting how much of a return to the form of Hickman’s debut, The Nightly News, this feels. The theme of corruption of social systems was a major factor in a lot of his early work, and with the exception of Secret with Ryan Bodenheim, it was largely dealt with in metaphorical terms for much of his Marvel and Image work. It’s back in full force here, though, and this time it’s under the reins of a far more mature and measured storyteller.
This time around he’s joined by Tomm Coker on art, Michael Garland on colors, and Rus Wooton on letters. Garland and Wooton are both longtime Hickman creator-owned collaborators, but Coker is a new face, and his design work goes a long way towards selling the concept and the format. If the first issue is a template, Black Monday Murders seems to be aiming for a combination of traditional sequential storytelling and infographic/text pages, interspersed rather than in a story/backmatter format, that’s actually quite effective—making them part of the narrative rather than a seeming addition to it. It’s the kind of comic you always kind of expected to be a Hickman-only joint, and seeing it carried to a collaborative environment makes for a great read.
I mean, this is probably the kind of comic you knew whether you were interested in it or not from jump. If the idea of a gigantic worldbuilding secret-history escapade of infographics and comics appeals to you, if you’re into Hickman’s brand, then the first issue is a really satisfying chunk I can recommend even without reading the rest.
Joe Stando is reading…
The Flash #4
Written by Joshua Williamson
Art by Neil Googe and Ivan Plascencia (colors)
Lettered by Steve Wands
“Whoever wins the race, wins the speed.”
I’ve been a little underwhelmed by post-Rebirth The Flash, for a couple reasons. It’s taken a little while to get going, the twists feel telegraphed, and the whole thing feels more like a tie-in to the TV series than a bold direction for the book that can hold its own against others. I don’t know if it was a perspective shift on my end, a significant uptick in the quality of the book, or a mix of both, but I liked this issue more than any other so far. A lot of the negatives began to look more like positives, in a way I’ll elaborate on in a bit.
My first order of business, though, has to be praising Neil Googe’s art. Googe has a great handle on exactly the kind of decisions and flair to really sell a Flash book. His characters pop, from the scarlet speedster himself to the costume design for Dr. Dhawan and other generic new speedsters. The sequence with the Speed Force tornado monster is well-executed, breathing new life into the “run in a circle” tropes that are so common in Flash stories. My only complaint here is we don’t get to see his take on Godspeed, but that’s a scripting matter.
And speaking of the script, I found it far more fun and engaging than previous outings. The concept of new speedsters “racing” to accumulate the most Speed Force is inspired, and the aforementioned tornado monster is a nice twist. I’d been looking at this book as cashing in too hard on the kind of arcs and beats that have defined the Flash TV series so far, but I’m suddenly having much less of a problem with it. A blend of episodic installments and a big arc are fine, and if the beats come on a little obvious, like Barry revealing his secret identity to his new love interest, they’re at the very least inoffensive.
I’m sure that last bit comes across backhandedly, but I don’t mean it like that. This issue showed significant growth, and sold me on another at a time when i was considering dropping the book. In a world where Tom King’s Batman can go off the rails in its first arc, that’s no small feat.
Thanks for reading about what we’re reading! We’ll be back next week with a slew of suggestions from across the comics spectrum. In the meantime, what are you reading? Tell us in the comments section, on Twitter or on our Facebook Page!