Deadshirt is Reading: Batman and Jean Grey!

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 is reading…

Batman #31

Written by Tom King
Art by Mikel Janin
Inks by Mikel Janin and Hugo Petrus
Colors by June Chung
DC Comics

“You’re The Riddler. Figure it out.”

As “The War of Jokes and Riddles”—a flashback arc detailing the untold ego-fueled supervillain gang war between The Riddler and The Joker over who gets to kill Batman—draws to a close, story architects Tom King and Mikel Janin deliver an issue that reads briskly but is nevertheless very satisfying. With Edward Nygma having successfully knocked off or recruited most of The Joker’s bad guy army, it’s up to the unlikely pair of Batman and The Riddler to finally take down the Clown Prince of Crime.

This arc overall has played well to King’s strengths as a meticulously plotted superhero comic with the faintest shades of King’s more real world geopolitic seen in comics like The Sheriff of Baghdad (while, you know, still featuring a character named “Kite Man”). King and Janin’s dour rookie incarnation of The Joker is a refreshing take on an often overused Batman foe, and in this issue alone he’s an especially intriguing menace. Most Batman writers want to tell the Joker story in their run, while King is clearly content to tell a fascinatingly unorthodox one.

Janin, whose work got on a lot of people’s radar with King and Tim Seeley’s excellent Grayson, drops some excellent work here. From The Riddler’s perpetually douchey smirk to a dynamic sequence of Catwoman falling off a building, there’s a ton of big and little details to admire in this issue. This is a comic that calls for Batman and his rogues gallery hang-gliding into a skyscraper and, buddy, do we ever get that. On a related note, special props to King and Janin (and other “War” artist Mitch Gerads) for building up aforementioned D-lister Kite Man in this arc as both a significant, sympathetic character and as essentially a walking bit of hilarious payoff. Kite Man. Hell Yeah.

Kayleigh Hearn is reading…

Jean Grey #7

Written by Dennis Hopeless
Art by Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque
Colors by Jay David Ramos
Lettered by VC’s Travis Lanham
Marvel Comics

“Scarlet Witch?” “Oh, for God’s sake.”

This week saw the big announcement of Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey, an upcoming miniseries that will, as the title indicates, bring the (adult) Jean Grey back into the Marvel Universe after a 13-year absence. Ah, but note the parenthesis: the teenage, time-traveling Jean Grey has been a featured player in X-Men comics for a few years now, and in her solo book, her adult self is already back in the form of a mysterious specter trying to advise her younger incarnation from beyond the veil. The concept of a woman being “haunted” by the ghost of herself is full of trippy, mindbending possibilities, and it’s a shame the comic doesn’t live up to them.

Part of the problem is that Dennis Hopeless is keeping the series stuck in a rigid “Jean gets a training montage from a new special guest star” format, which is wearing thin after seven issues. This is the kind of story that begs for something big and weird and cosmic, not yoga on the beach. Another problem is that the conflict between Jean & Jean rings false, especially after Cullen Bunn and R.B. Silva’s quite good Generations: Phoenix & Jean Grey. There should be conflict, of course; Jean is simultaneously gazing into her past and her future, and she doesn’t like what she sees. It’s also good to see a more humanized adult Jean Grey, who is impatient and hot-tempered and not just the Sainted Phoenix Goddess enshrined in the X-Men’s collective memory. Unfortunately, much of the issue just comes off as two women petulantly sniping at each other. (Adult Jean muttering “Oh gawd” and calling a hug gross just feels…off. Are we sure this isn’t Madelyne Pryor?)

The art by Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque is exactly what it needs to be, with angry redheads firing psychic blasts at dinosaurs, but it’s not particularly spectacular and doesn’t elevate the weak script. With anticipation building for Phoenix Resurrection, I hope Jean Grey can regain some of its heat, since right now it’s not a good reminder of why fans were eager for this character’s return in the first place.

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!

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