Monday, August 3, 2015

Batman and Robin: Dark Knight vs White Knight (comics)

Writers: Paul Cornell, Peter J. Tomasi, Judd Winick
Artists: Scott McDaniel, Patrick Gleason, Greg Tocchini
Collects: Batman and Robin #17-25

This, my friends, is what we call a holding pattern.

Grant Morrison had just finished up on this title - its part to play in his ongoing Batman Epic over - and despite the insistence it should be by armchair analysts who feel they know it all, it wasn't cancelled. In fact, they had a pretty exciting team lined up to take over. Peter J Tomasi and Patrick Gleason.

Well, turns out Flashpoint was just around the corner, so there's some time to kill; might as well get an arc out of the two with the old status quo, rotate some other teams in and start their actual run in earnest with the relaunch.

That's not to say Dark Knight vs White Knight is without merit. Of the three arcs collected, two are decent to good, with only one dropping to mediocre. Paul Cornell's story has an old flame of Bruce Waynes come back to haunt his sons, seemingly for Bruces negligence. Tomasi's arc concerns a new villain, the titular "White Knight"; the name is lame, but he has an interesting hook in that he aims to kill off the family lines of everyone in Arkham to stop the spread of their "evil".

Only Judd Winicks arc really falls below par. It concerns Jason Todd - a character Winick knows well - and while that's enough to get your interest it never really goes anywhere. It seems to exist mainly to undo the position Todd had been put in at the end of the second arc of Morrisons run on the title. Why? I don't know. The relaunch was right around the corner. I mean, we don't even find out the motives of the group that's after him; they're just there, seemingly for no other reason than to give the three sons of Batman someone to fight. It's competantly written and has a few fun scenes, but once you get to the end and nothing feels truly resolved, the whole thing feels like stalling.

For some reason I can't fathom, the last issue of Batman and Robin - issue #26 - is absent. Why? I haven't a damn clue. the trade was already nine issues. There's no good reason not to slip the last issue of the volume in, especially considering there is nowhere else it would fit and as such it went uncollected. No, it's fine, it's not like it was the issue I wanted to read the most out of the ten.

The art is, for the most part, pretty damn good. I'm not always the biggest fan of Scott McDaniels art, but there's no question it works for Batman. Patrick Gleason is just excellent and rightly goes on to be a steady hand in the Bat books from here on out. But it's the last arc that stumbles. The first issue of the three is a half and half job between Guillem March and Andre Bressan. That's not so bad; Bressan does a good enough job aping Marchs style. No, where things go sour is when we switch to Tocchini for the last two issues.

Now, I like Tocchini's artwork - his style reminds me a bit of Frazier Irving, though part of it comes down to the coloring - but stylistically it's the most jarring shift you could ever ask for mid-arc. Why? Hell if I know.

But hey. Two out of three ain't bad, right? Aside from the missing issue, which probably annoys me a hell of a lot more than it would you, this is a fairly solid volume. Not something you just gotta have, but for something coming out sandwiched between two long, acclaimed runs, you could do a lot worse.

My Opinion: Try It

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