Batman #17 is kind of a big deal, seeing as it is the conclusion to Death of the Family, Scott Snyder and company's big Joker tale. The story has been building since the big, flashy start that we got back with issue #13, with each subsequent issue raising the stakes at least a little bit. All of this led us right into this concluding issue, with a climax that would presumably be pretty badass. So how did it turn out?
On the one hand, it actually ended, which is already a big departure from the disappointing Animal Man and Swamp Thing of last week, but the ending we got was kind of underwhelming. After all that buildup, it feels like everything just kind of petered out. The threat Joker posed was diffused and nothing really changed.
Now, we all know that nothing really changes when it comes to Big 2 comic books, but Batman #17 doesn't even really manage meaningful nonchange. Snyder added in new bits and pieces for all of the characters (and especially Joker) in this arc, but the reveals he busts out over the course of this issue end up undercutting a lot of the work he's done. Throughout this entire story, it felt like the Joker was truly on the verge of destroying the Bat-family, but by the end of this issue, that threat is revealed to be quite hollow, which is rather disappointing.
Snyder said in interview (and I paraphrase here), that comic book deaths can be undone so he would give the characters some psychological damage, which could be more lasting. That's true to an extent, but the damage he leaves on the Bat-family feels unclear and goes against earlier moments in the story. There's a key moment where the unity between family members helps them overcome a threat, so to see the implication that there's tension between them doesn't ring entirely true, especially when some of that tension seems as if it came from things that happened off-panel.
Of course, while the story was a bit of a letdown, the art is anything but. Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion have proven themselves a hundred times over to be some incredibly capable Bat-artists, and this issue is no exception. While the story is a bit lacking towards the end, the art hits the same dark and creepy tone that we've seen in past issue from start to finish. There are a number of pages that are legitimately off-putting and it does a lot to compensate for the somewhat conflicting ending here.
Verdict - Check It. Admittedly, if you've been following the entire arc, it's unlikely that you'll skip out on the conclusion, but that doesn't mean it's terribly satisfying. It's unfortunate, considering how strong the rest of Death of the Family has been, but Snyder's story just doesn't keep up with the moody art from Capullo and Glapion.
I wish there were more comics like The End Times of Bram & Ben on stands. At a time when most books seem to be obsessed with big events or tying into a wider world, it's a breath of fresh air to read a comic that's content to do its own thing and do it well. And that's exactly what we've been getting with this miniseries.
This book is straight up hilarious. James Asmus and Jim Festante pepper the pages with jokes and japes to such a degree that it's like a rapid fire of humour. The comic reads kind of like an episode of Archer or Arrested Development, in that they'll throw jokes at you so often that you sometimes won't have stopped laughing at the previous one before you're hit with another. If such a thing were possible, I'd suggest that it might sometimes verge on too much humour per panel, but realistically, it just means that there's some good re-readability here.
However, there is more than simply jokes going on here, as Asmus and Festante are delivering some quality story here, with the titular characters, Bram and Ben moving ever farther into those end times hinted at in the book's name. While we had some sneak peeks at them last issue, the demon and angel who have been on the periphery, move into centre stage, unleashing some key bits of plot and some big action moments while they're doing it. The biblical rapture is obviously not that new of an idea, but Asmus and Festante are putting a really fun spin on it that makes it feel new and exciting.
I'm also finding the choice of Rem Broo on art to be a better and better decision as this book goes on. His cartoony and exaggerated style is perfect for the action and fights that we get in this issue, providing lots of expression and energy to the pages, something he maintains for all 22 pages of this comic. There's a definite looseness to his work, but it suits Bram & Ben like a glove.
Verdict - Buy It. The End Times of Bram & Ben is a heck of a lot of silliness and fun. The book's creators put the Christian apocalypse story to excellent use in their comedic tale of two roommates taking opposite sides on the road to the end of everything. With next issue set to feature Burning Bram, an outdoor concert featuring 66.6 hours of revelry, I imagine things will only be getting better.
I love Star Wars. When it comes to influences, like a lot of people my age, George Lucas' greatest creation easily ranks among my top all time. And also like many others, the recent trilogy wasn't exactly what I'd call my cup of tea. However, I still hold fond memories of seeing episodes IV through VI for the first time and thirsting for more. Back then, one of the few available avenues for more Star Wars goodness were the Bantam Star Wars books. The first I ever read was Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina, a book of short stories about the denizens of the infamous cantina from A New Hope. It managed to capture the same feeling of wonder and excitement from the movies while expanding on characters who were on screen for mere moments.
It was magical.
So please understand where I'm coming from when I say that Brian Wood and Carlos D'Anda have captured some of that same magic. Their comic does feature many of the main characters, such as Luke, Leia, and Han, but it stirs those same feelings as both those books and of the original films. Considering that the first issue Star Wars sold out, a number of you probably already know all of this, but it's worth repeating and mentioning that issue #2 maintains that same atmosphere.
Creators are always key to a good story, and Wood and D'Anda feel like inspired choices at this juncture. Wood has been all over the place, writing X-Men, Conan, his own The Massive, and much more of late, demonstrating his versatility, something that has been on full display thus far. Just as he's taken on the styles and tones of those other properties, he's slipped right into how Star Wars should feel and sound. The same is true of Carlos D'Anda, whose art seems to be getting better and better with each issue - not that it wasn't strong to begin with, of course. However, issue #2 seems to give him even greater opportunities to show off the world of Star Wars, whether its in the many different characters we meet, settings we see, or ships we encounter. I have no idea how long the two will remain together for, but I hope it's a good and long time, because they make beautiful music together.
The other thing that must be mentioned about this book is how it has placed Princess Leia front and centre as the comic's lead. I feel that this is an inspired choice by Wood for a number of reasons. Leia has always been a somewhat underused character, whose full potential has rarely been realized, so seeing her flex her might here is great. As well, as this is a comic, it's nice to have one more strong female character around, since we still have a relative lack of them in the current marketplace. I really look forward to seeing how this develops.
Verdict - Buy It. This might sound silly, but Brian Wood and Carlos D'Anda's Star Wars is a great Star Wars story. But perhaps more importantly, it's also great comics. These two seem to be building some high stakes through the multiple narratives they have on the go, and I can't wait to see what they'll end up with.