By Christopher Franey & Rafael Encinas
Happy returns dear reader, and we are glad to be back and to talk about these tales of the past that help set up for the future for these wonderful characters from Marvel and DC comics. For our Bat side of things we have an adventure from Scott Snyder, Kyle Higgins, Ryan Parrott with art by Trevor McCarthy in Batman: Gates of Gotham tpb (collecting the five part miniseries) and for our Captain adventures, we are back with Brubaker and an amazing art team consisting of Butch Guide, Mike Deodato, and Chris Samnee in Captain America: Prisoner of War tpb (collecting Captain America vol 1 #616-619). Rafa and I want to share our thoughts with you about these stories and to help you, I will be in BOLD FONT and Rafa will be in ITALIC FONT. Rafa please open this up with what excited you about Gates of Gotham?
Batman: Gates of Gotham was a very interesting story that brought in some fresh ideas in both the history of Gotham, but more importantly in the characterization of Dick as Gotham’s Protector. We get away from Morrison’s big ideas for a much more personal and “family-driven” story in Snyder’s tale. First and foremost, this works because it is a bat-family title. We have a comic that focuses on Dick, Tim, Cassandra, and Damian.
I thought this was especially great because it further stylistically juxtaposes Dick’s approach as the Caped Crusader. Whereas Bruce is much more of a loner and can be quite alienating a lot of the time, Dick is much more open to working with others. I find this interesting, because it adds another layer to the psychology of Dick Grayson. Overall, as Bruce is recruiting for Batman Incorporated, we instead get an action packed story that feels equal parts detective noir with elements of steam-punk influence, especially considering the timelines and family histories introduced (and the very cool looking Architect suit).
The dialogue used throughout feels natural and world-building. This is very interesting because both Kyle Higgins and Ryan Parrot really flesh out the intrigue and mystery set throughout the story (please check out their work on BOOM Studios’ Mighty Morphin Power Rangers comics). Therefore, we are treated to a deeply involved and heavily emotive narrative in which we continue to explore the different dynamics that these characters have toward the bat symbol. We see Dick continue to compare himself to the legacy that is Bruce’s shadow. We see resentment that Damian has toward Cassandra who herself is trying to find her place in Gotham once again.
We also get an introspective Tim who continues to strive forward even after all his tragedies over the last couple of events. It is nice to see these characters interact, and we get good moments that really stand out and feel important to their overall character growth. What did you like about Batman: Gates of Gotham, Chris?
I really enjoyed this adventure and sadly I missed it when it first came out; luckily when we began this journey of comics reading this came to my attention and what a fantastic miniseries. Beautiful art and a fantastic mystery with some twists and turns. Plus this adventure really adds to my enjoyment of Scott Synder’s New 52 Batman run as it seems like he really wants to add to the origins of Gotham City. I really enjoyed seeing the Bat-Family working together here and it was a new adventure for me to see Dick Grayson as Batman. I like the way the creative team used Dick as the main character for this comic; they did such a great job with his “voice” as it was just like Nightwing but also showing him growing into the role as Batman.
They craft a flawed Batman that isn’t Bruce Wayne perfect but is getting the job done in his own manner. I also like that they kept a major aspect of Dick Grayson that he really excels at and Bruce doesn’t…working with others. Here we see a Bat-Family that chooses to work together and they allow Damian to partake too. Speaking of Damian I really like how his character was kept since he came down very hard on Cassandra but by the time the story was over he really came around to see more to her which was great growth.
Honestly, I really had no problems with this tpb. I thought it was a quick read and was more than just a one-off Batman story. It is able to stand on its own due to the character dynamics and sweet art style. Watching Dick use his grappling hook as a weapon throughout the story was very inventive and so stylized. It was nice to see him do other things besides just punch.
I was also appreciative on how he allows himself to truly accept himself as Batman by talking about how Gotham brings out the truth within all of us. In a story filled with lies and deceptions, it is a great cathartic moment to see Dick really come into his own as Batman. It feels like he has really been struggling with this legacy for the past couple of tpbs, but I think it all comes to a head in this story. And it is that much more therapeutic because we see him do it with his family by his side. Dick really brings the others together in a way where it feels like he has earned the title of Batman. He has effectively made it his own; and that is something truly special to read on the page.
Also, I was super hype to have Cassandra in this story as Black Bat. She is a very underutilized Bat-family character and a personal favorite of mine, so seeing her be so cool and collective was a breath of fresh air that I immensely enjoyed. Watching her interact with Damian were some of my favorite moments; seeing how they were so similar but so different was interesting, and I liked their forced teamwork and how Cassandra really worked as the team’s spirit for the majority of the story. Overall, this was a great story for not just Dick’s Batman, but for the Bat Family as a whole.
I totally agree with you as I found nothing wrong with this miniseries and I am glad that I got to read this. Let us switch over to Captain America and talk about Prisoner of War. Wow that was just a gritty adventure and the creative team really came together to craft that chilling story of Bucky being trapped in a Russian prison. This was rough the first time I remember reading it as I wasn’t sure Bucky was going to survive; like it really felt like he wasn’t going to make it out alive. I do appreciate Brubaker digging deep and bringing some Russian characters to help drive this story and keep it lively. Like Ursa Major, Yuri Petrovitch (Crimson Dynamo), and the Wolf Spiders just made this even more deadly for Buck. What did you think of this story arc Rafa?
Scott Snyder really showed us the fresh ideas he could bring to Batman (more on that next week); however, Brubaker continued to show us exactly how great he is at telling his story for the long term. Under Brubaker, we have seen Steve reunite with Bucky, Steve die, Bucky become the new Captain America, Steve come back, Bucky gets outed as the Winter Soldier, and now Bucky is going to jail. However, this is no ordinary jail; oh no. This is a Siberian prison where Bucky gets to fight giant bears and locked-up meta-humans. You would think that people would get bored of Bucky’s story, but Brubaker is so good at humanizing this character that we care what happens to him. We see him struggle with the legacy of Captain America, and we cheer him on. We see him get crucified on national television for his past sins, and we hope for his pardon. Now, Bucky is trapped by bureaucracy and red tape, and we still see him fight on. It is the spirit of Bucky that endears him to us. And Brubaker is good at writing this.
Overall, this feels like just another hurdle in a never ending loop of disaster that Bucky must continue to overcome. However, that does not make it any less important or significant. Here, we get the Bucky whose reputation has been destroyed and who is now trying his best to atone for past crimes and past sins. But as always, others scheme to bring him down. Brubaker is very good at making Bucky the Underdog, and it is a story that just builds and builds to the point where we want to see him come out on top. We continue to root for this character because we have seen his trials and tribulations. At this point, we have seen that he is a hero worth believing in, and so we continue to be hooked by this story because we want to see him succeed!
I like your observation about what Brubaker has done with Bucky and Steve in this volume of Captain America. Brubaker does his homework too; like those Russian characters I mentioned earlier not only did they come in to make it deadly but then to find out Henry Gyrich helped to screw over Bucky just was another twist that made this interesting. I was glad that part of the story was there to help give Steve something to do but the best character use was that of Shannon and Natasha. I loved seeing them as secret agents in this and doing what they needed in order to get their end goal met. Also I want say that Butch Guice’s art for the Russian prison scenes was perfect, he just gave the perfect vibe that added a cold element to this story that was fitting.
That’s the best part of all this we are in a part of the volume where artists are wanting to come and play. Butch Guice has been an industry legend and it was great to see him make a stop here and one of the other artist in this trade was Chris Samnee who is another legend, but I think he was relatively new when he did this story arc. I’m just glad to see his work here and luckily we will get to see even more later with our tour. Any other insights you have on this Rafa?
This story starts to shift perspectives as we now get the tease that Bucky’s time as Captain America is coming to an end. We see Bucky struggle with his past and what that does to cloud the storied legacy of the shield. We see Steve wrestle with the pressures of putting on the suit, but he is still steadfast in his belief that Bucky is the new Captain America.
Overall, it is excellent thematic writing that is able to juggle intense spy drama with hard hitting prison fights and escapes. This is kind of like “The Shawshank Redemption” meets “The Winter Soldier”. It is excellent character study in comic format! There were really no flaws with this tpb. How about you Chris? Did you have any issues with this Captain America story?
Haha I love that mix of Shawshank and Winter Soldier, that is great and two things I really love, you just made this trade even better for me. The only nitpick that I would have with this collection of issue 616 as it was full of extras for the anniversary and some of those stories were tough to read through; then again that is on me and I’m sure I was burned out by all the other anniversary issues that had been happening. I know marketing has to sell but I think if they had calmed down on that aspect the story alone would’ve sold perfectly.
Well, that wraps this set of Captain America and Batman stories; we hope you enjoyed the discussion and join us next week as we continue with Marvel’s Fear Itself event by Matt Fraction and Captain America and Bucky: The Life Story of Bucky Barnes tpb by Ed Brubaker. We will also be jumping into Scott Snyder’s Batman: The Black Mirror. As always, we are available for discussion and interaction on Twitter, and we would love to share your thoughts and opinions on these stories too. You can find me on twitter as @Mobilerafie and Chris as @StuffIShudSay, as always thank you for joining us here at Geek Elite Media and GEEK OUT!
By Christopher Franey & Rafael Encinas
Welcome fellow Comic Book connoisseurs to another adventure to the eras of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America and Grant Morrison’s Batman. What is funny about this issue…no Ed or Grant as other writers will be taking our heroes on their own adventure and we will be seeing quite the return and new additions to the families. We will be examining the Captain America Corps tpb (Captain America Corps #1 to 5) by Roger Stern and Philippe Briones and Batman and Robin: Dark Knight vs White Knight tpb (Batman and Robin vol 1 #17-25) by Paul Cornell, Scott McDaniel, Peter Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Judd Winick, Guillem March, Andrei Bressan, and Greg Tocchini. To make things easier for our readers I will be in BOLD FONT and Rafa will be in ITALIC FONT…so Rafa what were your thoughts on the Dark Knight vs White Knight tpb?
This was a very interesting read for me this week. After all these crazy stories that Morrison created, we are now winding down to “episodic” type stories that don’t seem as large in scale, but still have interesting bits scattered within. Overall, I really liked how this tpb continued to play off of Dick and Damian’s unique chemistry. This Batman & Robin feels different, and I think that is a definite strength. With that said, I was not a huge fan of this tpb which bummed me out because the cover art by Patrick Gleason is beautiful. The tpb is split into three different stories. The first story with the “villain” Absence felt absurd in a way that I did not like. I could see what the storytellers were going for, but it really did nothing for me and the philosophical themes just didn’t resonate with me. I felt bored. The second story had an interesting concept with the White Knight, and his reasoning for doing the things he was doing was pretty good, but the design felt lazy to me, and it did nothing for setting up a new iconic Batman villain. However, we did get some great bat-family moments in this one, so that was a definite plus for me.
The tpb’s only saving grace was the third story dealing with a returning Jason Todd. This felt like a breath of fresh air as we saw him take out prisoners in jail. Seeing him reluctantly teaming up with Dick and Damian was a lot of fun and their dichotomy was something I really appreciated. What I liked so much about this story is that it felt like an organic continuation of Jason’s story ever since returning from the dead. Jason felt much more than a one dimensional villain. This really sowed the seeds to the antihero and redemption he would receive in the future. Overall, if it wasn’t for the last story, for me, this tpb would have been entirely forgettable. What were your thoughts on this story, Chris?
You dissected it perfectly because we are at the end of the Post Crisis DC Universe and it really was a “episodic” set of adventures for the creative that was coming in and out as things were coming to a close. With the first adventure I was super glad to see Scott McDaniel drawing Dick Grayson again as he was a major artist on the Nightwing series so that was a beautiful evolution and getting to see him draw this version of Grayson was awesome. Paul Cornell is great at dialogue and his banter was fun between Grayson and Damian but sadly the story just wasn’t fun…guess in its absence was interest; you’ll get the joke if you read the stories…which I don’t think I’d recommend. The next story by Tomasi and Gleason was pretty fun and a huge moment because these two would continue on with Batman and Robin after Morrison’s departure and would craft many a tale of adventure!
With their story you were right it was interesting with the villain’s motivation was pretty wild by punishing the family members of Gotham Rogues, but the design just wasn’t interesting. So for it being an episode adventure it was fun but probably shouldn’t have been three issues just like Cornell and McDaniel’s story too. These are two cases where less would’ve been more. Now the last story by Judd Winick was pretty wild and entertaining…I really love all the callbacks to it from the cover of issue 23 mocking the cover from issue 1 of Batman and Robin to bring back Scarlet was cool too.
I shared this splash page from issue 23 as I loved that it was Batman (Bruce Wayne), Nightwing (Dick Grayson), and Robin (Jason Todd) what a great throwback to their history and also a strange mirror to this adventure with Grayson, Todd, and another Wayne. Judd Winnick did a great job and really closed this tpb out with a bang and started a better character path for Jason Todd that would help him grow into a better character through New 52 and even in today’s comics.
The only thing that bummed me out was that there was no conclusion or even mention of Judd’s last Batman adventure, the Long Shadows tpb, where he left us with a Dick Grayson mystery…like that never got touched on at all. Luckily this last story was a great upswing for an otherwise dull set of stories and sad endings for such great Post Crisis DC comic books. Speaking of different universes and family…what did you think of the Captain America Corps tpb Rafa?
The Captain America Corps felt like a fever dream come to life. It was loud, fun, and special. The plot is pretty out there. Like U.S. Agent so eloquently states, “it’s science fiction crap”, but in all the best ways possible. Basically, five different Captain America’s from different points in the timeline are brought together to stop a cataclysmic event. They must stop the abduction of frozen Cap, and the story gets wilder from there. This is the kind of story that just feels so wild and wacky that it is hard not to have a huge smile on your face as you read it!
Overall, this story felt like a fun romp into the Captain America-Verse. Seeing Bucky take the lead with a young Steve Rogers, a next generation female Cap, a problematic U.S. Agent, and the 25th centuries’ Asian Hispanic Captain America was something truly unique to read. They are a fun team of characters all inspired from the legend that is Captain America, and it is a story that does not take itself too seriously. It is a story that I highly recommend because a team of Captain Americas is something I did not know I needed in my life. Were you down with the Corps, Chris?
I really enjoyed this romp and this was the first time I finally sat down and read this. I really enjoyed this ragtag team of Caps and it was just such a fun side trip from Brubaker’s run and major Kudos to Roger Stern as he managed to pick up Bucky right out of Brubaker’s run and insert this “worlds threatening” adventure for him and the others. Roger Stern is a legendary writer in the Captain America adventures so it was great to see him write a rookie Steve Rogers and also a grown Bucky too. He did excellent with the characters of USAgent and American Dream and I enjoyed the new Commander A. I really enjoyed the history of how important Steve Rogers is to the Avengers and their formation and also endurance.
Because Cap did come to the Avengers at an important time and without him I don’t believe the team survives so there is a strong connection to the comic book history and the actual history of the comic book; at the time the original Avengers comic was the only place you could read Captain America adventures so people had to check there to get a glimpse of the legend. I also really enjoyed what Stern did for Bucky here…like Steve, Commander, and Dream all believe in Bucky enough to make him the leader was just perfect and I think it helps his character because when we go back to Brubaker it won’t be easy for Bucky. This was just a perfect adventure and a great way to see how much of Captain America’s legacy has touched others, all around fun.
Great insights, Chris! I agree that Captain America’s legacy truly is something that touches us and unites us all! There is something special about coming together and fighting what you believe in! And this is why we continue to read through the amazing stories that Ed Brubaker and Grant Morrison created. It allows us to live vicariously through heroic characters! This week has been another successful venture into the iconic heroics of both Batman and Captain America! As always, we thank everyone who has been following along with this series. Next week, we will be reading Batman: Gates of Gotham tpb (collecting Gates of Gotham #1-5 and Batman Annual #28 and Detective Comics Annual #12) and Captain America: Prisoner of War tpb (collecting Captain America vol 1 #616-619). As always, you can always interact with us on Twitter and we would love to share your thoughts and opinions on these stories too. You can find Chris on twitter as @StuffIShudSay and myself as @Mobilerafie. Thank you for joining us here at Geek Elite Media and GEEK OUT!