Welcome back comic book connoisseurs to our continuing journey across Ed Brubaker’s Captain America and Grant Morrison’s Batman runs; both are very legendary and provide a strong history to the characters when these runs were originally being published. Rafa and I are reading these two runs together to share our excitement, wonder, and views with you and hopefully you’re reading with us as well! For the reader’s sake Chris will be in Bold Font and Rafa will be in Italic Font. This week we are looking at Captain America Red Menace which entails issues of Captain America vol 5 issues 15-17, the Captain America 65th Anniversary Special, then continues with Cap issues 18-21 while looking at Batman the Black Glove which has Batman vol 1 issues 667-669 and 672-675. So Rafa I will kick it off to you what did you overall enjoy and like about The Black Glove?
Thank you, Chris! Reading these stories alongside you has been a real treasure, just like Morrison’s story itself is a treasure. Writing Batman is no easy feat, so when a writer is able to get into the nuances and intricacies of what makes a character great, it becomes foundational reading, and The Black Glove is a staple to what makes Grant Morrison’s run so damn good! This story arc consists of two stories that set up for the epic Batman R.I.P. that we will get to next week. The first story focused on a murder mystery with a bunch of international Batmen. With its campy set pieces like Mister Mayhew’s island and great callbacks to the silver age of comics and the different Batman from around the globe (which set up for the future Batman Incorporated) this story is everything you want from a Batman story; it’s humorous, pulpy, stylized and above all else, fun.
The second story is a continuation of the three Batman’s narrative from earlier. In this one we get another cop Batman who ends up giving Batman a heart attack. I loved this story because this is where we get quintessential Morrison with his dissociative episodes that blend reality with dream sequences. This stream of consciousness style to storytelling is both intriguing and exciting. By having callbacks to old stories from the black casebook; Dr. Hurt and the isolation chamber, we see the excellence in Batman. We see him figure everything out; like clockwork and meticulous problem solving; the Batman who is always prepared. What did you enjoy from this story, Chris?
I have to say that with The Black Glove I finally started to get in a great reading groove with Morrison’s Batman; the opener with Batmen of All Nations was fun and great set up for Batman Inc. later on like you said. It really took me back to those old adventures and J.H. Williams III brought in some interesting art which was successful at giving the creepy vibes. I liked that this was a shorter story and it flowed very nicely which felt like the first time in Morrison’s run. Then things really start taking a turn with the Third Batmen and I really wish the intro issues of this story would’ve been closer with the first and second Batmen, Bat-Cop and Bat-Bane. It was wild to see this third one, Bat-Devil, and he felt really horrendous as a villain, like this guy takes it to the max which was great. Something of interest that I learned about was Bat-Devil is actually Michael Lane who goes on to become the second Azrael; we don’t know that at the time but that is cool to see his secret origin.
The best issue was #675 which was so different to most anniversary number issues. This is definitely Batman R.I.P. part zero and wow…this Bruce Wayne was scary. I love how Jezebel Jet was calling out Bruce on the date basically saying he is a shell of a man and she knows there is more and she is fine with him opening up to her. Then when the Nine-Eyed Man attacks and the fight leads to the kitchen was nuts; Bruce burns off his “eyes” and when Jezebel sees that and Bruce tells her that she’s right and she should leave was intense; probably my favorite moment so far. Bruce is just a mad hulk in this thunderstorm and then Jezebel figures it out as well. That is a crazy cliffhanger; what were some things from this tpb that didn’t sit well with you Rafa?
Very well put, Chris! I agree completely that the moment Bruce goes full HULK was an insane moment, and it really ups the insanity in this already insane book. However, that might also be my only real minor issue with the story. It is incredibly good, but it can be insanely hard to read at times. Likewise, I agree with your sentiment about wishing these stories about the “BatCops” to be closer to the beginning of Morrison’s run. There are times that I really do not like how disjointed all of Morrison’s narrative strands are. There is a lot going on and a lot of set up and world building that pays off in the end; however, it’s almost as if though the story is supposed to be difficult to read, so that it can be juxtaposed to the disjointed nature of Batman’s psyche. Stylistically, this is really cool, but from a reading standpoint, it can be a bit frustrating. But this is a minor issue because it overall does enhance my reading experience. What about you, Chris? Was there anything you did not like about this tpb?
Yea my major gripe is the Three Batmen; like on my initial read of this I didn’t think to relate them all together I didn’t see the connection it just happened then the next adventure, second one, next adventure, and so on. Grant’s run reads better in tpb/collected format but even then with the trades I own they don’t read as well as they could’ve. It reads better the second time knowing they are connected and that helps the story to have value and you feel for these cops plus it connects very nicely to Dr. Hurt’s origin as well. It is funny as with this set of reads we are reading two mini-stories for each character, but Brubaker’s reads so crisp you don’t feel like arcs at all. So I’m glad for less dis-junction but it still is there. Okay let us take a leap over to Captain America and the Red Menace; what were your thoughts?
Once again, Brubaker delivers exciting and thought-provoking storytelling in the continuation of Captain America’s mission to locate Bucky Barnes. The first part of this story focuses on relationships. We have Sin & Crossbones causing chaos akin to Woody Harrelson & Juliet Lewis in the movie Natural Born Killers (1994). It feels wild, raw, and out of control which is a direct contrast to Steve and Sharon’s rekindling relationship as they venture into a small town for information on the missing Bucky. This brief reprieve and hope Steve gets in searching for his friend is heartfelt and I loved seeing the joy in Steve’s face when he realizes that Bucky is still alive, and when we see him kiss Sharon. We see real happiness in Cap’s face which has been so rare in Brubaker’s story. He finally has a moment to be happy.
But of course things devolve into absolute chaos with the return of the Red Skull. This story was great because we got to see a modernization of Cap’s story with revitalized elements like Union Jack & Spitfire as well as the new Master Men! It was exciting because it had something for all fans, new and old alike. What did you like about this story, Chris?
Well all of it of course, haha, but you bring up some amazing points. I didn’t think about Sin and Crossbones as Natural Born Killers but it works on such a great level and they really are just a menace; one major thing I forgot about with The Black Glove that you reminded me of with your movie comparison is the vibe I got from Batmen of All Nations felt like Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, cold and haunting and anyone could be the killer. I have to say I even enjoyed the 65th Anniversary Special as Brubaker made the story count and it appeared in the main series, but we are also treated to pencilers Javier Pulido, Marcos Martin, and Mike Perkins which was awesome as it did give a sense of time travel to the past. Brubaker used the special in such a great way to remind readers and also trick them into seeing Cap and Bucky’s WWII partnership being better than it was; which happens with comics as they evolved into deeper story and writing. I really when Cap and Bucky work together in modern times and especially the cover to issue 21 with it being a recreation of the last time they partnered up before the ice. Bucky losing his arm again but then we find out for sure he is working with Nick was a great ending.
Once again I have to say Brubaker does an amazing job with the villains; Lukin and Red Skull being merged together is such a boiler of anger that it makes for intense situations but also shows just how evil these two are. They bicker about a plan because the other set it into motion but then when it works out they are celebrating together and they even admit when they get a chance one of them will end the other. Sin is just chaos in a human body…like I appreciate the moments when she does something and even Crossbones looks at it and has a “woah” moment. Now with this story arc being over we are treated to the four of them united and that is going to be a devil’s union that will be tough to beat. Any downsides to the tpb that you saw Rafa?
I personally did not have any real issues with the story. Overall, the only real gripe I had was that we didn’t get more. I like how the story continues to build on these established character dynamics. Seeing Steve and Bucky reunited after so long was great to see, and that payoff makes anything bad in this story disappear. What about you, Chris?
One thing I think they could’ve handled a little better was the issue of why Nick Fury wasn’t in charge of S.H.I.E.L.D. and that happened over in a story called Secret War (2004) by Brian Michael Bendis and Gabriele Dell’Otto. Basically Fury misused his office and position to go after hi-tech villains and it led to an almost war with Latveria; wild stuff, worth a read. So I think that would’ve been nice to see Cap say something to Carter in order to catch up the reader and also give Cap’s thoughts on the matter, but in real life/time that five issue mini took 23 months in order to be released so that could’ve been why Brubaker didn’t get too deep into it. Overall Red Menace was a fantastic read in my book. Were there any similarities or differences that you noticed Rafa?
I thought both stories were excellent in the way they continue to build meaningful and thought-provoking narratives. Both Bucky and Batman center on the concept of identity. While Bucky is trying to identify who he is and how his role as the Winter Soldier does or does not define him, we also have Batman who is trying to figure out if he is Bruce Wayne playing hero or Batman playing Bruce Wayne. However, Bucky’s story is also one of atonement while Bruce’s is more about acceptance. Both stories also succeed in their dynamic and engaging action set-pieces while also using past narrative flashbacks to tell their current, new mythologies and lores. Overall, both are excellently crafted narratives worth reading.
Those are excellent points Rafa; I especially love the identity issue that is a great insight that I didn’t think about. I love how both writers are using time in their stories to justify certain things; Brubaker uses time to create a deeper character with Bucky and Morrison uses time to make the “silly silver-age” stories actually count for the Dark Knight. Both writers are doing such a wonderful job with building character and adding depth to the story; Morrison does some heavy lifting on Bruce Wayne while the rest of the Bat-Family gets moments, but Brubaker does a great job of building everyone up. Steve Rogers didn’t have much personality outside of the mask but here he is more than a man out of time and the relationship building with Sharon Carter is amazing, but it will take a turn soon, just like Bruce and Jezebel, but we will cover that next week.
So that wraps up another week and the next read is going to be pretty big because we have a lot happening for our fourth installment. Let me break it into parts and readings:
Civil War 1- 4
Captain America 22-23
Iron Man/Captain America: Casualties of War 1*
Captain America 24
Civil War 5
Winter Soldier: Winter Kills 1
Civil War 6-7
Captain America 25
Civil War: The Confession 1*
Fallen Son 1-5
These issues can be found in the following trade paperbacks: Civil War, Captain America Civil War, and Fallen Son; the ones with asterisks are not in these trades. Now for the Batman side of things:
DC Universe 0
(Batman R.I.P. starts)
(Final Crisis starts)
Final Crisis 1-3
FC Superman Beyond 1-2
Final Crisis Submit 1
Final Crisis 4-5
Final Crisis 6-7
(Last Rites starts)
The stories can be found in the following trade paperbacks: Batman R.I.P., Final Crisis, Nightwing the Great Leap, and Batman Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader. Looking forward to see you next time and as always, GEEK OUT!
A Review From Christopher Franey
Here it is the big show, ultimate viewing pleasure…the conclusion. This is going to be the big dramatic slam-down for the big belt. I have to say this had a couple of tear jerk moments and some moments of WOO-ing which made this a fun conclusion. This was a great ride and really hit some nostalgic moments which was the overall joy of this; like it reminded me of Saturday Mornings watching Wrestling on the USA Network which was fun. So, let us talk about this conclusion!
I enjoyed the introduction to the issue done in the style of a big Pay-Per-View spectacular with the awesome graphics and amazing title of “Galact-O-Massacre.” The commentators of Leo Sullivan and “Mondo” Larry Hondo were fun and had some witty liners in there that kept a smile on my face. The shout outs to audience members was a fun “take me back” of famous people. Yet the first heart ache comes at us early as we revisit last issues cliffhanger with Dominatress colliding with Don and flying off the train. Sadly our time with Don is cut very short and I had high hopes for him, but it was a tough moment for Rory and a sobering one too.
Kendall Goode really got to shine this issue with all the moves as there was so much wrestling go on between characters and the action was in for the counts too. We could see all the punishment that Rory went through to make it to the arena. Friendships were really tested and I was very shocked by who betrayed Rory…honestly I wouldn’t have guessed; which made for a nice reaction. In the end it comes down to who stands by you and luckily Rory has friends that did stick with him. Luckily they make it to the arena for the big show.
With the opening of the show we are treated to Macho taking it out on some of the Wrestletopians and doing it with some slick moves, the man is quite the dynamo. When Rory does make it I did have to laugh at how he suddenly has quite the set of abs, but that’s all in the fun of this comic series. I do appreciate Rory’s smack talking at the start that was quite the string of words and rhymes. Sure enough this was a battle for the ages with Rory and Manifest Destiny…and it will keep you in suspense as there are moments where one is in control and then loses it all while wrapped up in some amazing art.
I don’t want to spoil too much of this since it is a conclusion but I will say that this story was well worth the time. I’m not much of an idie comic person but this was just the right amount of fun between my superhero comics. This comes from a creative team that has heart and laughs with just the right story for all of us to be entertained. So be sure to check out their series on Comixology with the conclusion, part 6, this August 12, 2020. This mini-series was created and written by Ed Kuehnel & Matt Entin of Suspicious Behavior Productions and you can find their social medias here with these links: Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook. You can also find this issues artist, Kendall Goode, on twitter and as always remember to…GEEK OUT!
Hello fellow fans of Comic Books, Chris and I have returned to continue our rundown of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America/Winter Soldier arcs alongside Grant Morrison’s Batman run. We will continue to discuss the things we enjoyed, disliked, learned, and even compare/contrast the issues as we went through them; mostly we will be reading in a trade order with some slight changes. Since this will be involving our two voices we will use the following font styles: Chris will be in BOLD and Rafa will be in ITALIC. After last week’s introduction to these characters, we will continue with discussions on Captain America: Winter Soldier volume 2 tpb (Cap vol 5 issues 8-14) and Batman: The Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul tpb (which collects Batman Annual #26, Robin Annual v4 #7, Batman #670, Robin v4 #168-169, Nightwing v2 #138-139, and Detective Comics #838-840). Once again, let us begin with Captain America. Chris, what did you like about Captain America: The Winter Soldier volume 2?
Ok so reading through Winter Soldier Vol. 2 was such a joy! The action is on such a level of hype that you can’t put it down. More of Lukin just being devious was intense and how he was messing with Cap and baiting him was intense; like the scene where Cap, Sharon, Nick, and S.H.E.I.L.D. storm Kronas Corporation (issues 9) and just got humiliated was so raw, like I could feel Cap’s anger at being played. What a villain who can do this horrendous thing and put his signature on it all while still getting away. Issue 10 was so sad…plus I’m really bummed that it wasn’t included in the trade, I get why, but still highly recommend reading. This tale of a man who grew out of time was just as sad as Jack Monroe’s character issue. Then issue 11 hitting us with the story of Bucky’s true fate was crazy; the first time I read this that is when I became a hardcore fan of Bucky’s. I always appreciated the character but that issue gave him so much more. One more, which is tough as each issue was dynamite, but in #14 when Cap uses the Cosmic Cube on Bucky to “Remember who you are” was pure drama and Bucky’s reaction to it, “How can I….? No…you should’ve just…killed me.” was heart wrenching as you know Bucky means it. He is such a free spirit and to be turned into the Winter Soldier was probably the worst that could’ve happened. How about you Rafa?
Expertly said, Chris! I can read the passion in your voice when you talk about Bucky, and it totally makes sense. Before this, I had little knowledge of the character besides what I had seen in the MCU; however, reading the plight that this man has been put through is heartbreaking. I think Brubaker did an excellent job of showcasing the real emotional bond that Rogers and Bucky had. We see it in the dark outlines and shadows cast on Rogers’ face when he is thinking about Bucky. We see a man tormented; we see him deal with the absurdity and gravity of what is going on, and it is masterfully illustrated on the page. This is amplified by the instant likeability of Rogers’ Captain America. We would not care as heavily or relate to Steve Rogers as much as we do if we hadn’t been made to love this character. We feel for the Captain because we grow to respect him as we see the story unfold. This is done with so many beautiful action sequences where we see the super soldier put his raw strength, acrobatics, and shield throwing skills on full display. A personal favorite moment for me that showcases exactly the kind of unstoppable and never-give-up man that Captain America is, is in the first issue of Vol.2 in which he is cleaning the mess from the explosion of Philadelphia. We see him save children and then take out some of A.I.M. ‘s scientists to then be confronted by a legion of soldiers form the MODOC squad. In artistic brilliance, we see Captain America just smirk at these ominous foes as he just quips, “All right… Let’s go.” It is moments like this that showcase the indomitable human spirit and how Rogers will never give up on Bucky.
Rafa you nailed it with those points, like I would say this book is Captain America’s but honestly it is Bucky’s story. Brubaker did the impossible and broke comic book law by bringing Bucky back; the story is so believable and a worthwhile journey of a man’s soul towards redemption. Ok, so looking at this I can honestly say there wasn’t anything I didn’t like or maybe just the flaw of the trade not including issue 10; just because you are missing out on some beautiful story by Brubaker and amazing art by Lee Weeks. You bring up an excellent point Rafa that the art is just amazing, massive kudos to Steve Epting, Michael Lark, and Mike Perkins while I”m at it especially the coloring team…look at the picture example that Rafa provided from issue 8, like I can feel the flames and taste the smoke. Anything about the issues that didn’t sit well with you, Rafa?
I think you perfectly encapsulate what I feel in regards to the trade paperback’s shortcomings. The story is essentially perfect with excellent pacing, consistent art and voice, as well as powerful themes that make this a quintessential Captain America story. Like you said, I feel like issue 10 adds a lot more weight to Rogers’ ideals and showcases a powerful “what if” moment that still fits with the story Brubaker is telling, so I do wish it was included in the tbp. However, other than that, the only other gripe I had was that I wish it had more Falcom. Sam is a great friend to Steve, and when he shows up at the end of issue 12 is a hype moment.
Ok, we have gushed over Cap quite a lot so let us jump into the Bat side of things with the Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul. I’ll admit it was a hard read for me but the things I did like was seeing Don Kramer art, loved his art on his JSA issues, and finding out a little more about Ra’s. They didn’t dive deep but they did enough for the story-arc with the twist of Ra’s first son which was just a tragic character. This was my first time reading the whole story as I just read the Batman tie in issues by Morrison, so it was nice to see it fleshed out and this adds to my theory that Damian was probably going to be a Morrison thing only; since it was Morrison who killed him later on, but we talk more when we get to those issues. My favorite thing about this was seeing Nightwing gravitate more to Damian so that early exposure helped me with bridging their relationship for later. What were some of the things you liked from this story-arc Rafa?
I agree that Batman: The Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul was hard to get through at times; however, I was able to find some important and resonating things that made me appreciate the characterizations of some key characters much more. I really appreciated how the writers developed a story on family dynamics. It was an important adventure that endeared me to Damian a lot more. Seeing him try to mend fences with Tim and Alfred (in his own way) was interesting, and I got to see a little more warmth in his cold and calculating demeanor. Seeing him try to win his father’s approval while trying to escape his grandfather’s manipulation was nicely done, especially toward the end of Detective Comics #839 where we have an uplifting scene where we basically get the first moment where Batman brings Damian into the Bat Family.
Similarly, characters like Tim and Dick are shown to really shine with very real familial conflicts. Tim is feeling ostracized from all the loss in his life, and we see him wrestle with Damian for the mantle of Batman’s rightful heir. Like you stated, Chris, We get to see Nightwing further delve into the big brother/mentor role for these young Robins. The way he is written with his comedic chops and real heart reminds the reader why he is beloved by so many DC fans. Alfred had some standout moments that really made me chuckle (see his banter with Ubu in Detective Comics #838). However, the MVP of this story for me was Talia Al Ghul. I do not think Talia gets enough credit for being a loving mother to Damian. She is multi-layered in this story as we see her fight to keep Damian safe, and I think this characterization is unfairly butchered in the later stories, but in this instance we get to see the humanity in one of the most important characters in Batman’s life.
Overall, I think that all these characters illustrate powerful family dynamics that further reinforce the love and light that does exist in the Dark Knight’s world. What do you think, Chris?
You’ve given me much to think about with your points; this does sit better if you think about how it highlights the Bat-family and also Talia. It did a great job with their interactions and overall voice. I think what hurt this tpb, in my opinion, was just too many writers, five in total, and too many issues that caused the story to be watered down. The saving grace of this was the characters and family. I would say my biggest fear was that Tim would cave to temptation but luckily he didn’t but the way it was presented felt story forced instead of character choice. Were there any negatives that you have about this story Rafa?
Again, I think you bring up a lot of my same criticisms, Chris. The story overall is very convoluted with too many characters that I unfortunately do not care about, specifically the characters associated with Ra’s. Because of all the different writers, I think there are too many voices and it overall does not work as well as it could have. Also, it was very long. There are nuggets of excellent storytelling throughout, but some issues are a real struggle to get through. For me, the Nightwing and Robin stories have the most heart and save this story from being unreadable. It is interesting how a story focused on Ra’s works best when it is not Ra’s the story is focusing on. However, I am glad I read it.
Ok so big moment…which tpb would you say was the better of the two? I’ll open with Winter Soldier vol. 2. I felt it had better story motivation, villains (Red Skull and Lukin), and better character interactions. When I sit down to read these issues/trades I flip back and forth between Bats and Cap…the only reason I got through Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul was so I could read more Cap. I know I’ve been ragging on this tpb a lot in this article, but it just doesn’t hold. Rafa which one would you give your vote for?
I agree completely that Brubaker’s Captain America is the superior read. The story is much better told, the emotional weight behind the themes of betrayal, loss, and redemption is much more impactful, and the art is so much more eye catching. I feel like I had to find things to enjoy about The Resurrection Of Ra’s, but I did not have that problem with Winter Soldier Vol.2; instead I was completely immersed and ready to read more.
So that makes this another clean sweep for Brubaker’s Cap story in our votes for another week between the two. We hope you enjoyed our thoughts and criticisms about these two stories and also we hope you are just as hyped as we are to continue the journey of Morrison’s Batman and Brubaker’s Captain America. Join us next week as we take on the Red Menace tpb (Captain America vol 5 #15-17, Cap 65th Anniversary Special, and 18-21) alongside the Black Glove tpb (Batman vol 1 #667-669 and 672-675). As always GEEK OUT!