Once again, Matthew and Stephen are back to weigh in on one of the titles released this week.Â As their Robot Overlord, I have proclaimed the rotund duo review Blackest Night: Batman #3.Â Will they agree or will they end up fighting to the death?
Blackest Night: Batman #3
Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Ardian Syaf and John Dell
Cover by Andy Kubert
Variant cover by Bill Sienkiewicz
Previously, on Blackest Night – Batman: The mysterious force behind Scar and her Black Lanterns (*coughnekroncough*) have done more than just raise former heroes and Green Lanterns to serve as their Corps, they’ve also raised the non-powered loved ones of Earth and Oa’s heroes to throw them off balance.Â For the new Batman, the latest Robin, and Red Robin (YUMMM!!!) this means not only facing their old villains, but their deceased parents as well.Â (By contractual obligation, no Bat-family member is allowed to have living parents, with the sole exception of Barbara Gordon.Â Mark my words, those of you who read Detective Comics, General Kane is living on seriously borrowed time.)Â Struggling to find a way to overpower the Lanterns has now taken a backseat to the horror of seeing the dead Grayson and Drake parents perverted into alien executioners, and the Dynamic Duo plus one has to find a way to overcome their own survivor’s guilt before their hearts get ripped out and eaten…
Stephen: Has it been a month since the last installment of this issue?Â I almost forgot Deadman was in it until he literally popped into the scene.Â While I’m a fan of the Batman universe, I’ve never been strong on the ancillary heroes that appear in the series and how they tie in with one another. That being said, I like how Deadman was worked into this three issue series and how his ability to jump between characters gives readers a chance to catch up on what has been going on in the lives of Dick and Tim – especially if the reader has been away from the Batman titles for a while.Â I really like how Tomasi works the Deadman into this issue as a way to bring in Etrigan and later to save the dynamic duo from their self imposed frozen coffins.
Matthew: I had the same reaction to Boston’s sudden return this issue.Â “Oh, yeah…Â What was he up to again?”Â In issue #1, he seemed to be important, only to get shuffled off to Buffalo and mostly forgotten about.Â There actually seemed to be a lot of that going on here, with characters and elements introduced that ask potential questions that are then barely addressed, if at all.Â I will say that Boston possessing Jason Blood was pretty impressive on his part…
Stephen: What did you think of Etrigan being added into the story?Â Like Deadman, it seems Etrigan has become a supporting cast member to the Batman universe, and even if you don’t agree, having the Etrigan’s Hellfire being used to try and stop the Black Lanterns shows that even magic based powers aren’t able to stop the Black Lanterns.
Matthew: It’s nice to see Etrigan again, but I was bothered that he seemed to be there for exactly the reason you mentioned: to prove that even magic wasn’t strong enough to defeat the Black Lantern Corps.Â Maybe it’s just me, but a Kirby character shouldn’t be used for the obligatory “There’s nothing we can do against this inexorable foe!” sequence.Â Still, I suppose that his powers were the key to Batman’s surviving the issue…Â I will say that I like the fact that not all of DC’s mystical heavy hitters have been completely given over Vertigo, and at the very least, the Batman/Demon team-up was interesting to see.Â How did you feel about the overall structure of the tale?
Stephen: What made this story work for me was the catharsis Tim has in realizing that even though he saved his father this time around, it isn’t really bringing him back, and the notion that he’ll have to keep his parents alive in his head and heart to really keep them alive.Â It’s a really great sequence in the story that gives readers a different look at the events from Identity Crisis, and I like how Bruce’s name was replaced with Dick’s in this case just before Black Lantern Boomerang busts through the door.
Matthew: That, actually, was the moment that most jarred me out of things.Â If you have a story involving Dick’s dead folks, and Tim’s dead folks, why didn’t we get anything of Damian’s “dead” father?Â (I know that they couldn’t have done that story, since he’s only MOSTLY dead, and they haven’t made it to Miracle Max’s yet, but not acknowledging the elephant in the room works against the story.Â And one throwaway line from Red Robin shouldn’t count, either…)Â Also somewhat troubling for my “What order did this happen in?” reflex:Â In Batman and Robin, Dick is still in the process of adapting to his Batman role.Â Here, it felt like he has completely embraced Bruce’s stoic nature and his personality become subsumed by the Batman persona, and his strategy on how to save the day seemed to come out of nowhere.
Stephen: The part of the story that didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me was the use of Mr. Freeze’s freeze gun.Â When Dick turns the gun on Tim and then himself, they really aren’t dying, and the Black Lanterns should still be able to see their emotions. Being frozen isn’t the same as being at peace. Or did you get something different out of this one?
Matthew: I didn’t understand a word of the ice-gun part, honestly.Â The implication certainly seemed to be that the Black Lanterns couldn’t tell the difference between a target that was inert and a target that was D-E-D, but it didn’t really seem to come from a logical extension of the plot for me…Â Maybe they read the script?
Stephen: I’m really hoping DC sat down with all the writers at some point and explained exactly how the Black Lantern powers work, because it could very easily lead to many inconsistencies throughout all these spin-off series.
Matthew: My concern is that Jack Drake seemed to maintain a sense of self throughout, while over in Blackest Night, the Dibnys and Hawks were clearly explained NOT to contain anything of their previous selves.Â (I realize he was reliving the events that led to his death, but it feels like a subtler side of the Black Lanterns than we’ve seen to date.)Â If the elder Drake and Grayson were really “them,” we’re getting into a weirdly metaphysical area of the DCU that we usually don’t see…
Stephen: This three issue series was really a great tale of two “brothers” who have lost their families and finally coming to grips with what it means to have lost the ones they love.Â Because of that, I’m glad Damien was kept in the background and treated as a go-fer for the heroes.
Matthew: I’m not at all happy with Damian’s side-role here.Â His disappearance seemed to be another example of a plot thread that was shuffled to the side for no particular reason, and I would have enjoyed seeing his more “Spartan” take on the role of honored dead.Â I suspect that Damian was sidelined because he would never have fallen prey to the emotional manipulation that Dick and Tim fell for…
Stephen: There are a few moments in the issue though that lead to the implication that James Gordon will now know a bit more about who is under the cowl – especially with Alfred front and center, tending to the bump on his noggin’.
Matthew: I’ve been pretty sure that Gordon knows who’s under the bat-mask for some time now, and that he also knows who the heir apparent is, but to state it unequivocally on panel would take away most of the fun.
Stephen: While I think the three issues stand alone as a Tale from Blackest Night, I was more impressed with Ardian Syaf’s art.Â From the very first panel to the last page, I was really drawn in by the art.Â Syaf can ape Jim Lee pretty good, so if the artist is ever too busy or too expensive for DC, Syaf looks like he could step in and most readers would be none-the-wiser.Â In addition to the lines, the art by Vincent Cifuentes worked really well in the issue as well.Â It issue started with muted tones (save for the occasional red splash here and there), but then erupted into blinding reds and blues once the flame throwing zombie roasting started happening.
Matthew: Syaf reminds me a lot of Tony Daniel, or a young Phil Jiminez, sort of a “George-Perez-by-way-of-90’s-Image-Comics” style that’s very attractive…Â The coloring was wonderful, especially when we cut away to the “zombie-vision” Will/Rage/Hope/Colitis analysis of emotional states thingy.
Stephen: Do you think any of this will change Tim’s drive to see if Batman really is alive?Â And what role do you see Bruce Wayne playing in this whole event?
Matthew: I don’t think that this crossover was designed to impact Tim’s quest at all.Â I think it’s just coincidence that it worked out this way, and as for Bruce’s role?Â I think we’ve seen it.Â He’s off playing Yorick to Black Mask’s crazy-dead Hamlet.Â To bring Batman back in the midst of all this resurrection would really do a disservice to the both the Batman character and to this crossover.
Stephen: Bottom line for me this week is I like what happened in this three issue mini-series, and this issue in particular.Â I’m not a big fan of the growing tie-in list that I’m seeing coming down the pipe as I think it’s yet another attempt by DC to try and replicate what Marvel did with Secret Invasion.Â The story wrapped up nicely in this issue, and while there may be a few stumbling spots, such as how the duo crashed into a cemetery/mock up of the Circus and Tim’s dad’s apartment, the combination of the good story and great art had me giving Blackest Night: Batman #3 4 out of 5 Stars.
Matthew: I’m less happy overall.Â While there were some fine emotional moments in this series, it could easily have taken place as a series of chapter cutaways in the main Blackest Night book or one of the Batman titles, they way things used to be done.Â (The same could really be said of Blackest Night: Superman as well, actually.)Â The reason that these stories were done the way they were was to keep from destroying the momentum in the characters’ home titles and to make the inevitable trade paperback easier to assemble.Â This issue’s ending, Batman’s master plan, and the resolution felt far too abrupt for my tastes, and I didn’t find nine bucks worth of entertainment in the 3-issue saga.Â Good art didn’t make up for some aberrations of pacing and character usage, leaving Blackest Night: Batman #3 earning a still positive 2 out of 5 stars overall from Matthew.