Batman: Gotham Knights: 12 issues from 2003
Writer: Scott Beatty
Red Bee > Doctor Fate (All-Star Squadron) > Batman (Justice League International) > Black Lightning (Outsiders).
So, at the time this came out, Black Lightning hadn’t really been on any important teams other than the Outsiders, and I figured I had a better chance connecting through Batman than Metamorpho. So from Red Bee’s end, I was able to match Dick by going through the Freedom Fighters (Red Bee > Human Bomb (Freedom Fighters) > The Ray II (Freedom Fighters) > Martian Manhunter (Justice League Task Force) > Batman (any number of JLs) > Black Lightning (Outsiders)) and I briefly thought I was doing better until I realized that Ray Terrill and the Red Bee had never been on the same team at the same time. All-Star Squadron is kinda cheating, of course, but it’s the only path I can see that makes sense.
What’s that? The rest of the series I’m actually reading? Oh, yeah, that’s pretty good, I guess.
In all seriousness, in these early ‘00s Batbooks, Checkmate futzing around in Gotham for no readily apparent reason gets old really fast. Like, Batman through the perspective of a more savvy opponent than usual was sort of cool the first time or two, but at this point they seem to mostly just be trying to annoy him.
More generally, Devin Grayson’s run did a comparatively good job of keeping the Batman-being-insufferable-for-no-reason stuff to a minimum, so seeing that bleed in a lot more here is a little disappointing.
Plus, this kind of leans a little too hard on the weird idea that it was somehow Jason’s fault he died.
As for the Batman: Black & White backup feature:
Cornered, by Brian Azzarello: OK, so there’s a story or something, but I’m much more interested in the fact that a story with the bookend of a hot dog vendor is drawn by a guy with the last name “Mahfood.”
Gasworks, by Mike Mignola and Troy Nixey: I guess this was kinda clever.
Fear is the Key, by Mike Carey: A lot of these are basically, “Observe, I have had an idea for a gimmick. This is the idea. The end.”
Cat 66, by Ann Nocenti: Another premise in search of a plot.
Sunrise, by Alex Garland: This one was actually pretty good.
Neighborhood, by Robert Rodi: This is solid.
I’ll Be Watching, by Ed Brubaker: Really good story.
Gargoyles of Gotham, by Dean Motter:
Snap, by John Ostrander: See, this is how it’s done. An actual story that fits into the shorter page count instead of some awkward, gimmicky vignette.
The Best of Gotham, by Jill Thompson: This might actually be the most boring thing I’ve ever read. I’d have to do an in-depth comparison to some of the academic papers on psychology and media studies from my undergrad film classes to be certain, and those have an unfair advantage of length, but this certainly felt like it went on forever.
Sidekick, by Kimo Temperance: I like the idea, but hoo boy that art.
Urban Renewal, by Will Pfeifer: The moral… Is that… Cash register-shaped buildings… are good?
Daredevil: 41 issues from 1981-1986 (Well, actually, none of the issues from 1984 are digitized, but whatever)
Writers: Frank Miller (33 issues), Denny O’Neil (8 issues)
Are you sure this is Frank Miller?
Like, we’re talking about the same Frank Miller, right? Our Frank G.D. Miller?
OK, seriously. My usual gripes with Miller’s writing: Unfocused plots that go on weird tangents and are more sets of things that happened around the same time than specific arcs, somewhat childish over-grittiness, and weird, repetitive dialogue.
Here, at least the plots are actually pretty tight and coherent, and the dialogue is cleaned up (and really, while it’s not ideal by modern standards or relative to non-comic media, Miller’s dialogue was always way ahead of its time relative to other ‘80s comics).
Now… when a writer turns out uncharacteristically good work, I have a habit of forming conspiracy theories to try to explain why. There was a series I read (Black Canary ’93) where somewhat similar plot and dialogue issues improved drastically with a change of editor despite an otherwise identical creative team. And the new editor was Denny O’Neil. And the editor on this Daredevil run is Denny O’Neil.
I’m just saying.
In terms of art, I’ve never been a fan of Miller’s style, but this is kinda… more normal-looking, I guess? Like, it’s not very good,
and the fact that Matt’s ears are visible in perfect detail through his cowl bothers me to an inordinate degree (I think his costume must be made out of the same stuff as Catwoman’s ‘90s outfit – ostensibly paint, to be specific), but it’s mostly ugly in a fairly ignorable way.
Also, the whole subplot with Heather Glenn is exactly why lawyers aren’t supposed to be involved with their clients. Do the words “Model Rules of Professional Ethics Rule 1.8(j)” mean anything to you, Matt?!
A big chunk of Denny O’Neil’s run is missing, which seems to happen with a lot of his stuff, and is always borderline sacrilegious. What we do have is pretty good, though. Like, I get why the Miller stuff is better remembered, given all the elements it introduced, but O’Neil’s writing has a sense of theme and a dry wit woven into the tone that I love. Plus, it’s where David Mazzuchelli came on as artist, and he’s fantastic.
And when Miller comes back, O’Neil’s not editing anymore (As far as I can tell, he left to go write The Question, which is… kind of actually the same story?
But better?) and it’s verging into more Millerisms, though, with, like, Karen Page in general, the repetition, and the way every character who gets distressed starts speaking in garbled, unpunctuated dialogue. And while the plot works for a while, the end is really abrupt and gets mostly hijacked by Captain America. And the climactic moment of the plot is like the fifth shot of the Kingpin working out while narration tells us he’s somewhat less powerful than he had been previously. The story is basically missing a third act.