Batman Volume 6: Graveyard Shift

by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, James Tynion IV and more
collects BATMAN #0, BATMAN #18-20, #28, #34 and BATMAN ANNUAL #2

This collection contains a smattering of issues, mainly because they're all standalone stories for the most part, exploring from the start of Batman in the Zero Year, to the future of Batman in Batman Eternal. Supporting characters get a little more of the spotlight here, but that isn't to say that Batman doesn't get plenty of time too.

Stories range from the supernatural, as Batman encounters a demonic summoning of the "Will O' the Wisp" in "Ghost Lights," to high sci-fi when Batman stages his own breakout of Arkham Asylum in a demonstration on how to improve their security. The quality is high in every story, and not only does Greg Capullo kill it as usual in the Clayface story, other artists get a chance to shine. Mateo Scalera and Lee Loughbridge stand out to me as the artist and colorist for the "The Meek" story. It's a Hannibal-esque serial killer story with brooding colors and confident, sharp lines. I wouldn't mind reading a monthly from these guys, reminiscent to me of Sean Murphy's art. There's a three-page sequence of no words as he buries his most recent victim, that's just haunting. Especially in a series that usually has a lot of exposition and backstory. The art breathes!

The most "on-continuity" story here is the Clayface story, told in issues 18-20. Clayface's mimicry abilities evolve to the point where he can copy the DNA of his victims, and eventually he copies Bruce Wayne's identity leading to a showdown between Bruce Wayne, and Batman. This is all happening in the context of Damian Wayne's death, AKA Robin and Bruce's biological son. It hits all the right beats, from the high-tech gadgets that keep Batman one step ahead of his foes, to the pensive emotions as Bruce looks through old recordings of his adventures with Damian. Gonna make a grown man cry here, when I just wanted to look at Batman punch people.

Capullo just kills it with Clayface. I could look at this guy's Clayface for days. Just look at the detail.

It's just so satisfying to read a title of consistent quality and with artists of high quality. Every short story does something different here, whether it's a story of hope seen in the first lighting of the Bat-signal, in issue 0, or the brooding mood of the serial killer in "The Meek." It's not one of the mega-storyarcs that we've seen before like with "Death of the Family" or "Dark City," and I wouldn't want this collection to be. This anthology is a brilliant way to collect the standalone stories printed thus far and I can't wait to read more.
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Black Panther by Priest Volume 3 and The Batman Adventures Volume 2

Black Panther by Christopher Priest Volume 3
by Christopher Priest, Sal Velluto and more

There are some neat inclusions in here: Issue 36 is the 100-page "monster," a 35-year anniversary celebration issue that throws the Black Panther into a neo-noir New York City with Everett Ross standing in as a Commissioner Gordon-type character. It's bookended with a Thor #370 story, from 1986, a story that Priest wrote back then under his pen name James Owlsley, that crossed over with the time travel story in Black Panther #46-47.

Here's a breakdown:
  • The Once and Future King: A neo-noir murder mystery brings King T'Challa back to New York after a decades-long exile. See Old Man T'Challa match wits against a murderer of the throne!
  • Return of the Dragon: Mad genius geneticist Nightshade resurrects the shapeshifting dragon Chiangtang to exact revenge on Iron Fist.
  • Enemy of the State II: This is probably the main storyline, a five-part crossover with Iron Man, Wolverine and kind-of the Avengers. The clone Black Panther is featured here too, a Kirby-esque copy of T'Challa whose brain tumor has made him insane and jolly.
  • Saddles Ablaze: A retroactive crossover with the 1986 Thor title.
 There's other fill-in storylines but that about covers it. The trade still suffers from the same non-linear storytelling which makes it hard to follow along. Some one-shots are decent slice-of-life style stories, but for the main issues, it'll pretty much take the whole story for you to just figure out what happened in the issues before, which hinders a lot of the enjoyment. The art is fairly contemporary, but the Kirby lines on the clone Black Panther offer a welcome visual break. The writing style isn't for everyone, but I only have one more TPB to go -- so see you then.
The Batman Adventures Volume 2
by Kelley Puckett, Mike Parobeck and more
The adventures continue in this series, solely pencilled by Mike Parobeck now. I've already stated before how some of his characters look like Go Blox action figures, but a lot of other times it captures that feeling of the animated series. Sometimes it feels like I can even hear Kevin Conroy's voice coming from the page, and that's exactly what I want when I read these stories.
In all, there's 10 done-in-one issues here, too many for me to list one-by-one, so a few notes:
  • There's a neat hard-boiled story completely narrated by Jim Gordon as he works with Batman to save a police officer held hostage by Rupert Thorne, in # 15. It's such a different story to the others, completely from his perspective and a refreshing addition to the collection.
  • It's really neat how, even when these are standalone stories, there are some references to previous issues. I wasn't expecting to get a little tickle out of understanding the continuity, but there it is, when in issue #17 Batman makes a reference to the central macguffin of issue #13 (which itself, I believe is a follow-up to the The Animated Series introduction of R'as Al Ghul!). What's so genius about this, is that it works whether you've read the previous issue or not. If you haven't, it's just a one-off piece of info, but if you have, it reminds you of this whole world of stories -- great comic stuff.
  • Considering this was a comic book series based on an animated series, there isn't much room for growth in the characters and the status quo tends to dominate. But in one issue, Batgirl teams up with Robin and by the end of that issue, Barbara is starting her first day of college. While Bruce doesn't have much room for development, it's his supporting characters who offer us glimpses of growth.
  • There's a plethora of three-panel pages, many of them without even dialogue or thought bubbles, but it never feels gratuitous. Each panel is important to the story, especially when the story wraps up neatly in a single issue, and these just feel good to read.

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Batman by Grant Morrison Omnibus: Volume One

Batman AdventuresBatman by Snyder and CapulloJLA...sure, what's another Batman series to start? I have to follow my heart when I read, and there's always room for more Batman. Grant Morrison made his mark during the "British invasion" that matured the comics industry with series like Neil Gaiman's Sandman, and Alan Moore's Watchmen. He revitalized the JLA in the 90's making it the premier DC title, and in 2006 he was given the premier bat-title, Batman. He did a bunch of weird things with the Dark Knight, and it was pretty entertaining. What stood out the most to me was the introduction of Damian Wayne, featured in Batman & Robin with Frank Quitely. Mainly what I wanted to collect was this title, collected in Batman by Grant Morrison Omnibus Volume Two, but I couldn't exactly help myself. I got the full 3-volume set. So today, here's the first volume:

Batman by Grant Morrison Omnibus: Volume One
by Grant Morrison, Adam Kubert, Lee Garbett, Tony Daniel and more

For continuity's sake, here's the stories collected:
  • Batman's year-long hiatus from publication, as seen in the comic book experiment 52, concludes here: Batman returns to Gotham City after exorcising his demons, fears and doubts in a journey to Nanda Parbat, including a month-long sensory deprivation meditation experience.
  • Batman and Son: Bruce Wayne strikes a romance with the head of an African nation and global humanitarian, Jezebel Jet. He discovers that he has a son, grown in a laboratory and trained as an assassin by Talia Al Ghul, from the Dennis O'Neil classic, Birth of the Demon. Damian Wayne is a brash, cutthroat kid who's convinced that he's going to help Batman in his war against crime. Damian makes for the perfect foil that helps us see Bruce Wayne in a fatherly, compassionate light. Both Damian and Talia seemingly die in the climax of this story, after failing to hold hostage the Prime Minister's wife.
  • Three Ghosts of Batman: For some reason, various police officers are impersonating Batman, and he gets a taste of the second one here: the Batman that accepted shots of Venom and is a weird amalgam of Bane and Batman. He handles it, but for some reason, he knows there's going to be a third one, thinking of his Black Casebook, a collection of dreams, hallucinations, or adventures that he couldn't explain. The third Batman: the one who sold his soul to the devil and destroyed Gotham City.

  • Resurrection of R'as Al Ghul: Batman tied in to this 8-part crossover story with the other bat-titles, but there's way too many gaps in the story that reading the two Batman issues doesn't do it any justice. 1-page synopses inclusions from Chris Burnham are neat, but left me empty without being able to read the story in full.
  • The Black Glove: Meet the Man-of-Bats and his sidekick, Little Raven! Knight and Squire of England! All these Batman-inspired heroes and more meet at the Island of Mister Mayhew, for their annual Club of Heroes meeting. But it turns sinister when they realize that someone is killing them one-by-one. It's the ultimate theater of Good vs. Evil, engineered by the mad psychiatrist Simon Hurt.
  • Batman R.I.P.: An explosive shell to the chest, the kidnapping of his girlfriend, all open him up to psychic suggestions laid by Simon Hurt. He finally triggers them, and drives the Batman to madness -- except Batman has a backup plan for even this! Enter: The Batman of Zur-En-Arrh, the Joker's return from being shot in the face by a Batman look-alike in the first issue, and Dr. Hurt's final drama of Good vs. Evil.
  • One-shots: There's various one-shots here, including a kooky prose-style issue that foreshadows the "punchline" in Batman R.I.P. Issue #666 imagines a grim future where Damian is Batman and fights the Batman of Hell. The omnibus ends in a two-part story that explain what's going on in Batman's head, as he attempts to break free from the psychic prison of the New Gods attempting to build a clone army from him, before he's seemingly murdered by Darkseid's Omega Beams in the finale of Final Crisis. The two-part issue does a great job explaining what makes Bruce Wayne Batman, and why he can be the only person that can be Batman.
All things considered, the stories told make for one super-arc that begins with the first issue collected and ends neatly in the third-to-last issue, before the Final Crisis tie-in. The theme goes beyond the typical crime noir that you'd expect from modern Batman stories, and pays tribute to the adventures he's had in the past, while paving stories for the international set in the future. The author isn't afraid to dip into the supernatural and makes the title a jack of all trades, expanding the way we view the Batman. The man who's thought of everything, including even what he hasn't thought of!

It's a shame that the art couldn't be consistent. Adam Kubert's lines are dynamic and action-oriented, perfect for the James Bond-style story that kicks it off. But fill-in artists like Lee Garbett and later the main artist Tony Daniel put in their perfunctory superhero art. Standard, with nothing exciting, and sometimes it's the script that has to do the heavy lifting. Like, what's going on in this page? Reading the art only confuses you; you'd have to read the words to tell what's going on.

I suppose I only have myself to blame, but I purchased this edition in "Acceptable" condition on eBay and it came with the binding torn off. It feels like I'm murdering the book every time I open it, but it's stayed intact so far and doesn't affect the reading experience. It's an unfortunate way to keep these stories, but given the inconsistencies in the art itself, it was worth saving the extra $15. The cover art of the book itself is this neat double-bat icon, and I loved looking at it in my week-ish-long binge of the book. Page numbers are marked but inconsistently since the art often bleeds into the margins.

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