Review – Batman #12 – Ghost in the Machine (New 52 – 2012)

Writer: Scott Snyder
Co-Writer: James Tynion IV
Aritst: Becky Cloonan
Additional Artist:  Andy Clarke
Inks: Sandu Florea
Colors: FCO Plascencia
Letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt
Cover: Greg Capullo & FCO Plascencia
Variant Cover: Bryan Hitch and Nathan Fairbairn
Published by: DC Comics

Fresh off of the battle with the Court of the Owls and what might be his own lost brother, we see the Batman story take a detour back to the people and the city he protects.

Harper and Cullen have a hard time getting by in the Narrows, a lesser traffic area of Gotham that happens to be part of the new Wayne makeover for the city. With rent, bullying from homophobic locals and home invasions there’s a lot of stress on the plate that seems to never go away, Harper takes the stage as the focus point for the story though. As the child who had to grow up when times got tough, she’s never let herself take a break after moving as sole watcher of her brother. Given the bad area, working under the city, having no family and dealing with constant bullies one can see how she might cross paths with Batman.

It’s a fun side story, we see the life of someone in Gotham who for so long fought on their own to get and keep what they had and when it all reached the boiling point, when the stress of life got too high there was a glimmer of hope. Well… a vast darkness of hope to be more accurate, Batman is an equal opportunity man and he dishes it out to the top villains of the city and to the local bullies as well so no one gets the impression they’re off the hook. It’s a warming tale when things looked so absolutely grim for 11 issues as the series kicked off, some might be put off by this shift but it felt like it gave a bit more personality to the city he runs around in.

The art from Becky Cloonan through the book is a pleasant presentation, you feel the expressions of the characters in each squint, smirk, frown and motion. The style itself feels lighter in the presentation and it shines through for 21 pages, after that Andy Clarke takes the helm and I really don’t know what happened there. If they didn’t compare notes, or drawings is entirely in the air as it only takes that first page to throw confusion into the mix. Harper transforms from a young girl with a punk style to looking like one of Joker’s goons as she leaps out-of-the-way. The sharp contrast isn’t a good thing and normally if you need to exchange teams you do it without so much contrast. Snyder and  Tynion for example don’t face nearly as much of a dispute in handling the characters as they continue to flow. Hopefully this isn’t a habit for DC, I would have preferred to see Cloonan finish out her issue as it grabbed my attention until that disruption.

Batman #12 isn’t a continuation of the Owls story at all (although we do see some bits sprinkled in at the end) but it’s still worth looking into if you’re a fan of seeing Batman stick it to those who deserve it and protect the people just trying to get by in a world of Jokers, Two-Faces, Penguins and so on. Sometime’s it’s not about the super high-profile events in a comic, this was one of those times and I’m glad they gave the approval to run with this story.

Release Date: August 8, 2012

Story:★★★★½ 
Art:★★½☆☆ 
Dialog:★★★★★ 
Overall:★★★★★ 

*Note: The lower score on the art reflects the issue of contrast between Cloonan and Clarke, had they went with just Cloonan I wouldn’t have had an issue here, plus the last panel ruins Harper with the expression and facial structure Clarke applied.

Review – Spider-Men #4 – “Peter Parker Goes Home”

Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Sara Pichelli
Cover by: Justin Ponsor & Jimmy Cheung
Variant Cover by: Jim Cheung, Sara Pichellis, Mike Deodato

Ponsor & Cheung

When Peter returns to Aunt May’s at the end of issue #3, I mentioned that was anxious to find out how this meeting was going to pan out. I also said that the story would get more depth and more emotional. I was right to think so as Spider-Men #4 with Brian Michael Bendis fills this issue with lots emotional moments, something you would expect considering the tragedies of the Ultimate universe. Bendis nails it on this issue with the interaction and emotion between the characters as it is what makes this issue very solid. Each character has a different reaction to Peter’s return, most noticeably Aunt May’s anger and confusion which leads to her fainting, or MJ who is too hurt to even see him. Then, there’s Gwen who at first is angered but quickly over it and acting like a normal teenager all the while young Miles is borderline obsessing over Peter’s web shooters. Every character has a different reaction to his appearance which I find exuberant.

Once again Sara Pichelli brings all of Bendis work to life in this issue, accenting the moments of this series with emotional details. She visibly catches the moments that I noted earlier about with sharp attention in each panel. Pichelli’s work in this series and series of the past demonstrate that she is a master of detailing. Her work is always on point, from character designs, action movement sequences, page layouts and perspective. She is in my opinion, one of the best artists Marvel has right now and I know I’m not the only one who feels the same way.

Final thoughts: When reading issues #1-4 you can tell that Bendis enjoys writing for Spider-Men, his work is very consistent while working in humor and delivering emotion in different situations. Every character is handled with a personal touch that brings out their unique feelings. In the end Spider-Men #4 is the best issue so far and is a turning point for this story, hopefully Bendis can finish this off strong.

Story:★★★★½ 
Art:★★★★★ 
Dialog:★★★★★ 
Overall:★★★★★