Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Batman: The Eye of the Beholder

            And after dealing with Marvel’s iconic web-slinger, we go over to the latest DC Comic’s Dark Knight. We take a look at Dick Grayson as Batman in the beginning of the Batman Inc. Era as we review:

Issues #704 – 707
Story (arc) Title: Eye of the Beholder
Written & Penciled by Tony Daniel
DC Comics
by Frankie Rodriguez

            Unless you don’t collect comics or just completely out of time with Batman, Dick Grayson took up the mantle of Batman (again) once we thought that Bruce Wayne had died at the hands of the evil Darkseid. Bruce was actually thrown back in the past till he got back to the present recently. Yet, instead of Bruce having Dick return to his Nightwing persona, he insisted that Dick stay on as Batman to protect Gotham City and train Damian Wayne, the latest Robin, while Bruce franchises Batman all over the world in order to make an army against crime. Yes . . . this is not something out of some crazy fanfic; this is from the genius of Grant Morrison. Cause of this, the Bat titles have split with whichever Batman to being the leading man; Detective Comics, Batman & Batman and Robin have Dick being the leading man while the new titles Batman Incorporated and Batman: Dark Knight has Bruce being the main bat there.
            So Dick protects Gotham City as Batman and we look at the jump on point for the changes brought about with Bruce’s return. And if you figured that just having Bruce back didn’t give creators a chance to add on to Dick Grayson’s Batman, you are sorely mistaken. So let’s see how Batman #704-707 measure up as now Tony Daniel is now both artist & writer of the title; much like he was for Battle of the Cowl.

            Batman #704 opens up with some kind of mysterious call, dealing with what seems to be a group of people charged with protecting something. A person on one part of the phone says he is not going to give anyone information and has what seems to be a . . . swastika . . . that he beats through then reveals some kind of Asian lettering. The other man who was asking to give out information and help a mysterious visitor seeming dies. And that is just in the first 2 pages.
            Next we open up to see Batman (Dick Grayson) swinging with Robin (Damian Wayne) have a small exchange to a splash page of a character named Reaper & Catgirl fighting each other. After a brief fight with Reaper, who seems to be a bit loco about right and wrong and willing to kill heroes cause they get in his way; we see Batman looking for Catgirl, who slipped away. Before Batman & Robin give chase, they get stopped by a familiar face . . .Batman. Yes. Batman. Batman meet Batman.
            Bruce came to Dick telling him that he needs to get rid of Catgirl. Dick says he would. We go back to where the guy with the swastika (?) is to find him with his head . . . falling off. WHAT?! Then a bomb that goes BOOM!!
            Dick and Lucius Fox are in Wayne Tower doing business with a beautiful asian business woman known as Sasha Lo and her little brother, Luki Lo. She asked to buy the Crime Alley, particularly the eight block radius where Bruce’s parents were killed and was the main catalyst for the birth of Batman. Dick says he can’t.
            We then see Selina at a benefit dancing with a . . . nerd (?) . . . when Dick came in underdressed. Dick told Selina that she needed to get rid of Catgirl. Selina demanded that if Catgirl goes, so should Damian. When Dick told her this came from Bruce, Selina mocked Bruce and calls him the “Ultimate Hypocrite.”
            Dick drove off only to run into Sasha Lo again, with her begging to buy Crime Alley, even offering a bribe to Dick. Dick says no then asks way before an arrow comes their way; and Sasha stopped it . . . with one hand. As she ran off, Dick went the other direction, ordered a drone, got a Batman costume and changed. As Batman (Dick) arrived on the scene as a woman dressed in a blue outfit, peacock feathers & a mask appeared to trying to find Dick & Sasha’s attacker. As an assassin prepared to strike the woman with an arrow, Batman came in and knocked down said assassin. Batman gazed at the woman fully and if anyone with a brain has been following, you know that this was Sasha . . . introducing herself to Batman as Peacock. Before readers get any more in depth information on Peacock, there is another attack . . .from Sensei. Wait . . . wasn’t he killed off during the Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul crossover from a few years ago?
            Apparently not as the next issue opened with how Sensei came back to life as he was given water from Nanda Paradat, which has its own Lazurus pits and has more mystical abilities that was seen in 52. Sensei was back and after Peacock for they are both after something called the Beholder . . . which we find out some of its origin here to Gotham City and a secret society called Jade Compass Society when Peacock & Batman got another ally from I Ching, who told them the origin. Peacock reluctantly takes Batman help (at I Ching’s request) as they try to follow where Sasha’s limo, with her brother Luki, in it was going to. Alas, when they get to it, the limo’s been blown up. I-Ching rejoins them and they try to figure out where Luki is and the rest of the Jade Compass Society when Dick figured out that the society had another member . . . Lucius Fox.  Dick ran over to the Fox’s place to check to get stuck by a bomb. After Batman landed onto a car and come to find out that the bombs were set by . . . The Riddler. Oh and NOT just the Riddler . . . but his daughter, Enigma too? Wait . . .What?!
            Yes. Last seen during the Teen Titans “Titans East” arc, Enigma (aka Riddler’s Daughter) returns with her daddy to cause Batman trouble . . . and ??? wait. WHAT?!  Not sure as to why he shows up but it has to do with the Jade Compass Society. Riddler and Enigma have Batman on the ropes till Robin came in. Batman and Robin quickly deal with Riddler’s men as the Enigma family makes a break for it. Sensei is torturing Luki and Lucius for information and our heroes find out about it . . . through a weird telepathic like connection between Luki & Peacock. For those of you reading, if you hadn’t figured out that Peacock is Sasha, then you are clearly not paying attention.
            Speaking of Luki, after he’s tortured by Sensei, Lucius gets tortured as well. Sensei eventually gets the location of the Beholder, a mask of immense power. I-Chiang gives back grown on how the mask went from Asia to Gotham decades ago and why Sensei wants it so badly. Batman, I-Ching and Peacock all split up once more. Batman returns to see Reaper, who gives him one clue while a visit to Kitrina Falcone aka Catgirl gives him the last clue he needs. I-Ching enters an abandoned building only to fall to a trap. Batman soon goes to the same building and seemingly is trapped as well by Sensei. It looks as if Lucius, Luki, Lucius’s daughter Tamara & Dick are drowning towards their deaths yet we see Dick jumping into action, getting them out, and with I-Ching’s help, defeats most of Sensei’s assassins.
            Meanwhile, Sensei find the Beholder and is about to put it on. He is stopped, seemingly by one of his own henchmen who turn out to be Sasha in disguise. Sensei says he plans on killing her but recognizes her face as the woman who gave her the water in Nanda Pardat. This pauses Sasha long enough for Dick to swoop in but Sensei puts on the mask, enjoying its power. Yet, sooner rather than later, the mask begins to start killing. Sasha and I-Chiang explained that Sensei, in his own hubris, was NOT worthy of the Beholder, only Luki was. A battle ensued in which Batman held his own against the powerful Sensei till Luki takes the mask then Sensei tries to kill Luki but only breaks the Beholder into pieces. Batman tackled Sensei through a window only for Sensei do a disappearing act. Sasha and Batman say quick goodbyes as Luki gets a flash of Dick & Sasha making out. The storyline ends with Riddler and Enigma reporting to the person who hired them to the job, who wanted files on the Jade Compass Society. We see a female’s lips but then she flips a coin stating she had another job for the father-daughter team.

Once again, here is the break down of how things are rated. Look at the ratings as if 1 was the worse to 5 being the best:

Ubersuck Crown – Run away from the story &/or book. It is bad. Treat it like the plague. Think of it as a 1 or 1 star. Pretty much VERY BAD.

Cruiserweight Contender – A book that has some great flash and ability to entertain for a while. Not a definite buy but still not too bad. It’s ok. Aka 2 stars.

X Division Contender-  Something that is out there. Brings out something a little different. Something entertaining and over all enjoyable but still not enough to make a huge impact.  3 stars or Average.

Intercontinental Contender – Something polished, some what thought provoking. Great story telling. Fair characterization but things not completely utilized to the best of their ability more than it should. Something that is on the verge of greatness but just falls short. Good or 4 stars.

World Heavyweight Contender – Outstanding. Great art. Great characterization. Great storyline. Excellent plot. Outstanding use of characters, area. Great use of new concepts or old concepts in a new way. Frellin’ awesome or 5 stars.

So you got it? Good. Onto:


            This wasn’t the first time Tony Daniel was writing  & drawing the Batman books but is doing so this time on an ongoing basis. With that said, Tony has done a good job. Tony introduces the world of Gotham City today and while it may not seem too different from the Gotham that Bruce Wayne protected, it is radically different. Gotham City now is much more violent then it was before Bruce Wayne had “seemingly” died.  Dick Grayson has grown as a character and Tony Daniel has shown that in a variety of ways. He is not trying to be Bruce, which is evident in his quips and how artistically how Tony draws lots of aerobatics on Dick’s part to show that this Batman is different. Tony does an excellent job of showing Dick being able to handle Batman throughout the storyline . . . with one MAJOR exception.
            Having Bruce show up after Dick and Damian deal with Reaper was kinda of a reminder to readers that there was 2 Batmen. Great. Fine. Yet the fact that Bruce felt the need to make a personal visit and tell Dick to get rid of Catgirl, who he and Dick agree is being reckless was kinda of a slap to the face. While I understand that this is a new era, the Batman Incorporated era, that fact that Dick had his “dad” show up and personally tell him something was kinda of bull. There have been plenty of other issues and books that had Bruce “evaluate” Dick & Damian. This whole Bruce coming to see them personally felt kinda like . . . yeah, I trust you to mind the store but only so much. And honestly it wasted time that could be used to develop Dick more.
            That wasn’t my only problem with the storyline. Another issue was the inclusion of Riddler & Enigma. I did like the fact that the 2 were together. I liked that fact that Ridder was now again a villain. What I didn’t particularly like was that it seemed to be a hiccup. Considering that this is set up to other storylines was fine. Yet it was confusion with the actually main storyline with the fact that it seemed to show up in the middle of Batman’s investigation of Lucius Fox. And that wouldn’t have bothered me so much if it didn’t come so . . . abruptly in the middle of the main storyline. I like having future storylines set up. And I can understand the whole Jade Compass Society thing would lead to more stories. What I found a probably was that Riddler & Enigma showing up how they did then disappearing til the end of the storyline. I read the storyline twice and both time it just felt awkward having them there in the MIDDLE of the main plot line. I originally thought that Sensei had joined with them; and was disappointed that they didn’t show up again till the end. It almost felt like filler. There have been other writers who have done similarly things but at least the inclusion of other storylines with the main plot seemed to flow a LOT better than when it did here. But it did make me intrigued about them and an eventual show down.
            My final problem was that there was just so much focus on the storyline and the world of Batman, we have not really seen the world of Dick Grayson. The only real moments of Dick Grayson time we’ve seen was him at Wayne Enterprises with Sasha and his little warning to Catwoman. Let me talk about the latter before I get into the former.
            The fact that Bruce ordered Dick to get Catgirl gone was pretty damn wrong. And then Tony set up one of the best scenes in #704. Selina Kyle aka Catwoman flat out called out Dick and Bruce’s hypocricy.
            Dick: She has to go, Selina. She nearly got herself killed chasing down the Reaper . . . for the reward money the Feds put up.
            Selina: I wouldn’t approve of that behavior.
            Dick: It’s what a younger Catwoman would have done.
            Selina: If she has to go, then so should your pompous little brat.
            Dick: Kitrina (aka Catgirl) needs to be in school. Not playing superhero with homicidal maniacs. Bruce made it clear  .”
            Selina: Bruce, the Ultimate surrogate, the ultimate hypocrite.

            That was one of the best exchanges, showing how times and everyone had been changing. Dick following orders and getting his own personal life neglected seemed to be a bit much. Dick had his own identity and some much of it is now part of what Bruce had designed. Not him being Batman but him being Dick Grayson. And that is something that I hope that Tony can touch on more soon.
            Otherwise, Tony being both writer and artist really was spectacular. Seeing how much Tony Daniel has evolved over the years has been great and he really did a great job with writer & art for the storyline. It opened lots of new elements. And Tony established what could very well be Dick’s Selina or Talia to Bruce’s. Peacock aka Sasha Lo was both an interesting fighter with an attitude but understandably so. Particularly enjoyable was Peacock’s exchange with I-Chiang and Batman after the first escape in #705. Peacock states that he is not the real Batman and that he speaking juvilen is one of those indicators. I-Chiang replies with a simple fact that this was indeed Batman and she’s benefit from his help. The chemistry between Batman and Peacock was well develop and continued to grow during the storyline. Again, Dick and Sasha’s chemistry is hot and look forward to more Batman and Peacock in the future.
            Tony wrote us a very confident Dick Grayson. He was used to being Batman and while he and Bruce were both Batman now, Dick was more than up to the task. Dick didn’t flinch when he was ordered to look after Gotham and that Bruce personally gave him Gotham. There was no doubt. Not in any of the narrative did we see Dick Grayson doubt himself as a hero and that made a great impression on me. This wasn’t the person who was very against taking the mantle nor the man trying to live up to Bruce’s shadow. Dick Grayson here was indeed a man who is confident and comfortable of being Batman . . . but being Batman his own way. These issues showcase that perfectly. Another example of that was when Batman when into Arkham to speak to Reaper and Batman easily convinced the Doctor to let him see Reaper.
            The colors were grim enough to show the grit and grime of Gotham but did a great job showing that this was indeed a whole new era as this was the Batman Inc era and Dick was fully taking charge of himself as Batman. As hookey as Sensei’s resurrection was written out, it was done well. The backgrounds were all amazing and the characters were full of life. Luki was a little stiff in my opinion but still, artistically a great job for the beginning.
            Tony Daniel artistically and verbally added much to the new mythos of the Dick Grayson Batman. Gotham is a very dangerous place but the new Batman was more than up for the challenge. Dick seemed made for it. Kudos to Ian Hannin for his colors in all 4 issues as well as the assist inks by Sandu Florea & Ryan Winn for their great inks on the storyline. Each character seemed to have defined faces that matches their personas. This was a great introduction artistically.
            Overall, while this wasn’t a grand slam for Batman Dick Grayson, it was still a great home run. The Beholder, the Jade Compass Society, Peacock, Sensei and even Riddler & Enigma all became part of Dick’s new rogues gallery and made welcoming first impressions. Tony Daniel takes the reigns aggressively in this new run with a solid introduction. It is just said that we don’t see more of the Dick Grayson side of life. And Tony needs to work on making sure the flow of the overall plot line is not so interrupted by his foreshadowing the future. It is more a matter of over all flow. Still, it was a solid read with great dialogue, action, adventure and a look into Gotham City at the beginning of the Batman Incorporated era. There were lots of introductions and even set up for both Dick and Damian that this should be an enjoyable run.

            Given all this, Eye of the Beholder gets placed in the Intercontinental Contender bracket. A very good start but could be better. Still, read it and enjoy the Peacock. 

And Now CLASH:


            Amazing Spider-man Big Time! Slott gave us a new beginning . . .not just for Spiderman but also for Peter Parker. And the fact that the new Hobgoblin is a dark mirror of Spiderman really helped. While Dick gained a bunch of new rogues and mythology, we barely got to see Dick Grayson. Slott balanced between both while Daniel was very Batman heavy. That is why Big Time beats out Eye of the Beholder in my opinion. 

While I gave MY OWN ratings . . . What do the rest of you think? Who should come out on top?

BATMAN’s Eye of the Beholder or AMAZING SPIDER-MAN’s Big Time. Post your comments and votes on here. The winner will get to advance to the Summer Tournament in July.  Next Week, I will post the results of the winners in both your opinion. 

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