Christopher Franey

Comic Discussions: Brubaker’s Cap v Morrison’s Bats #4

A big hello and welcome back comic book fans!  We continue reading the exciting Ed Brubaker and Grant Morrison runs of Captain America and Batman respectively. This week is incredibly exciting because we get to discuss our thoughts on the voluminous story arcs of both Marvel’s Civil War and DC’s Final Crisis! These are two huge events that did a lot to really shake up both respective universes while at the same time killing two of the most iconic characters in their respective franchises! Reading these stories with greater context as we have read the previous issues in their respective runs makes them much more interesting and impactful! For the reader’s sake I will be in in Italics while Chris will be in bold font. So let’s take a closer look at Batman during the events of R.I.P. and Final Crisis which entails (DC Universe #0; Batman 676-686; Detective Comics 851-853; Final Crisis 1-7; Final Crisis Superman Beyond 1-2; Final Crisis Submit #1; Nightwing 147-153). But first let’s take a look at Captain America Civil War (which entails Captain America Vol. 5 issues 22-25; Civil War 1-7; Winter Soldier: Winter Kills #1; Fallen Son 1-5).

First and foremost, Civil War is a perfect comic book event. It does a great job at realistically depicting how the Superhero community could be fractured in the face of a tremendous tragedy. I read this story at least once a year, and I love the thematic and symbolic storytelling which still holds up.  Every time I would read this story, I was always in Iron Man’s camp. I understood and identified with Tony Stark’s point of view and what he was trying to do for the future of the superhero community, and I always thought Captain America was overreacting and way too abrasive in his beliefs and conflict.  However, reading it this time with the background of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America issues, as well as the Winter Soldier and Fallen Son tie-ins with this event, I now have a greater respect and knowledge in the importance of Cap’s ideals and what it means for his character juxtaposed to the current Marvel Universe landscape.

Civil War #1

It is no secret that Steve Rogers is a man out of time; a man who was a huge American icon and who fought for freedom in one of America’s darkest times in history. He is now in a world that has changed and that is willing to exchange freedom for safety, and that is something Steve cannot abide by. He stands by his principles and refuses to compromise in what he believes is right. In Captain America’s The Drums of War issues #22-24, we get a greater look into Steve’s convictions for what he believes his country should be.   Specifically, in issue #22, we see Sharon try to reason with the stubborn Rogers, but we see that his conviction does not come from stubbornness but instead from the desire to protect his friends. 

Captain America vol 5 #22

He states how he is okay with not having a secret identity because he knows what it means to live with the risks, something he does not want his friends in the superhero community to go through without them making that choice for themselves. He sacrificed so much during WWII and has been recently going through personal tragedy with the Philadelphia bombing, the return of the Red Skull, and the reveal of Bucky being both alive and brainwashed. From a personal standpoint, we also see Steve’s internal struggle because all those sacrifices and current tragedies would have all been for nothing if he allows his country to move forward with the Hero Registration Act.

Reading through all of these issues has been therapeutic in seeing exactly what Captain America means to the greater Marvel universe. The Civil War main event highlights Steve’s actions as he fights tooth and nail with Tony and his former allies, but the Captain America tie-ins and 5 issue Fallen Son arc really give us greater depth and an introspective look at the inspiring legacy of Captain America. In these issues we see Wolverine, Spider-Man, and Tony personally deal with the gravity of Steve Rogers’ assassination. Falcon’s eulogy in Fallen Son #5 is heartwarming and impactful because we see that the loss of Captain America is devastating. This is literature at its finest. This superhero story is so much more than a silly comic book event; it holds real emotional weight, and I am that much more of a person because of it. Brilliant storytelling.

Captain America vol 5 #25

You hit the ground running with this one Rafa and you’re correct both of these events are super amazing, but I feel Civil War has the better connection since it is “street level” as opposed to cosmic.  It’s also funny as when I first read this back in the day I was totally with Cap since I had the bigger exposure by reading all those comics, but this time I really do feel for Tony and was almost on his side…but that Government oversight is what keeps away from it all.  It is funny now knowing about “Hank Pym” and “Daredevil” but that is a discussion for another time.  Yes this read was very nicely done and Millar and Brubaker work very nicely together in this crossover and the characters don’t really lose voice which is awesome and how events should work out; massively throwing shade at AvX, haha.  I did find it funny though that Cap wasn’t in as many of the Captain America comics issues since they more or less focused on his supporting characters.

Captain America vol 5 #23

I also love how even though we have different artists they did such a great job keeping the vibe of this story alive; especially love this full page reminds me of Will Eisner’s art.  Brubaker did such a great job building a fever pitch that when Captain America #25 hits, it felt like real time horror.  Even though I had read the issues I was still clenching at what was going to happen to Cap and his crew. Just such great suspense that Brubaker embeds in his story along with building a strong rapport between reader and character.

Captain America vol 5 #25

Fallen Son did hold up but there are some parts that you can tell were squeezed in but you pointed out the best part with Falcon’s Eulogy; that was beautiful and Jeph Loeb definitely was processing the loss of his son through these comics.  This was a great read all around and I have to say that Civil War and Cap War Drums went nicely together.  It has been fun watching Bucky start to step up even more and I honestly can’t wait for the next reading since we are at the point of Cap’s death which was such an emotionally charged issue by the way.  Brubaker manages to just drive the suspense and hits your emotions with so much, what a great read and historical Marvel moment.  So let us go over to the Batman side of things, Rafa why don’t you start us off.

Batman R.I.P. is a psychological deconstruction of the Batman persona; it is a story about identity. First and foremost, it centers on the theme of Batman’s indomitable will and unwavering spirit. When his enemies come to “ruin him in every way imaginable, both in body and soul”, Batman proves that he is someone who really does prepare for everything, including his death. All of Morrison’s previous narrative threads that pay homage to older Batman stories really hit in this epic event; them being put into continuity is both masterfully done and so interesting to read. He cleverly takes tropes, images, and concepts from some of the old, fantastical stories of 1950’s Batman and repurposes them. He pulls great content from stories like Batman: The Superman of Planet X (Batman #113), Robin Dies at Dawn (Batman #156), The First Batman (Detective Comics #235), and Batman Meets Bat-Mite (Detective Comics #267). He perfectly shifts surreal & outlandish stories into believable psychotic hallucinations. This is great because it serves as a catalyst that kick-starts the story.

Batman vol 1 #678

After all, this is a psychological story on how a man’s mind, that has had constant exposure to Joker toxin, phobia gases, and all kinds of mind-altering chemicals over the years, as well as Thogal meditation rituals and isolation experiments, can be fractured. This story is basically Morrison asking “what do all these years of mental hallucinogenic states do to a man’s mind”. He highlights this while at the same time reinforcing Batman’s painstaking planning by transforming Doctor Hurt’s hypnotic trigger phrase (that is supposed to break Batman’s mind) into a mechanism to ultimately bring Batman back. In order for his mind not to tear itself apart, Batman creates a safehouse/ backup identity; a “back-up human operating system” in the form of The Batman of Zur-En-Arrh (a super-strong, invulnerable Batman from a different planet); a secret self to save himself. This entire concept of a “defensive emergency back-up personality” is so wild and plays perfectly into the legend of the Batman; a man prepared for anything and everything. 

Batman vol 1 #679

The Batman of Zur-En-Arrh is a dissociative identity designed to keep him moving; to give Bruce time to recollect his mind. The fact that this Batman identity is Batman at its purest without Bruce (his pure id impulse), it will keep him moving through the pain and disorientation; it is a physical showcase of Batman’s MIND OVER MATTER. This multilayered approach to Morrison’s story telling is impressive, challenging, and cerebral. It showcases multiple layers to his narrative threads, and it is best enjoyed when you have read his other Batman stories. Like his approach to writing Batman canon, it’s all important and it all counts.

Final Crisis #6

While Batman R.I.P. was, in my opinion, a masterpiece in storytelling, Final Crisis, on the other hand, is another case entirely. Even with all of my extensive background in DC comics, it still reads incredibly difficult. I appreciate Morrison’s attempt at an end-all be-all epic; however, it was just too big in scope; there was too much going on; it was just too ambitious and did not stick the landing. There are great moments, like Batman taking down Darkseid and Superman becoming some sentient SuperMachine to take down an ancient vampire god, but it is too much. The Night Wing issues were a nice way of tying Dick Grayson into the empty void that Batman’s death would have on Gotham. However, Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader by Neil Gaimon just did not hit the mark for me. As much as I loved everything about Batman R.I.P., I had a much more difficult time getting through the rest of the stories. 

So this was a big read but it was all connected; like R.I.P. leading into Final Crisis and then bouncing back into Batman comics, plus the Nightwing tie in since he is going to be a major part of the bat-books along with the Neil Gaiman written Whatever Happened to the Dark Knight.  These sounded like some great ideas but honestly the editor didn’t hold the strings together.  R.I.P. starts off strong and totally connected in my opinion, but if you read the Nightwing tie in issues alongside it you will feel like they are out of time/sync; so hopefully you used the reading order we came up with to try and make this more cohesive.  Final Crisis was just too much…like is this the resurrection of the Dark New Gods or the Supermen War against Mandrakk or something else?  I can appreciate parts of it but there was just too much going on that could be cut down to make this more reader friendly; like I understand it is a DC Universe Crisis but the story was all over and disattached.  

Final Crisis #7

Like the idea has great heart and it is some wild stuff as shown with this art, but the execution left it flat.  Things I did like were the post event moments with Dick Grayson and Alfred; like this really helped to grow their relationship and also bring Dick back to the bat-books.  Their connection was amazing and really helped to keep this adventure worth reading after Bruce’s death.  I honestly felt like this did Dick some direction too, because after Infinite Crisis it felt like Nightwing was going a little aimless but this gave him direction. 

Nightwing vol 2 #148

You’re totally right Rafa about Whatever Happened to the Dark Knight it totally misses the mark since this story was billed as the Batman version of Superman’s Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow (Which I highly recommend reading), so for my head cannon I like to this of this as an out of body experience for Bruce and maybe he is still riding on some of the psychological fallout from R.I.P.  It was fun to revisit these stories and read them in a better order this time as I’ve said before this sits better as a trade paperback then as single issues during release.  I am looking forward to our next set of readings with Dick Grayson taking over in Batman Battle for the Cowl tpb (which has Battle for the Cowl 1-3 and Gotham Gazette:  Batman Dead and Batman Alive) along with Bucky stepping up as well in Captain America: the Death of Captain America vol 1 (collecting issues 25-30 of Cap volume 5) and as always GEEK OUT! 

Comic Discussions: Brubaker’s Cap v Morrison’s Bats #3

Welcome back comic book connoisseurs to our continuing journey across Ed Brubaker’s Captain America and Grant Morrison’s Batman runs; both are very legendary and provide a strong history to the characters when these runs were originally being published.  Rafa and I are reading these two runs together to share our excitement, wonder, and views with you and hopefully you’re reading with us as well! For the reader’s sake Chris will be in Bold Font and Rafa will be in Italic Font.  This week we are looking at Captain America Red Menace which entails issues of Captain America vol 5 issues 15-17, the Captain America 65th Anniversary Special, then continues with Cap issues 18-21 while looking at Batman the Black Glove which has Batman vol 1 issues 667-669 and 672-675.  So Rafa I will kick it off to you what did you overall enjoy and like about The Black Glove?

Thank you, Chris! Reading these stories alongside you has been a real treasure, just like Morrison’s story itself is a treasure. Writing Batman is no easy feat, so when a writer is able to get into the nuances and intricacies of what makes a character great, it becomes foundational reading, and The Black Glove is a staple to what makes Grant Morrison’s run so damn good! This story arc consists of two stories that set up for the epic Batman R.I.P. that we will get to next week. The first story focused on a murder mystery with a bunch of international Batmen. With its campy set pieces like Mister Mayhew’s island and great callbacks to the silver age of comics and the different Batman from around the globe (which set up for the future Batman Incorporated) this story is everything you want from a Batman story; it’s humorous, pulpy, stylized and above all else, fun.

Image from Batman #667

The second story is a continuation of the three Batman’s narrative from earlier. In this one we get another cop Batman who ends up giving Batman a heart attack. I loved this story because this is where we get quintessential Morrison with his dissociative episodes that blend reality with dream sequences. This stream of consciousness style to storytelling is both intriguing and exciting. By having callbacks to old stories from the black casebook; Dr. Hurt and the isolation chamber, we see the excellence in Batman. We see him figure everything out; like clockwork and meticulous problem solving; the Batman who is always prepared. What did you enjoy from this story, Chris?

image from Batman #673

I have to say that with The Black Glove I finally started to get in a great reading groove with Morrison’s Batman; the opener with Batmen of All Nations was fun and great set up for Batman Inc. later on like you said.  It really took me back to those old adventures and J.H. Williams III brought in some interesting art which was successful at giving the creepy vibes.  I liked that this was a shorter story and it flowed very nicely which felt like the first time in Morrison’s run.  Then things really start taking a turn with the Third Batmen and I really wish the intro issues of this story would’ve been closer with the first and second Batmen, Bat-Cop and Bat-Bane.  It was wild to see this third one, Bat-Devil, and he felt really horrendous as a villain, like this guy takes it to the max which was great.  Something of interest that I learned about was Bat-Devil is actually Michael Lane who goes on to become the second Azrael; we don’t know that at the time but that is cool to see his secret origin.

The best issue was #675 which was so different to most anniversary number issues.  This is definitely Batman R.I.P. part zero and wow…this Bruce Wayne was scary.  I love how Jezebel Jet was calling out Bruce on the date basically saying he is a shell of a man and she knows there is more and she is fine with him opening up to her.  Then when the Nine-Eyed Man attacks and the fight leads to the kitchen was nuts; Bruce burns off his “eyes” and when Jezebel sees that and Bruce tells her that she’s right and she should leave was intense; probably my favorite moment so far.  Bruce is just a mad hulk in this thunderstorm and then Jezebel figures it out as well.  That is a crazy cliffhanger; what were some things from this tpb that didn’t sit well with you Rafa?  

image from Batman #675

Very well put, Chris! I agree completely that the moment Bruce goes full HULK was an insane moment, and it really ups the insanity in this already insane book. However, that might also be my only real minor issue with the story. It is incredibly good, but it can be insanely hard to read at times. Likewise, I agree with your sentiment about wishing these stories about the “BatCops” to be closer to the beginning of Morrison’s run. There are times that I really do not like how disjointed all of Morrison’s narrative strands are. There is a lot going on and a lot of set up and world building that pays off in the end; however, it’s almost as if though the story is supposed to be difficult to read, so that it can be juxtaposed to the disjointed nature of Batman’s psyche. Stylistically, this is really cool, but from a reading standpoint, it can be a bit frustrating. But this is a minor issue because it overall does enhance my reading experience. What about you, Chris? Was there anything you did not like about this tpb?

Yea my major gripe is the Three Batmen; like on my initial read of this I didn’t think to relate them all together I didn’t see the connection it just happened then the next adventure, second one, next adventure, and so on.  Grant’s run reads better in tpb/collected format but even then with the trades I own they don’t read as well as they could’ve.  It reads better the second time knowing they are connected and that helps the story to have value and you feel for these cops plus it connects very nicely to Dr. Hurt’s origin as well.  It is funny as with this set of reads we are reading two mini-stories for each character, but Brubaker’s reads so crisp you don’t feel like arcs at all.  So I’m glad for less dis-junction but it still is there.  Okay let us take a leap over to Captain America and the Red Menace; what were your thoughts?

Once again, Brubaker delivers exciting and thought-provoking storytelling in the continuation of Captain America’s mission to locate Bucky Barnes. The first part of this story focuses on relationships. We have Sin & Crossbones causing chaos akin to Woody Harrelson & Juliet Lewis in the movie Natural Born Killers (1994).  It feels wild, raw, and out of control which is a direct contrast to Steve and Sharon’s rekindling relationship as they venture into a small town for information on the missing Bucky. This brief reprieve and hope Steve gets in searching for his friend is heartfelt and I loved seeing the joy in Steve’s face when he realizes that Bucky is still alive, and when we see him kiss Sharon. We see real happiness in Cap’s face which has been so rare in Brubaker’s story. He finally has a moment to be happy.

both sets of images from Captain America vol 5 #16

But of course things devolve into absolute chaos with the return of the Red Skull. This story was great because we got to see a modernization of Cap’s story with revitalized elements like Union Jack & Spitfire as well as the new Master Men! It was exciting because it had something for all fans, new and old alike. What did you like about this story, Chris?

both sets of images from Captain America vol 5 #18

Well all of it of course, haha, but you bring up some amazing points.  I didn’t think about Sin and Crossbones as Natural Born Killers but it works on such a great level and they really are just a menace; one major thing I forgot about with The Black Glove that you reminded me of with your  movie comparison is the vibe I got from Batmen of All Nations  felt like Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, cold and haunting and anyone could be the killer.  I have to say I even enjoyed the 65th Anniversary Special as Brubaker made the story count and it appeared in the main series, but we are also treated to pencilers Javier Pulido, Marcos Martin, and Mike Perkins which was awesome as it did give a sense of time travel to the past.  Brubaker used the special in such a great way to remind readers and also trick them into seeing Cap and Bucky’s WWII partnership being better than it was; which happens with comics as they evolved into deeper story and writing.  I really when Cap and Bucky work together in modern times and especially the cover to issue 21 with it being a recreation of the last time they partnered up before the ice.  Bucky losing his arm again but then we find out for sure he is working with Nick was a great ending.

Captain America vol 5 #21

Once again I have to say Brubaker does an amazing job with the villains; Lukin and Red Skull being merged together is such a boiler of anger that it makes for intense situations but also shows just how evil these two are.  They bicker about a plan because the other set it into motion but then when it works out they are celebrating together and they even admit when they get a chance one of them will end the other.  Sin is just chaos in a human body…like I appreciate the moments when she does something and even Crossbones looks at it and has a “woah” moment.  Now with this story arc being over we are treated to the four of them united and that is going to be a devil’s union that will be tough to beat.  Any downsides to the tpb that you saw Rafa?

image from Captain America 65th Anniversary Special
image from Captain America vol 5 #21

I personally did not have any real issues with the story. Overall, the only real gripe I had was that we didn’t get more. I like how the story continues to build on these established character dynamics. Seeing Steve and Bucky reunited after so long was great to see, and that payoff makes anything bad in this story disappear. What about you, Chris? 

One thing I think they could’ve handled a little better was the issue of why Nick Fury wasn’t in charge of S.H.I.E.L.D. and that happened over in a story called Secret War (2004) by Brian Michael Bendis and Gabriele Dell’Otto.  Basically Fury misused his office and position to go after hi-tech villains and it led to an almost war with Latveria; wild stuff, worth a read.  So I think that would’ve been nice to see Cap say something to Carter in order to catch up the reader and also give Cap’s thoughts on the matter, but in real life/time that five issue mini took 23 months in order to be released so that could’ve been why Brubaker didn’t get too deep into it.  Overall Red Menace was a fantastic read in my book.  Were there any similarities or differences that you noticed Rafa?  

I thought both stories were excellent in the way they continue to build meaningful and thought-provoking narratives. Both Bucky and Batman center on the concept of identity. While Bucky is trying to identify who he is and how his role as the Winter Soldier does or does not define him, we also have Batman who is trying to figure out if he is Bruce Wayne playing hero or Batman playing Bruce Wayne. However, Bucky’s story is also one of atonement while Bruce’s is more about acceptance. Both stories also succeed in their dynamic and engaging action set-pieces while also using past narrative flashbacks to tell their current, new mythologies and lores. Overall, both are excellently crafted narratives worth reading. 

Those are excellent points Rafa; I especially love the identity issue that is a great insight that I didn’t think about.  I love how both writers are using time in their stories to justify certain things; Brubaker uses time to create a deeper character with Bucky and Morrison uses time to make the “silly silver-age” stories actually count for the Dark Knight.  Both writers are doing such a wonderful job with building character and adding depth to the story; Morrison does some heavy lifting on Bruce Wayne while the rest of the Bat-Family gets moments, but Brubaker does a great job of building everyone up.  Steve Rogers didn’t have much personality outside of the mask but here he is more than a man out of time and the relationship building with Sharon Carter is amazing, but it will take a turn soon, just like Bruce and Jezebel, but we will cover that next week.  

So that wraps up another week and the next read is going to be pretty big because we have a lot happening for our fourth installment. Let me break it into parts and readings:

Civil War 1- 4

Captain America 22-23

Iron Man/Captain America:  Casualties of War 1*

Captain America 24

Civil War 5

Winter Soldier:  Winter Kills 1

Civil War 6-7

Captain America 25

Civil War:  The Confession 1*

Fallen Son 1-5

These issues can be found in the following trade paperbacks:  Civil War, Captain America Civil War, and Fallen Son; the ones with asterisks are not in these trades.  Now for the Batman side of things:

DC Universe 0

(Batman R.I.P. starts)

Batman 676-681

Nightwing 147-150

(Final Crisis starts)

Final Crisis 1-3

FC Superman Beyond 1-2

Final Crisis Submit 1

Final Crisis 4-5

Batman 682-683

Final Crisis 6-7

(Last Rites starts)

Nightwing 151 

Detective 851*

Batman 684*

Nightwing 152

Batman 686

Detective 853

Nightwing 153

The stories can be found in the following trade paperbacks:  Batman R.I.P., Final Crisis, Nightwing the Great Leap, and Batman Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader.  Looking forward to see you next time and as always, GEEK OUT!

Chris’ Comic Book Corner: Invasion From Planet Wrestletopia #6 Review: Here Comes The 3-Count!

A Review From Christopher Franey

Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #6

Here it is the big show, ultimate viewing pleasure…the conclusion.  This is going to be the big dramatic slam-down for the big belt.  I have to say this had a couple of tear jerk moments and some moments of WOO-ing which made this a fun conclusion.  This was a great ride and really hit some nostalgic moments which was the overall joy of this; like it reminded me of Saturday Mornings watching Wrestling on the USA Network which was fun.  So, let us talk about this conclusion!

interior art by Kendall Goode

I enjoyed the introduction to the issue done in the style of a big Pay-Per-View spectacular with the awesome graphics and amazing title of “Galact-O-Massacre.”  The commentators of Leo Sullivan and “Mondo” Larry Hondo were fun and had some witty liners in there that kept a smile on my face.  The shout outs to audience members was a fun “take me back” of famous people.  Yet the first heart ache comes at us early as we revisit last issues cliffhanger with Dominatress colliding with Don and flying off the train.  Sadly our time with Don is cut very short and I had high hopes for him, but it was a tough moment for Rory and a sobering one too.

interior art by Kendall Goode

Kendall Goode really got to shine this issue with all the moves as there was so much wrestling go on between characters and the action was in for the counts too.  We could see all the punishment that Rory went through to make it to the arena.  Friendships were really tested and I was very shocked by who betrayed Rory…honestly I wouldn’t have guessed; which made for a nice reaction.  In the end it comes down to who stands by you and luckily Rory has friends that did stick with him.  Luckily they make it to the arena for the big show.

With the opening of the show we are treated to Macho taking it out on some of the Wrestletopians and doing it with some slick moves, the man is quite the dynamo.  When Rory does make it I did have to laugh at how he suddenly has quite the set of abs, but that’s all in the fun of this comic series.  I do appreciate Rory’s smack talking at the start that was quite the string of words and rhymes.  Sure enough this was a battle for the ages with Rory and Manifest Destiny…and it will keep you in suspense as there are moments where one is in control and then loses it all while wrapped up in some amazing art. 

interior art by Kendall Goode

I don’t want to spoil too much of this since it is a conclusion but I will say that this story was well worth the time.  I’m not much of an idie comic person but this was just the right amount of fun between my superhero comics.  This comes from a creative team that has heart and laughs with just the right story for all of us to be entertained.  So be sure to check out their series on Comixology with the conclusion, part 6, this August 12, 2020.  This mini-series was created and written by Ed Kuehnel & Matt Entin of Suspicious Behavior Productions and you can find their social medias here with these links:  Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.  You can also find this issues artist, Kendall Goode, on twitter and as always remember to…GEEK OUT!

Comic Discussions: Brubaker’s Cap vs Morrison’s Bats #2

Hello fellow fans of Comic Books, Chris and I have returned to continue our rundown of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America/Winter Soldier arcs alongside Grant Morrison’s Batman run. We will continue to discuss the things we enjoyed, disliked, learned, and even compare/contrast the issues as we went through them; mostly we will be reading in a trade order with some slight changes. Since this will be involving our two voices we will use the following font styles: Chris will be in BOLD and Rafa will be in ITALIC. After last week’s introduction to these characters, we will continue with discussions on Captain America: Winter Soldier volume 2 tpb (Cap vol 5 issues 8-14) and Batman: The Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul tpb (which collects Batman Annual #26, Robin Annual v4 #7, Batman #670, Robin v4 #168-169, Nightwing v2 #138-139, and Detective Comics #838-840).  Once again, let us begin with Captain America. Chris, what did you like about Captain America: The Winter Soldier volume 2? 

The Winter Soldier vol 2 tpb

Ok so reading through Winter Soldier Vol. 2 was such a joy!  The action is on such a level of hype that you can’t put it down.  More of Lukin just being devious was intense and how he was messing with Cap and baiting him was intense; like the scene where Cap, Sharon, Nick, and S.H.E.I.L.D. storm Kronas Corporation (issues 9) and just got humiliated was so raw, like I could feel Cap’s anger at being played.  What a villain who can do this horrendous thing and put his signature on it all while still getting away.  Issue 10 was so sad…plus I’m really bummed that it wasn’t included in the trade, I get why, but still highly recommend reading.  This tale of a man who grew out of time was just as sad as Jack Monroe’s character issue.  Then issue 11 hitting us with the story of Bucky’s true fate was crazy; the first time I read this that is when I became a hardcore fan of Bucky’s.  I always appreciated the character but that issue gave him so much more.  One more, which is tough as each issue was dynamite, but in #14 when Cap uses the Cosmic Cube on Bucky to “Remember who you are” was pure drama and Bucky’s reaction to it, “How can I….?  No…you should’ve just…killed me.” was heart wrenching as you know Bucky means it.  He is such a free spirit and to be turned into the Winter Soldier was probably the worst that could’ve happened.  How about you Rafa?

Both panels from Captain America vol 5 #14

Expertly said, Chris! I can read the passion in your voice when you talk about Bucky, and it totally makes sense. Before this, I had little knowledge of the character besides what I had seen in the MCU; however, reading the plight that this man has been put through is heartbreaking. I think Brubaker did an excellent job of showcasing the real emotional bond that Rogers and Bucky had. We see it in the dark outlines and shadows cast on Rogers’ face when he is thinking about Bucky. We see a man tormented; we see him deal with the absurdity and gravity of what is going on, and it is masterfully illustrated on the page. This is amplified by the instant likeability of Rogers’ Captain America. We would not care as heavily or relate to Steve Rogers as much as we do if we hadn’t been made to love this character. We feel for the Captain because we grow to respect him as we see the story unfold. This is done with so many beautiful action sequences where we see the super soldier put his raw strength, acrobatics, and shield throwing skills on full display. A personal favorite moment for me that showcases exactly the kind of unstoppable and never-give-up man that Captain America is, is in the first issue of Vol.2 in which he is cleaning the mess from the explosion of Philadelphia. We see him save children and then take out some of A.I.M. ‘s scientists to then be confronted by a legion of soldiers form the MODOC squad. In artistic brilliance, we see Captain America just smirk at these ominous foes as he just quips, “All right… Let’s go.” It is moments like this that showcase the indomitable human spirit and how Rogers will never give up on Bucky.

Captain America vol 5 #8

Rafa you nailed it with those points, like I would say this book is Captain America’s but honestly it is Bucky’s story.  Brubaker did the impossible and broke comic book law by bringing Bucky back; the story is so believable and a worthwhile journey of a man’s soul towards redemption.  Ok, so looking at this I can honestly say there wasn’t anything I didn’t like or maybe just the flaw of the trade not including issue 10; just because you are missing out on some beautiful story by Brubaker and amazing art by Lee Weeks.  You bring up an excellent point Rafa that the art is just amazing, massive kudos to Steve Epting, Michael Lark, and Mike Perkins while I”m at it especially the coloring team…look at the picture example that Rafa provided from issue 8, like I can feel the flames and taste the smoke.  Anything about the issues that didn’t sit well with you, Rafa?

I think you perfectly encapsulate what I feel in regards to the trade paperback’s shortcomings. The story is essentially perfect with excellent pacing, consistent art and voice, as well as powerful themes that make this a quintessential Captain America story. Like you said, I feel like issue 10 adds a lot more weight to Rogers’ ideals and showcases a powerful “what if” moment that still fits with the story Brubaker is telling, so I do wish it was included in the tbp. However, other than that, the only other gripe I had was that I wish it had more Falcom. Sam is a great friend to Steve, and when he shows up at the end of issue 12 is a hype moment.

Captain America vol 5 #12

Ok, we have gushed over Cap quite a lot so let us jump into the Bat side of things with the Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul.  I’ll admit it was a hard read for me but the things I did like was seeing Don Kramer art, loved his art on his JSA issues, and finding out a little more about Ra’s.  They didn’t dive deep but they did enough for the story-arc with the twist of Ra’s first son which was just a tragic character.  This was my first time reading the whole story as I just read the Batman tie in issues by Morrison, so it was nice to see it fleshed out and this adds to my theory that Damian was probably going to be a Morrison thing only; since it was Morrison who killed him later on, but we talk more when we get to those issues.  My favorite thing about this was seeing Nightwing gravitate more to Damian so that early exposure helped me with bridging their relationship for later.  What were some of the things you liked from this story-arc Rafa?

The Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul tpb

I agree that Batman: The Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul was hard to get through at times; however, I was able to find some important and resonating things that made me appreciate the characterizations of some key characters much more. I really appreciated how the writers developed a story on family dynamics. It was an important adventure that endeared me to Damian a lot more. Seeing him try to mend fences with Tim and Alfred (in his own way) was interesting, and I got to see a little more warmth in his cold and calculating demeanor. Seeing him try to win his father’s approval while trying to escape his grandfather’s manipulation was nicely done, especially toward the end of Detective Comics #839 where we have an uplifting scene where we basically get the first moment where Batman brings Damian into the Bat Family.

Detective Comics vol 1 #839

Similarly, characters like Tim and Dick are shown to really shine with very real familial conflicts. Tim is feeling ostracized from all the loss in his life, and we see him wrestle with Damian for the mantle of Batman’s rightful heir. Like you stated, Chris, We get to see Nightwing further delve into the big brother/mentor role for these young Robins. The way he is written with his comedic chops and real heart reminds the reader why he is beloved by so many DC fans. Alfred had some standout moments that really made me chuckle (see his banter with Ubu in Detective Comics #838). However, the MVP of this story for me was Talia Al Ghul. I do not think Talia gets enough credit for being a loving mother to Damian. She is multi-layered in this story as we see her fight to keep Damian safe, and I think this characterization is unfairly butchered in the later stories, but in this instance we get to see the humanity in one of the most important characters in Batman’s life.

Nightwing vol 2 #139

Overall, I think that all these characters illustrate powerful family dynamics that further reinforce the love and light that does exist in the Dark Knight’s world. What do you think, Chris?

You’ve given me much to think about with your points; this does sit better if you think about how it highlights the Bat-family and also Talia.  It did a great job with their interactions and overall voice.  I think what hurt this tpb, in my opinion, was just too many writers, five in total, and too many issues that caused the story to be watered down.  The saving grace of this was the characters and family.  I would say my biggest fear was that Tim would cave to temptation but luckily he didn’t but the way it was presented felt story forced instead of character choice.  Were there any negatives that you have about this story Rafa?

Again, I think you bring up a lot of my same criticisms, Chris. The story overall is very convoluted with too many characters that I unfortunately do not care about, specifically the characters associated with Ra’s. Because of all the different writers, I think there are too many voices and it overall does not work as well as it could have. Also, it was very long. There are nuggets of excellent storytelling throughout, but some issues are a real struggle to get through. For me, the Nightwing and Robin stories have the most heart and save this story from being unreadable. It is interesting how a story focused on Ra’s works best when it is not Ra’s the story is focusing on. However, I am glad I read it.

Ok so big moment…which tpb would you say was the better of the two?  I’ll open with Winter Soldier vol. 2.  I felt it had better story motivation, villains (Red Skull and Lukin), and better character interactions.  When I sit down to read these issues/trades I flip back and forth between Bats and Cap…the only reason I got through Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul was so I could read more Cap.  I know I’ve been ragging on this tpb a lot in this article, but it just doesn’t hold.  Rafa which one would you give your vote for?

I agree completely that Brubaker’s Captain America is the superior read. The story is much better told, the emotional weight behind the themes of betrayal, loss, and redemption is much more impactful, and the art is so much more eye catching. I feel like I had to find things to enjoy about The Resurrection Of Ra’s, but I did not have that problem with Winter Soldier Vol.2; instead I was completely immersed and ready to read more.

So that makes this another clean sweep for Brubaker’s Cap story in our votes for another week between the two.  We hope you enjoyed our thoughts and criticisms about these two stories and also we hope you are just as hyped as we are to continue the journey of Morrison’s Batman and Brubaker’s Captain America.  Join us next week as we take on the Red Menace tpb (Captain America vol 5 #15-17, Cap 65th Anniversary Special, and 18-21) alongside the Black Glove tpb (Batman vol 1 #667-669 and 672-675).  As always GEEK OUT!

Comic Discussions: Brubaker’s Cap v Morrison’s Bats #1

Hello fellow fans of Comic Books, Rafa and I will be taking a journey across the runs of Ed Brubaker for his Captain America/Winter Soldier arcs alongside Grant Morrison’s Batman run which introduced a lot of new elements to the Bat-Verse.  Rafa and I will be talking about what we liked, disliked, learned, and compare/contrast the issues as we went through them; mostly we will be reading in a trade order with some slight changes. For the reader’s sake Chris will be in Bold Font and Rafa will be in Italic Font. So for our opener we will discuss Captain America: Winter Soldier volume 1 tpb (Cap vol 5 issues 1-7) and Batman and Son tpb (Batman vol 1 issues 655-658 and 663-666).  Let us begin with Cap; Captain America volume 5 #1 launched November 17, 2004…Rafa what did you like about the beginning trade of Winter Soldier?

Captain America vol 5 #1

Thank you, Chris! As always, it is a blast to collaborate with one of the best minds in comics today! Overall, Captain America / Winter Soldier is excellent for the fact that it brings weight and emotional stakes to Steve Roger’s mission. This story is happening right after the events of Avengers Disassembled where he has just lost his newfound family of fellow heroes. In this story, we have a gritty take on the spy and espionage of a world that he is still foregin to. He is haunted by his past and his current present because he cannot escape death and loss, and what a way to start the first issues of this TPB with the shocking death of The Red Skull. I think Brubaker does an excellent job of showcasing the unexpected in this story. With the Red Skull dead, what could possibly happen next, and boy do we get a crazy set of events that shake Captain America to his core.

Yes you bring up some amazing points…I did not realize how close this was to Disassembled and honestly Brubaker does such a great job of revitalizing Cap in this series, it is spectacular.  Being lucky enough to have read this series and doing a reread puts the whole haunting in a different light as I believe that was manipulation by the Cosmic Cube…yet I wonder who was manipulating the Cube, maybe Bucky?  You’re right about that huge twist of the Red Skull being killed in issue one creating a sense of the unexpected and I’ll add to that as it seems to set up Aleksander Lukin as a major foe to Cap and Company.  I also appreciated the chemistry that Brubaker set up for Steve and Sharon like they aren’t a couple and it is the job and mutual respect that brings them together again.  I’ve got to say I was so excited to be on the ground floor of this series as Bucky is one of my favorite characters and the journey he goes through as the Winter Soldier was absolutely amazing.

Exactly, you bring up a great point with the chemistry of Steve and Sharon, as well as the characterization of Lukin. This story does a great job of thematically calling attention to the sins of the past with Steve’s flashbacks. War is not pretty and this take is gritty and solemn which allows for Lukin’s plot to be that much more ravaging to Steve’s resolve. The incorporation of Crossbones to wound a broken Rogers is excellent because we see this brute (with all of his history with Rogers) to let him go; seeing that he is not fighting at 100%. These acts from the characters showcase an interesting buildup in relationships, and it feels grounded and real. There is real tragedy to these characters, especially to the character of Jack Monroe.

Captain America vol 5 #4

Those are two great characters to bring up and I’m glad you did.  It is really wild to see that moment where Crossbones has Cap dead to rights but spares him as he doesn’t want to take him down that way; and if you’re new to this we will be talking a lot about Crossbones in this series.  Man, the “Ballad of Jack Monroe” was just so damn sad…to be honest with you I almost skipped reading the issue for time and decided to skim it; yea couldn’t do that I wound up reading the whole thing.  Monroe was a character that just fell under the cracks but got a moment in this run; I really feel for his fans as that was a hard pill to swallow.  Were there any moments that you didn’t like in these first seven issues?

There were few moments that I thought weren’t up to par with the excellence of this story, but the only real gripe I had was that I wished we got more time with the Invaders. There is an excellent moment in the third issue where Rogers talks about his respect for the French people that really reminded me exactly why I think the character of Captain America will never be dated. He is a man who inspires and I just wish we maybe got a little more of his conversations with Namor or Buckey during the flashbacks. How about you Chris? Were there any moments that you did not enjoy?

Captain America vol 5 #7

This will sound like a non-answer, haha, but on my initial read of this series I didn’t care about the Jack Monroe stuff and almost skipped it, but with this second read I found myself really being hit by it emotionally.  So I hope we see some justice for Jack later on.  Brubaker seems to be a student of History and really did teach some lessons throughout the issues, I felt the same way about learning of the French Resistance.  Ok so let us switch gears and jump over to the Batman side of things and talk about Batman and Son. In this trade we are treated to Batman as written by Grant Morrison; to be honest with you I always thought this run and Ed’s Cap were published at the same time, but Grant starts with Batman #655 released July 26, 2006 so it’ll be interesting to see if the issues catch up in publication time and where they are at in their stories if and when they do.  Rafa why don’t you open it up on Grant’s Bats and share your insights?

Batman vol 1 #655

Thank you, Chris! Morrison’s Batman begins in absolute chaos with the Joker being shot in the face by an imposter Batman. This sets the Caped Crusader’s world upside down unexpectedly because he now gets a reprieve from being Batman with his villains being on good behavior due to Batman supposedly having enough of the Joker and shooting him point blank. This is great because we get some great moments where we see exactly how much the mantle of the Bat has overtaken Bruce. Alfred mentions that Batman’s gritty voice no longer belongs to Batman, but that it is now Bruce’s own voice. This is fascinating because Morrison begins to give us a Batman that is immersed in his own iconography. Bruce Wayne is the facade now because of Batman’s mission which now becomes a legacy when Talia Al Ghul shows up with Damian Wayne, Batman’s son. I really enjoy this story and love to reread it from time to time because it showcases how Batman keeps getting pulled into the world of crime fighting and how his role of mentor and teacher is now one of Father to the unruly Damian.

Batman vol 1 #655

It is a whole new dynamic that was revolutionary. Just the thought: Batman has a son!? Is so strange. Morrison really explored new ground with this. Hell, to be honest, one of my favorite things in this story is Damian’s characterization. Spoiled, young, and violent we get to see a new side to Batman that we are not accustomed to. We see him put Damian in his place and it feels great. Watching Batman try to immediately hone his own son as a new tool to fight crime instead of just trying to be a father showcases just how he has fully immersed himself into the Batman persona. Your super-villain girlfriend shows up and tells you to take your son, and Batman’s first instinct is to train him to be a part of Batman’s army. It is very fascinating. Chris, what did you think of the addition of Damian Wayne to the Bat Family?

Batman vol 1 #657

At first I didn’t care for Damian Wayne he was just such an annoying brat…so great job Grant!  Again knowing what I know and doing this reread I have a running theory about Damian Wayne but we should talk about that later, just remind me.  Yet the idea of Damian is just wild in continuity because we don’t want our heroes to age; for instance Batman is always in his 30’s when I was a kid and now I’m almost 40 and Bat’s doesn’t look anything past 32 so having Damian was an interesting trope because it adds to the Mythos which is always fantastic in my book.  Damian’s tension with Tim Drake was insane, especially with how close it was to Tim being adopted by Bruce…so Tim and Damian are brothers!  I think the character I really like that was introduced was Jezebel Jet; just so beautiful and understanding.  I thought this played really well with Talia returning to Bruce around the same time.  I also can fully appreciate how much pre-planning Grant did for his run; in his first issue we see the phrase “Zur-En-Arrh” as background graffiti and also the Batmobile Bruce is working on will be seen completed later in the series.  What a great representation that Batmobile has serving as the “Legacy of Batman and Robin.”  Was there any parts of this read that you didn’t care for?

Though I appreciate all the intertwining stories being told in Morrison’s Batman, I really did not enjoy how Batman and Son was just a piece to this TPB. I like the idea of the three Batman imposters and even the super cool apocalyptic world of Damian’s Gotham in the 666th issue (gave me DC Metal vibes in this reread); however, it all felt very out of place and just thrown in. Also, though I did enjoy The Clown at Midnight interlude and I did appreciate its unique form of storytelling, it was still a chore to read and felt too jarringly juxtaposed to the overall story. I appreciate the lore and story Morrison was building, but it was too distracting to my overall enjoyment of the read. How about you Chris? Did you have any problems with Morrison’s first venture into the Batman Universe?

Oh man I couldn’t agree more about The Clown at Midnight (Batman vol 1 #663) it was just too much and the style didn’t entice me at all so I’m glad that was the only issue that was in that flavor.  Grant’s run started off very weird and there is quite a bit of jumping around that can get annoying when trying to digest this story; should I stick with the original release date or how it should’ve been published?  Tough call to be honest; even with this TPB there is a gap of issues, 659-662, which are a different story and creative team.  I know as we continue this journey with Grant’s Batman I will be very challenged by reading order so that will be irksome, but luckily with the trades I can see how Grant and the Editorial wanted the story to be presented.

That is a very good point, Chris, and I look forward to seeing how this story will continue because, after all, both Morrison’s Batman and Son and Brubaker’s Captain America: Winter Soldier elicit some truly wondrous and memorable moments in comics. Though the stories are different and take place in different comic worlds, it is amazing to see the similarities both stories share. First and foremost, both stories take two deeply respected comic franchises and completely revitalize them with exciting new dynamics. Bucky is modernized for Captain America’s run, and Damian is introduced to Batman’s world. Both these additions make for some long-term changes in both comics’ lore; and these are changes that make all characters involved more human and more vulnerable. Rogers experiences a world that continues to outmaneuver him, and ghosts of his past come back to haunt him. Batman needs to make significant changes to his life because he is now a father.

I do agree with the changes and revitalization that it does for both characters and I appreciate the long commitment that both writers gave to these runs.  It is interesting how continuity was changed for both; Bucky did survive the classic plane crash from Avengers #4 and Son of the Demon did happen, with a couple of twists from Grant Morrison’s selective memory of the story.  Both of these characters are making huge changes to their lives with their mentor/father roles and I really dig how both stories make more use of the supporting characters.  With this reread I saw some interesting bits with Nick Fury, Alfred Pennyworth, Talia al Ghul, and Sharon Carter and they did carry the spotlight even in these early issues.  Rafa, how do you feel about the additions of Damian and Bucky’s backstories to the overall continuity?  Did it make any changes for you?

It did not make any real changes to continuity for me, and I really enjoyed these backstories. For one, I really enjoyed the symbolism of ghosts of the past in Brubaker’s story. Having Bucky be a ghost, a phantom of who he once was added a depth to Captain America it needed. Also, the fact that Morrison gave us greater characterization and depth to Talia with her overall ambitions is great to see because I really like this character. Being able to see how Damian is conflicted on who to go with at the end of his story is heartbreaking because you can see he just wants a happy family dynamic with both parents; something that is taken away from him. And this is what I think makes these stories resonate with readers: both stories are tragedies for characters we care about. Both Rogers & Bats are men whose pasts come back to haunt them and change their entire world views. It is a harrowing venture through dirt, blood, and tears.

Great points, Rogers and Bats don’t have it easy for sure and I like how there is a lot of character growth with Damian and Bucky; they have to put away that blood lust of being an assassin/hit-man and transition into the role of hero.  I think both writers, Brubaker and Morrison, created historical runs that are just wonderful.  Brubaker’s Cap series did so much to set up for the Captain America Winter Soldier MCU movie, Bucky Barnes’ origin, and really help to show there is more depth/dimension to Rogers.  Morrison’s writing connected the Wayne/al Ghul families and gave us a very conflicting character in Damian, the run did a lot for the Batman family both locally and globally (we’ll get into that later), and also gave Batman his edge back as a man who won’t back down no matter how hard you hit, mentally and physically.  So just to add a little more insight to this rundown and insight of ours, Rafa which of the two TPBs did you find more exciting, Winter Soldier vol 1 or Batman and Son?

That’s a good question, Chris, and honestly, though I think both are wonderful reads, I have to say that I was absolutely enthralled with Brubaker’s Captain America more than Morrison’s Batman. I felt that Brubaker was able to write a tight and concise narrative that felt grounded in reality. The espionage/spy element made it much more exciting and I really appreciated how Rogers was humanized. Morrison’s Batman was a lot more fun with its comedic chops and meta set pieces (the comic book art gala was great), but the addition of the other stories in the trade really took me out of the moment too much. What about you, Chris?

I agree with you on picking Winter Soldier as the better read and my reasoning for that is because of the structure.  Brubaker goes in and there isn’t a step missed at all; this trade is issues 1 to 7 no jumping around or anything.  Morrison’s start feels like a lot is going on with Joker, Three Batmen, Talia, and  issue skipping which is a minor gripe since it won’t matter in the TPB.  Brubaker’s Rogers does feel like he is in a genuine situation of danger when it comes to going against Aleksander Lukin while over in Batman he is facing “Jerry Springer” issues with his family.

Exactly, and these points really shine a light on the reason why we read comic books. These are truly immersive tales from writers who dare to do new things and tread new ground. Rereading these stories allows the reader, in this case being Chris and myself, to connect with fictional characters that tell very relatable and exciting stories! Therefore, we are excited to continue our adventure into Brubaker and Morrison’s respective runs. But please start with these two awesome trade paperbacks! They are worth your time!

Come back next week as Rafa and Chris continue their journey across these two historic comic book runs as they talk about Captain America: Winter Soldier Vol 2 tpb (issues 8-14 of volume 5) and Batman: The Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul tpb (which collects Batman Annual #26, Robin Annual v4 #7, Batman #670, Robin v4 #168-169, Nightwing v2 #138-139, and Detective Comics #838-840). Read along with us and feel free to ask questions on Geek Elite Media’s Facebook or Twitter and you can find Rafa on twitter as @Mobilerafie and Chris as @StuffIShudSay. As always remember to GEEK OUT!

The next two TPBs for next week

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