Chris’ Comic Book Corner
By Christopher Franey & Rafael Encinas
Welcome back avid readers of our review/read of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America and Grant Morrison’s Batman. We have had the pleasure of delving into deeply thematic, action packed, and immensely enjoyable stories dealing with the legacies of two of the most important characters in the Marvel and DC universe respectively. We have read the journey of two young men thrust into impossible situations and iconic roles. This week, Brubaker and Morrison set the stage for the return of these iconic characters with Captain America: Road to Reborn (Captain America Vol.5 49-50 and 600-601) and Batman & Robin: Batman vs. Robin (#7-12) and Time and the Batman (Batman 700-703). During this read, Chris will be in BOLD FONT and Rafa will in ITALIC FONT as we express our views on these great comics! Chris, what did you think of Brubaker’s Captain America this week?
So this set of stories has my FAVORITE issue of Bucky with Captain America v5 #50…Bucky’s Birthday!! That was such a fun recapping of his origin story and then that surprise of the Underground Avengers waiting to give him a celebration was just the best.
It just made me think about how important this journey for Bucky really is. It isn’t just about finding redemption and carrying a legacy but also rediscovering how to be a person again; talk about being able to do that with good company like those Avengers. It is so great to see the humanity in Bucky grow and also I believe this is the start of making Bucky older when he started being a hero; most of the time he was a kid sidekick who look to Cap like a “dad” and here we start to see them as brothers for the first time.
I also appreciated the “Marvel Math” with a celebration of issue 50 then jumping to 600 but it was really fun and they were great, but let me backtrack to issue 49; I love the fact that Sharon is back in the picture and she is getting stronger by overcoming the trauma that has happened to her and using that to build herself back up and help recover Steve. Brubaker does a great job with not letting her be a victim but instead making her a strong survivor so her getting the spotlight in 49 was great but it was even better to see her in 600 as the beacon of hope that lets the heroes know Steve is still alive out there. 601 was a nice tribute to Gene “the Dean” Colan as he was a Marvel Master Artist back in the day…plus Gene won an Eisner Award for his work on that issue which was a great “atta boy” to a legend. What about you, Rafa? What did you think of this trade?
You bring up very good points, Chris. I completely agree that issue #50 is an important stand out moment for Bucky. This entire run, we have watched Bucky struggle and suffer through so much; we have seen him take on the mantle of a man he admired, and we have seen him doubt himself and put immeasurable pressure on himself to live up to an impossible standard of heroism. It is heartwarming to see James, the man, have a moment to be appreciated, to see the fruits of his labor and hard work reflected in the eyes and smiles of those at his surprise birthday party. That was a very humanizing moment for me, and I think it endeared me to the character that much more. It is nice to see heroes be appreciated; this redemption of his past sins is welcomed, and it adds greater depth to his overall character.
Also, I love how we also get the pieces put into place with Sharon finding the gun she used to kill Steve. Brubaker sets up another mystery to be solved with Sharon remembering something deep inside her memories, and finding out that the gun she used to kill Steve is not an actual gun at all. We also get a masterstroke of a scene with the anniversary of Captain America’s death, and how Norman Osborn and his Dark Avengers use this moment of solidarity to bring themselves into a positive light. Brubaker does a great job of making his story matter. It is not just a one-off story that doesn’t matter in the greater context of the Marvel universe, Brubaker’s stories live and breathe in the universe, and it makes the story matter. Overall, this was an awesome story that I am very happy I read. Anything else you want to share about this Captain America volume, Chris?
I totally love that you mentioned the one year anniversary of Cap’s “death” and the Dark Avengers; like Brubaker totally tells his story but also keeps it deep in that era of the Marvel Universe. So when this was live and happening it had that excitement of being involved in the comics universe but at the same time doing it’s own thing. Such a cool scene and just adds to the cunningness of Norman Osborn and how he can be such a good PR villain. Let us switch gears to Batman and we can start with Batman and Robin vol 2: Batman vs Robin, Rafa why don’t you get us started?
Batman and Robin v2 is entitled Batman vs. Robin, and this is important because it illustrates the nature of the story. Morrison once again spins a vivid and wild tale.This story celebrates the occult, the weird, and the macabre. It builds on the mysteries of lineage and of superstition. Morrison continues to introduce strange villains and brings up contents from his past stories, tying together different threads from Batman R.I.P., Final Crisis, Blackest Night, and the Return of Bruce Wayne. All of it is interconnected, and it creates a wicked story that feels multilayered. At its heart, this story continues the deep dive into Dick’s approach at being Gotham’s new protector and Damian’s positive role-model. I enjoyed this story because it was all a set-up into the return of Bruce Wayne. We find out that it is not Bruce’s body that was destroyed by Darkseid, and it sets in motion a new mission for Dick, to find Batman.
We also get a deeper look into Damian’s motivations and thoughts on being Robin. We see that he likes the role, and that he is willing to defy his own mother and his own heritage and birthright in order to be a soldier of the Batman. Through his cold demeanor, we can see that he has warmed up to Grayson and Alfred, and he tries to be a better person. Seeing his body controlled by Deathstroke was interesting, and I liked how hard Damian fought to regain control of his body. It was a good glimpse into the stubborn nature and tenacity of the son of Batman. Chris, what did you think of the story?
I really enjoyed this set of issues, like this was fun seeing Dick go to crazy lengths to bring Bruce back and discover a bigger mystery. I also love that they didn’t shy from calling Dick out since he basically stopped Tim Drake from using the Lazarus Pits for his family, so why shouldn’t Dick be questioned about it as well. I really enjoyed that as it did make sense for why you shouldn’t but also why you have exceptions to the rule. Pulse like you mentioned earlier, it builds that mystery and makes it deeper. I enjoyed all the guest stars as it made it fun and really hammered home the idea of Batman at an international level, so Grant was really planting seeds for what he was thinking of next.
The story that Damian goes through really showed great growth in my opinion, yes he can still be a brat but now we see that it is part of his shell. Like you mentioned Rafa we can see he is warming up to Alfred and Dick which is fantastic. Plus you nailed it with the title of Batman vs Robin…wow Talia has usually be a passive villain for me but with how she played Damian I was just in shock that is why when Dick and Damian beat them I love how Dick just smacks Slade around for what he did with his part in that battle. How did you feel about that with how Talia was used in this story arc, Rafa?
I am conflicted with how Morrison uses Talia in this story. This is where we begin to see a huge change in Talia’s feelings toward Damian. I loved how Morrison wrote Talia in Son of Batman and the Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul. She was cool and in control, a bit cold, but she loved her son, and she showcased that she would do anything for Damian. In this volume, we see a complete change in Talia and she rejects Damian outright, claiming that she can always make another son. It is this cruelty that is always a bit jarring for me, but i think that makes her a great villain,and it sets her up as a big power player later in the story. Overall, this was a fun story, especially when paired with Time and the Batman. Seeing this Batman R.I.P. epilogue was great because it shows the reader how Batman ended up at the mercy of Darkseid. This sets up the catalyst for Bruce’s return, and I am excited for that. What were your thoughts on this, Chris?
Time and the Batman was just perfect! I love the missing chapter of R.I.P. and how it can explain why we didn’t see much of Batman between R.I.P. and Final Crisis and how Dr. Hurt really got inside Bruce’s head. I also enjoyed the fact that this helped to make sense of Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader and how it could fit in with Grant’s stories. Like it was just perfect since Bruce is bouncing around time that it would be his mind processing this mess from the Gods and how he is just a man trying to deal with it. This was just a brilliant band-aid that Grant made and used to help keep his masterpiece a well connected machine. Plus it really drops some major clues…which we now know them to be but before they are interesting phrases and images.
I think both of us were very satisfied with this week’s reads as Brubaker continues to deliver with action, suspense, and character all the while Morrison brings the adventure, mythology, and abnormal to his stories. Highly recommend these sets of TPBs as you won’t be let down. So make sure to join us next week as we bring Bruce Wayne and Steve Rogers back by check out the following: Batman the Return of Bruce Wayne tpb (Return of Bruce Wayne 1-6) and Batman and Robin Must Die tpb (Batman and Robin 13-16 and Batman the Return) alongside Captain America Reborn tpb (Captain America Reborn 1-6 and the digital prelude). Please be sure to hit us up on social media as we would love to get your insights as well; you can find Rafe as @Mobilerafie and myself as @StuffIShudSay and keep reading us here at Geek Elite Media and as always GEEK OUT!
By Christopher Franey & Rafael Encinas
Here we are at part eight of our tour of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America and Grant Morrison’s Batman which continue to showcase great story and character while creating legacies that still stand today. During this read to make it easier for the reader I will be in BOLD FONT and RAFA will be in ITALIC FONT as we express our views on these great comics. In this part, we continue our adventures with both Bucky and Dick continuing with the mantles as Captain America and Batman. For those of you reading alongside with us, we will be discussing Captain America: The Man with No Face (Cap vol. 5 #43-48) which was first published back in December of 2008 and Batman: Life After Death (Batman vol. 1 # 692-699) and cover dated December 2009. Rafa why don’t you open this up with your thoughts on Batman’s adventures brought to us by Tony Daniel this week?
Tony Daniel’s run at Batman is something that unfortunately is not up to par with the rest of Morrison’s run. While I can appreciate the story that Daniels is trying to tell, it unfortunately comes off as boring and a slog to read through. We’ve got Dick continuing to try and bring order to Gotham. The use of villains, the motivations, and the overall pace of this story is just uninteresting. There are some good moments where we get to see Dick use his inner monologue to continue and rationalize his time as Batman, but it isn’t witty or that interesting. However, I do appreciate that Daniels tries to bring closure to the story brought up on Battle For The Cowl with the use of the new Black Mask, but it just doesn’t feel like a Dick Grayson Batman story. It feels like it tries too hard to bring mystery and excitement to a Batman story. What were your thoughts, Chris?
I’m right there with you, I honestly felt like it was quite the chore to get these issues read and that is super unfortunate as I love Dick Grayson as Batman. I honestly thought this was going to be a continuation of Judd Winick’s Batman from the previous story arc of Long Shadows which dropped hints of Dick Grayson’s family and origins yet nothing was touched upon. You’re right when you mention that this is clean up from Battle For The Cowl which is nice but that should’ve been what we last read in the Batman comics, so overall that makes this and the last arc super disjointed for Batman/Dick Grayson stories. I found myself teased by moments in the story that sadly didn’t go anywhere or honestly weren’t needed, like this kiss right here.
Like it is great tension playing with Dick and Helena’s past relationship but to just toss it in there and then force the idea that Barbara (Batgirl/Oracle) Gordon is jealous was just nothing but an exciting panel. It would’ve been nice if it was actually played out like maybe Dick or Helena are conflicted with their feelings for the other. The part with the Riddler at the end of this trade was just useless and like it opens a question, was Riddler faking the hero gig?
So this shift in him playing the hero feels like it was a long con in order to get his former partners out of the picture which is such a shame to the stories where he was a hero. Like I can understand him returning to his roots, but the panel doesn’t play it well that his demeanor was shifted to and then back. Also with Dr. Jeremiah Arkham being revealed as the new Black Mask, so it was a neat idea but again…it doesn’t go anywhere. Like did Jeremiah lose his mind or is the Black Mask possessed? I wish I knew. So I’m glad to have read these issues but there is so much that could’ve been done better for the characters and the story in my opinion. Any last thoughts on Batman, Rafa?
I think you perfectly put it into words with how this volume of Batman reads, Chris. Like I said, I can appreciate what Daniels was trying to do, but many of these elements that you bring up, just feel forced or lead to nowhere. This story does not elicit the excitement of what this run has done in the past; however, we got more than enough excitement in Ed Brubaker’s Captain America. This is a fun story because it allows Bucky to build on his legacy in his own way. Time has passed, we have gotten through the Civil War and Secret Invasion events, and Bucky is now more seasoned in his time as the new Captain America.
This story takes us back to the past as we see him continue to wrestle with his past sins. However, this time, it becomes that much more personal. We get an awesome team up with both Black Widow and Namor. We have Bucky chasing ghosts; righting the wrongs of his past. It is excellent storytelling because it presents a new dynamic to Bucky’s story that does not enter on the Red Skull. It is this breath of fresh air that really brings new life into this already excellent story. What were your thoughts on Captain America this week, Chris?
This was a fantastic story and adventure; perfect international espionage with reuniting with old friends. Which hits to the point that Bucky is also a man out of time just like Steve is. When you see how Bucky has interacted with Professor Zhang Chin and the Man with No Face (who actually was a late Golden Age character) it really showcases the homework Ed Brubaker does for these stories. To take actual comic book characters from various times and then inject them into real world political battle is just awesome; plus he still manages to make a compelling story without having to use big named villains.
With the two panels above this I love how the pasts of Bucky and the Winter Soldier intersect with one of the villains; like it is just perfect how the Professor wants to dissect a friend from Bucky’s past yet also wants revenge on the Winter Soldier for taking his wife’s life. I just love how this villain is that greedy yet also that much of a menace too. Plus we get some awesome fights with Batroc the Leaper and the relationship between Bucky and Natasha is well played as they are lovers yet spies and will do what they feel needs to be done and hope the other understands. What about you Rafa?
Ultimately, this story succeeds in the fact that it can bring in a bunch of new characters and immediately create a story that you feel invested in. I never knew anything about Batroc, and seeing him in action was a lot of fun. I could hear his French accent and I thought that was a great choice for a villain because it continues to show you the scope of a Captain America story. I find it funny how so much of these stories do not happen on American soil. I especially liked how they gave Bucky some more meaningful interactions with other characters besides Sam.
Seeing his interesting dynamic with Namor was a highlight for me because you could see there was a deep connection and appreciation that Namor has for Bucky, but he could only show it in his own stubborn way. I really liked this. I think it made me like both characters that much more because I could relate to that kind of friendship. And at the end of the day, this is what makes these stories from Brubaker so endearing. Even though they pertain to deep espionage and explosive hero action, it is the human heart that makes them so impactful. Any last thoughts, Chris?
Reading your thoughts here made me realize that the connections Bucky has in the here and now are very important and since his reintroduction he has gained quite the “family” of his own. Bucky messing around with “Subby”, as he called him, was great and they do have a trust that is forged from being brothers in arms during the great one. Knowing that Natasha will forsake all to help save Buck is such a dynamic love and it really adds depth to Natasha that I haven’t seen in her past relationships with Daredevil or Hawkeye. I am so glad I read this after Batman because it hyped me up again and you called out a lot of great points to Ed Brubaker’s writing and stories. This run of Captain America has been fantastic and I am really looking forward to our next reads which start to set the stage for some big returns.
Come back and join us again as we continue our read with Brubaker’s Captain America: Road to Reborn tpb (issues 49-50 of Captain America volume 5 and return to renumbering of vol 1 with 600-601) and a double dose of Grant Morrison with Batman: Time and the Batman tpb (vol 1 issues 700-703) and Batman and Robin: Batman vs Robin tpb (Batman and Robin vol 1 #’s 7-12). Please feel free to reach out to us and let us know your thoughts and opinions as we would love to get your views as well as share this excellent read of comics with you all; you can find me on Twitter as @StuffIShudSay and Rafa as @Mobilerafie, please check out all Geek Elite Media has to offer on this site as well as our podcasts and social medias and always remember to GEEK OUT!
By Christopher Franey & Rafael Encinas
Welcome back everyone to part seven of our read/review of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America and Grant Morrison’s Batman which continue to up the ante with each volume we explore. These are two respective runs that continue to illuminate the vast importance of the Captain America and Batman mythos and legend. During this read to make it easier for the reader CHRIS will be in BOLD FONT and RAFA will be in ITALIC FONT as we express our views on these great comics. In this part, we continue our adventures with both Bucky and Dick running with their new mantles. We have seen them embrace their new identities, let’s see how they continue to fair! For those of you reading alongside with us, we will be discussing Captain America vol 5 #37-42 and Batman and Robin (2009) #1-6. Let’s get started with arguably the greatest mind in comics; Chris, what did you think of Captain America: The Man Who Bought America?
As per usual with Ed Brubaker he starts where he does best, in WWII and with that flashback of the Invaders winning a battle against Red Skull and his minions it just goes to show that Skull plays the long game and you can see that right here:
Skull wants them to enjoy the victory and eventually he will take that and more from them as is told to us with that title, The Man Who Bought America. It is no joke and I remember when I was first reading these issues I was so scared of his plan because it could happen, this is right up there with Geoff John’s Avengers run where Skull became Dell Rusk. That infiltration of the system to use it against itself is horrible yet full of suspense just right for Bucky to take on along the way on his journey towards redemption. I like how it plays to both sides of the coin since Bucky as Winter Soldier would infiltrate America and try to bring it down from within. Skull isn’t the only villain here, Doctor Faustus is quite the character in this story arc as well. I love that Faustus doesn’t have a turn of heart in order to stop Skull, yet instead it is that he is tired of being the whipping boy.
With that set of panels I appreciate that he is a heel, but not a total scumbag. With him taking away the knowledge of Sharon’s baby it is quite the double edged sword; it is pretty wild and I don’t know if today’s comics could get away with it, but you have to remember this is not the writer, this is the character and how he would act. Speaking of characters Brubaker just does such a wonder with all of them and he has so many to choose from with Bucky, Sharon, Black Widow, Flacon, Skull, Faustus, and “Mad Cap” aka the Grand Director; what where some pop out moments of character for you Rafa?
For me, this story had so many wonderful character moments. We get to see Sharon Carter’s story continue to unfold into tragedy which was surprising but also felt real. To your point, we get full utilization of the secondary villains like Zola and Faustus which made the story feel like there were multiple layers between the main plot point of Red Skull and Bucky’s political tango. Hell, what worked for me the most was the relationship between Sam and Bucky. I like the moments where these two had a moment to train or to catch their breaths. Two men who lost the same beacon of hope helping one another to pick up the pieces and honor Steve’s legacy. Seeing them develop a friendship through their buddy-cop team up adds to the flavor and tone of the story, and what a story it is.
Ed Brubaker really amps up the criminal espionage and political drama with this volume of Captain America. I really enjoyed how “The Man Who Bought America” continues to build on Bucky’s voyage to carry on the legacy of Steve Rogers. It is more excellent moments with Bucky as we continue to get a look into his mind and feelings. We get to see him train and inner monologue about how he needs to not tarnish the good name of Captain America. This is juxtaposed to the arrival of another man claiming to be Captain America that really shakes the core of this political drama, and oh, what a political drama it turns out to be. The usage of 3rd party presidential candidates, the Red Skull’s menacing agenda to fabricate a narrative, the idea of fascism polluting the democratic system fire at all cylinders. Once again, akin to political espionage films like The Manchurian Candidate (1962) this tpb delivers a suspenseful plot that is interesting, multilayered, and exciting.
I believe this story to be a technical feat by the writer because even though this is just another chapter in Brubaker’s Captain America narrative, it still feels important and gives us a blockbuster climax to the suspense that’s been building for these past 3-4 volumes. It is quite impressive. Any last thoughts on this volume of Captain America, Chris?
As per usual your eye and mind catches the best of things and you nailed it with Brubaker bringing the flavors of Buddy-Cop with Political Thriller/Suspense; I mean what more could you ask for in patriotic street level comics? I really did enjoy the moments with Sam and Bucky and this has me even more hyped of the upcoming show and I hope, if they’re smart, they look at these issues and future ones to get the full Sam/Bucky experience. Looking at Cap’s legacy that is quite the cross Bucky has to carry and I love the fact that Brubaker even brings it up by having Hawkeye pop in for a visit and it just makes the point even better and more honest as Bucky says it out loud that is the last thing he wants to do is tarnish Steve’s memory. The conclusion that issue 42 brough was so satisfying and it closes the major arc with Lukin and Skull’s transformation but yet we still have the menace of “Mad Cap” to deal with, which is going to be amazing if memory serves. I love the ending of hope that Brubaker leaves with too.
Excellent points as always, Chris! I love that you mention how this volume ends with a happy ending for Bucky, at least for now . The good guys get a win for a change. I think this ties perfectly and resonates deeply with the overall tone and nuance of Grant Morrison’s Batman & Robin. I remember reading this first tpb, Batman Reborn, and having a huge smile on my face. Rereading this now with greater context into Morrison’s Bat-World, my smile just gets bigger.
After the extravagance of Batman R.I.P., the convolution of Final Crisis, and the personal ballad of Battle For The Cowl, Morrison gives us a new format to play with. He gives us Batman & Robin: Batman Reborn. Set up as an introspective look into Dick’s foray as Batman, and set up as a fun, albeit weird homage to the adventures of Batman and Robin, this story is something unique; something that is exciting. Morrison wastes no time in creating his own brand of the macabre and strange with his very own rogue’s gallery of antagonists. The usage of these baroque-esque villains is provocative, silly, and disorienting. Professor Pyg, the Dollotrons, and Flamingo are all so extravagant that it is shocking, which is made even more jarring by the colorful palette of Frank Quitely’s art and Alex Sinclair’s colors. This choice of art coupled with the strange narrative presented feel unique, albeit sometimes disgusting, and this is important because it makes it memorable. We get so much more than just a Dick and Damian bonding story; we get so much more than a new Batman tale. We get something inherently different, that feels different, and I think Morrison does this perfectly.
However, though the style and presentation to this tpb is a standout, I would be remiss if I did not also credit the wonders of its narrative. Morrison’s Batman & Robin is so much more than its wild presentation; it weaves an interesting and heartfelt story about two sons; both who have lost their fathers and must now do their best to create a new foundation for their father’s legacy. Watching Dick and Damian work in tandem feels good and refreshing. We get a new dynamic to the Batman and Robin stories we had in the past. Watching these two bicker like a real family feels sweet, it feels earned. It is a pretty creepy, violent, and disturbing story, but Morrison is still able to put a whimsical fun and adventure into it. What stood out to you, Chris?
For me it was the smaller moments, seeing Batman and Robin together again was great but it was funny to basically deal with Bruce Jr. and adult Grayson. I love the twist on the dynamic and I love the realism in their relationship. Right off the bat in issue one this gave me a laugh as it pays to the history and forges to the future:
Dick recalling his days as the boy wonder and seeing Damian, basically with body language, say I don’t care. It was great, it really reminds me of working with younger kids who think they are so cool and edgy. The villains as you said earlier were exactly that gross and extravagant. I have to say Pyg is just horrible like the way he is drawn. I can imagine if he were real he would stink to high heaven, so gross and the stuff of nightmares. The second story in the arc really stuck out to me with Scarlet; she is just so damn tragic and the fact that Robin said he would help her and let her down made it much harder with her story. I will say that Grant’s Jason Todd did feel out of character but it works since it was so early on with Jason/Red Hood that DC probably didn’t know what they were going to do with the character.
I’m glad that Scarlet and Jason have since found better stories for them to go on with. I do like their introduction of Oberon Sexton, Gravedigger; since we know who he will turn out to be, it is going to be great to watch and see what he does between now and the reveal. I didn’t mind this read of the stories in this tpb, but it wasn’t my favorite set of stories. I feel Grant had a rough start here and everything was so “flash in the pan” but then again that works since this is Dick and Damian’s first adventures as Batman and Robin. Are there any other insights you have to this set of stories, Rafa?
I think you explain it perfectly when you said that the smaller moments are what worked best for you, Chris. Even though this story does feel very bombastic in its presentation, it really does work best in its smaller moments, in the inside jokes and call backs shared between characters. I liked that they utilized Jason in this story and how he tries to be his own version of Batman. The way he and Dick get into it after their tussle with the flamboyant Flamingo is a standout moment because we get to see them really hash out that old family drama. I think this moment is cathartic and moves the young men another step closer to healing their old wounds. I think this is a good rock bottom moment for Jason, so that we appreciate the hero he becomes later in Batman’s narrative. Overall, I felt that both Morrison and Brubaker did a good job of creating a brave new world for both Dick and Bucky. They have already been introduced, and now we are seeing them live out their new identities. I am excited to see how these stories continue.
There we go, both Morrison and Brubaker have teased us with the set of stories that began with Steve Rogers and Bruce Wayne now handing it off to Dick Grayson and Bucky Barnes. We have been treated to some amazing adventures and the best is yet to come. Come back and join us again as we continue our read with Brubaker’s Captain America: The Man with No Face tpb (issues 43-49 of Captain America volume 5) and a return to Tony Daniel’s Batman in Life After Death tpb (issues 692-699 of Batman volume 1). Please feel free to reach out to us and let us know your thoughts and opinions as we would love to get your views as well as share this excellent read of comics with you all; you can find me on Twitter as @StuffIShudSay and Rafa as @Mobilerafie, please check out all Geek Elite Media has to offer on this site as well as our podcasts and social medias and always remember to GEEK OUT!
By Christopher Franey & Rafael Encinas
Welcome back fans and we are in part six of our read/review of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America and Grant Morrison’s Batman which were both legendary then and now. Lots of elements that have become major mythos to these heroes in the comics, movies, shows, games, and most importantly their history. During this read to make it easier for the reader CHRIS will be in BOLD FONT and RAFA will be in ITALIC FONT as we express our views on these great comics. This part of the journey is probably going to be my favorite because we now have Bucky Barnes and Dick Grayson taking the mantle and running with it.
Let me also do a time check for you and us as well…Captain America vol 5 # 1 was released November 17, 2004 and the current issue we are starting with is Captain America vol 5 # 34 which was published in March of 2008. While Morrison’s Batman began with issue # 655 back on July 26, 2006 and we are currently starting with issue # 687 and was released on June 10, 2009. So you can see how close these two runs are now in terms of time. Rafa why don’t you start us up with what you liked about this volume of Captain America?
Thank you, Chris! As always rereading these stories and sharing these discussions with you is one of my favorite parts of the week. This week, I got to experience the excellence that is Bucky as Captain America. Captain America: The Burden of Dreams, continues its explosive pace from the first act of this story. We get to see Bucky Barnes put aside his hatred of Tony Stark and become the new Captain America. Seeing him put on his own version of the iconic uniform gave me chills and the way he made the persona his own just felt inspiring. There were many stand out moments in these issues, but seeing Bucky throw the shield while at the same time not shy away from using his sidearm felt exciting and just felt right. He was not trying to be Captain America. He was honoring the legacy in his own way. And I think this is important. Dealing with the theme of legacy, it perfectly showcases how one can continue to honor those we love and look up to while making it wholly our own.
Brubaker does an excellent job of upping the pace and really delivering a suspenseful, thrilling, and explosive second act that fully immerses the reader into Bucky’s role. And this is where I think that this volume of Captain America becomes essential reading; where it becomes almost transcendent. We have seen Bucky grow so much and transform from brainwashed boogeyman to the new symbol of peace and justice. Watching him through all the politics, the civil wars, and his own personal demons, when we finally see Bucky commit his first missions as Captain America, and it feels earned, and that is something truly spectacular to read on the page. I now completely understand your love for this character, Chris!
Right!! This was totally the run that made me a fan; like I always enjoyed Bucky when I saw him in flashbacks in other stories but now for the first time I’m reading him in continuity and it is not a flashback. Brubaker just did wonders with this character. What is nice about this trade paperback, The Burden of Dreams, is that it features issues 31-36 of the series. So with that in mind we don’t get Bucky Cap right away we get to see the torment that is on his mind from his own past, mistakes, and also the tampering that Doctor Faustus is inflicting on him. Issue 31 opens with a great example of that and it is just so much head trauma that Bucky is facing, dealing with, and trying to fix.
Even later in the issue there is a great monologue about him losing part of his body but also dying in those cold waters. Like you see the Red Skull in his hood almost looking like Death and I really feel like this is where Avengers Infinity War and Endgame got that idea for that image. Yet also in this trauma is Sharon Carter as she is also taken advantage of by Red Skull and company and we get to read about how she is feeling while she is fighting her demons during this struggle. Brubaker just slays so much at character writing that you feel it; I really wish they could have done more with Sharon in the MCU as Brubaker shows she is a strong character and this is why Steve Rogers is drawn to her. So the biggest moment for me in this tpb was the unveiling of Bucky Cap…like you said earlier Rafa, he is his own man but he is also honoring the legacy and they couldn’t have done any better than what they did with him; just check out that glorious page debuting Bucky Cap.
Alex Ross did such a beautiful job of capturing elements of Winter Soldier, Captain America, and a soldier in this costume. Like it fits right in with the world of superpowers but it also has that effectiveness that a soldier needs while in battle. Were there any moments that you didn’t like with this tpb Rafa?
Honestly, Chris, this tpb was perfect. The art is fantastic. The story is exciting, thematic, and inspiring. Like you said, there are so many layers in this story with a beautiful payoff which is Bucky putting on the costume. Not only that, but the subplot with Sharon feels important, we also get great characterization with Tony, Sam, and Natasha. The villains are multilayered and the threats feel so suffocating. I feel like Brubaker was able to build his Captain America story in such a way where it all felt worth it by this moment. Seeing Bucky carry the shield, watching him brawl with Crossbones, and seeing him share that moment with Natasha at the end all felt gratifying, and it is because I cared for this character. A character I had no feelings for whatsoever before this read. And I think there is something special in that and that says a lot about Brubaker’s story as a whole, but more importantly, so poignant in this tpb.
That is very true the story is amazing, like the bad guys are making a run for leadership/politics and authority/police and you can see how dangerously close they are to being successful in their push. Going back to character, Bucky got so much love in this series; for example with issue 36 of course the heroes save the day but I love when Bucky Cap tries to give the speech and people don’t want it from him so he feels so down about it, but the next day when he is back home and Black Widow asks him if he remembers everything and that reply, “Yeah. I remember everything, Natalia…and you were the one good thing in all of it.” Yep now I’m sold on all of this new history that is being inserted into the continuity of the characters because it honestly feels real. Bucky is a hero who wins some and loses some.
Perfectly said, Chris! Ultimately, this volume of Captain America is a story of triumph, and it is a wonderful moment for Bucky after seeing him lose so much. This is a great character who takes the burden of taking up the mantle of his partner, but he is not the only one. This week, we also got to see Dick Grayson fully immerse himself into the role of the Caped Crusader! What were your thoughts on Batman: Long Shadows?
I loved this trade paperback so much!! Of course in my mind seeing Dick Grayson going through this while Bucky was being Cap was such a great symmetry. Both of these guys had to grow up early; like we will learn more of their pasts and “childhoods” as these stories progress but they were the original sidekicks and now they are taking it to the next level. That is why I have so much respect for Wally West as he had to become the Hero and it was no longer “kid game” to him anymore. I enjoyed the interactions with Dick and Alfred which makes me miss him even more in current continuity but I love the dynamic shift here where this is a Batman with Alfred not a Batman and Alfred. This was such a great baptism of fire for Dick as he is now the only Bat holding Gotham City together and like Dick Grayon always does…he does it with help from his friends. What are your thoughts on this tpb, Rafa?
Though Batman: Long Shadows is not written by Grant Morrison, but instead by Judd Winnick, it is still an essential read into Morrison’s deeper story of Dick’s rebirth as the Caped Crusader. Equally as fun as it is somber, we get to see Dick Grayson get comfortable with his father’s identity. I love the moments where we see him make the Batman moniker his own by showcasing a different style of fighting, and by giving himself away to Two-Face by actually smiling while taking down bad guys. I think it does an excellent job of building Dick as the new Batman. You explain it perfectly when you say, this is Dick’s baptism of fire, Chris. We get to see a character that is incredibly beloved in the DC universe step into a new role, and that role is one that is almost impossible to live up to.
There were many moments that I enjoyed while reading this tpb. We see him create his new batcave, we see him train Damian, and we even get banter with Alfred, which is by far, my favorite thing about Batman: Long Shadows; the relationship between Alfred and Richard is something that feels heartfelt and wholesome. Seeing both of them having one another to cope with Bruce’s death was heartwarming. We see that they are both still hurting, and then having the mantle of Batman to honor is something that they both need; I think it keeps them going. Seeing their relationship grow and how Alfred had fun banter with the new Batman spoke volumes as to the characterization of these two characters. We got to see a new dynamic, and it came across as deeply therapeutic. This is the psychology of Batman, and I think it really plays powerful imagery of fathers and sons.
Speaking of psychology I love the fact that it is Two Face who is seeing that this isn’t the standard Batman out there being the Caped Crusader. Which is perfect as here is a character that knows about multiple personalities and not being who you really are. I think it was great that Judd Winnick used him but I also felt that Two Face was heavily used since we saw him in Nightwing the Great Leap and a bit in Battle for the Cowl so it felt like his appearances weren’t being edited properly or Arkham Asylum is just that bad a keeping criminals locked up.
That would be my only nit-pick with this story arc was just the overuse of Two Face but I also enjoy it because I honestly think Two Face is Dick’s main villain. Like I know that will get me flack as a lot of people think Blockbuster or Deathstroke from his Nightwing or Teen Titans runs but to me it always got back to his roots as Robin. Did you have anything that you didn’t like in this tpb Rafa?
The only real thing I didn’t like about this tpb was that we didn’t get any Tim Drake. Considering that this story is focused on Dick becoming the new Batman, we see him interact with the Bat family; however, we do not get to see him interact with Tim who was Batman’s Robin. I just wish we could have gotten more from their dynamic in this story, especially after their arc in The Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul. I also wish that that Two-Face Batman illusion that Dick saw was real and not just a hallucination. It was a very cool look for Two-Face!
It is funny that you mention the Two Face Batman as DCDirect did make a figure when they did their Batman Reborn wave they did which featured the Michael Lane Azrael, who was also the evil Bat-Devil earlier in Morrison’s run, Bat-Face, Jason Todd’s Batman, and Stephaine Brown’s Batgirl. I always had hopes that someday DCDirect would make a Dick Grayson Batman but sadly they never did and even more sad is the fact that DCDirect is no more. During the Batman Reborn era there was a lot of changes going on; Tim Drake was actually Red Robin and he was travelling the world and dealing with Ra’s.
All in all Rafa how would you rate these two stories against each other? Did you have a particular favorite?
I think that both stories were very similar, but I have to give the edge to Bucky’s Captain America. The build and payoff to him wearing the Stars and Stripes was absolutely perfect and resonated deeply with me. Overall, both stories do a great job of creating a “rebirth” of their iconic characters. We get a comparison of how two men are born again. They take on the burden of their new respective identities. What was most interesting in this comparison was the manner in which the mantle of their respective “new” personas were respected. Though both Dick and Bucky were reluctant to take on the responsibility and symbol that was Bat and Cap respectively, the manner in which they came upon the legacy was different. As we read in Brubaker’s story, Steve wanted Bucky to be the next Captain America. He recognized that Bucky needed it to bring him back to the fold. All of Brubaker’s run up to this point has led to Bucky’s evolution as the new Captain America. However, this is not the same case for Morrison’s Batman run.
His story while at the same time is dealing with the concept of identity, this is still Bruce’s story. Dick just happens to be thrust into this unexpected responsibility, and interestingly, Dick becoming Batman was never one of Bruce’s contingency plans. Dick took on the cowl even though he knew Bruce had asked him not to wear it. Bruce believed that the symbol of Nightwing was enough, however, he underestimated the weight Batman had in the world. All of these little details are important; however, it does not change the fact that both Dick and Bucky are put into impossible situations where they are forced to become something more than themselves, which is both poetic and reminiscent of the human experience. I just happen to feel that Brubaker’s story told it much more effectively. What about you, Chris?
I like those observations you have made Rafa because they are fantastic points. In Dick’s case Bruce doesn’t want him to be Batman and when Dick decides to go against that he also makes it his own, a “Happier Batman.” While Bucky doesn’t think he can be a hero yet Steve believes the Shield is what will help him, so Bucky becomes a “Darker Captain America” who packs heat. It is wild to see how these stories converge and diverge. I would say they are both amazing and near and dear to my heart but Cap’s wins it over. Just more going on with character and story over Winnick’s tale.
Well that brings us to the end of this leg of the journey and we hope you liked our thoughts on this. Please feel free to interact with us on our social medias Rafa is on twitter as @Mobilerafie and I am @StuffIShudSay and we would love to check out your thoughts on these legendary runs. Our next reading will be Captain America The Man Who Bought America tpb (which has issues 37 to 42 of Captain America volume 5) and Batman and Robin Batman Reborn tpb (which has issues 1 to 6 of Batman and Robin volume 1). Thank you for spending your time with us and we would love for you to check out more that Geek Elite Media has to offer and as always…GEEK OUT!
By Christopher Franey & Rafael Encinas
After the explosive action of both Civil War and Final Crisis, Grant Morrison and Ed Brubaker continue to unleash their emotive and heart-racing narratives with Battle For The Cowl and Captain America: The Death of the Dream. For the reader’s sake I will be in BOLD font while Rafa will be in ITALIC font. Now we get to delve into the aftermath of all those wild events from our last read so with these tpb we will see in Death of the Dream issues 25-30 of volume 5 of Captain America and in Battle for the Cowl we will get the full three issue mini series along with two Gotham Gazette issues. Luckily Brubaker stays on, but this time we see Tony Daniel go from being the artist to now helming both duties…I wonder if he had any influence from Grant Morrison or not. Alright Rafa take us away!
First of all, considering the expansive and meta narratives that ran rampant in Morrison’s Final Crisis, it is refreshing to delve into the excellence of a more down-to-earth approach to Batman’s legacy. Not as expansive as Batman R.I.P. but just as thematic and important, Battle For The Cowl is a dynamic look into a world, specifically Gotham, without Batman. I love how this trade paperback tells a story centered on the adoptive children of the Wayne Estate, as they battle for the right to take on the mantle and the responsibility of the caped crusader. I love how personal the narrative gets and how each “Robin” gets his moment to shine. Seeing Dick wrestle with the responsibility of putting on the Cowl, exploring Tim’s maturity in understanding the need for a Batman, and watching Jason having something to prove and taking the Cowl for himself are all outstanding moments that really highlights the excellence that is the Batman universe.
Though a smaller read compared to Final Crisis, the magic of this concise narrative is in how it does not need to be extravagant. It is a deeply personal family quarrel. With their adoptive father gone, we see these young men try their best to fill a hole that has been left in both their own personal lives and also the greater world at large. This story is important because it is a foundation to what future dynamics are, and not just in what Morrison’s run will be, but also in what the Batman legacy will be in general. Battle for the Cowl is the catalyst for what allows for future stories to develop and prosper. Without this personal narrative, we do not get Damian’s maturation; we do not get Jason redeeming himself as the Red Hood; we do not get Tim’s growth as his own hero.
Lastly, this story is essential Batman reading because of how it continues to focus on identity. As Morrison did from the very beginning of his Batman narrative in Batman and Son, we see him shine light on Batman’s persona. Is Bruce Batman? Or is Bruce just a part of Batman? As this story has built, Batman is necessary, and it is a mantle that comes with lots of responsibility. And Morrison’s Batman story plays with this concept by taking Bruce out of the equation and implementing the idea of legacy. Battle for the Cowl is the story of Dick Grayson, and how he is forced to step into the role of his father. We have seen his perspective in previous readings from The Great Leap and Last Rites. We know that he struggles with being Batman. He knows Bruce did not want him to do it; how he believed in Nightwing and Robin to blaze their own paths forward. However, we also see a Gotham under fire, and Dick has to do the necessary thing and become the new Batman. It just adds another element to Dick and Bruce’s dynamic, and I love this thematic and symbolic storytelling.
I really enjoyed the points you brought up Rafa and I love how this story is about the growth of the “Bat Boys” and how at that time it really led to them forging their own identity. Tim was in such a flux because of Damian so who would truly be Robin? Jason was back from the dead and could potentially be another Robin the crowd? What was Dick’s direction? This started the Batman Reborn era and really laid out where the boys had their hearts in what life is without Bruce. I feel this is the first time in most of these readings that Tim Drake finally got to shine because he was being a proactive hero again instead of being tempted by Ra’s and the promise of the pits back in Resurrection. Jason had come back just to really be tossed around the DC Multiverse, literally, as he was in Countdown and for a bit was Red Robin there. It was nice to see him take his own path but I still feel the Bat offices didn’t know what to do with him quite yet, but this does lay some great story for later redemption.
Damian really draws the short end of the stick on this one but I didn’t mind back then and I still don’t mind as I know he will get better moments in Batman & Robin later in this series. For me Battle was a great growth for Dick Grayson; it’s like one of those movies where the father dies and the son comes back to a life he left behind and has to run the shop. The responsibility is thrust upon him but he does it; with how he leads the heroes of Gotham and those visiting he jumps into that leader role perfectly which makes sense with his Titans time and how he knows just about everyone in the DCU. The image that Rafa shared from Battle #3 is just perfect as everyone looks to him and some of these heroes have been around or are older than him, but he is the Bat-authority. I just love how he also doesn’t put on the cowl till the very end; he won’t sacrifice himself to save this city and he will still restore both it and Bruce’s Batman. Just such a great story and quick read with it being three issues; my only nitpick would be that in the TPB there are these Gotham Gazette issues that just don’t fit well here…they are good openers and closers for the all of the issues in the complete storyline but they are what they are. This does such a great job of building the hype for the next Batman adventure. Rafa why don’t you start up with your thoughts on Captain America for us.
Ed Brubaker continues to pound in the feels with Captain America: The Death of the Dream. With Steve’s abrupt and shocking death at the end of Civil War, Brubaker ups the ante by not giving us a moment to grieve and instead throws us headfirst into a new chapter of his explosive spy-thriller that feels angry, intense, and intimate. Seeing Sharon try to cope with what Doctor Faustus has made her do and seeing her slowly spiral out of control keeps me invested in her personal trauma. I really liked how she and Falcon joined forces to find Bucky. The scene where A.I.M. agents burn off Falcon’s attire is both fun and something I feel I would see in vintage Arnold Schwarzenegger action flicks. Honestly, this series continues to read like a film, and that really helps it. It continues to be engaging with its action, character dynamics, and twists.
However, the real significance lies in the journey of Bucky Barnes. Like you brought up, Chris, Brubaker’s Captain America story is really the story about Bucky. It is all a wonderful set-piece which allows for Bucky’s redemption, and it is further developed and played upon in these issues. Seeing him struggle with Steve’s death and watching him try to pick up the pieces of his shattered life is harrowing, and Brubaker creates legitimate sympathy and endears the reader toward Bucky’s plight. It is cathartic to see him start his one-man war with both SHIELD and the Red Skull to honor and keep Steve’s ideals alive. In fact, I love how Brubaker incorporated a new element with Natasha’s Black Widow.
The moment we see Bucky and Natasha face off for Cap’s shield was exciting, something you want to feel from reading a comic book. In just a couple of short panels, we see these two “tango” and showcase exactly why they are both agents to fear. In fact, I am just happy that Natasha gets some time to shine. I love how Brubaker really gives her and Sharon some moments to remind the readers exactly how important they are to the Marvel universe. Adding a romantic subplot to this story adds another layer to a story already so rich narrative. It is not too much; it is just the right amount that continues to make Bucky a fully dimensional character. We are seeing him soften from relentless urban legend to actual human being.
And this is the importance of both Daniel and Burbaker’s stories this week; we get to see the prodigal sons, both Dick and Bucky live with the tragic loss of their foundational family figures. DIick loses Bruce. The world loses Batman. Bucky loses Steve. The world loses Captain America. Through this loss, we see how, not just the world itself is shaken to its very core, but how both men are forced to deal with it from both a physical and mental front. These stories really parallel their themes of legacy and identity while at the same time building on the concept of responsibility and how “titles,” whether Captain America or Batman, must endure. We get to see both heroes, Dick and Bucky, have their moments to wrestle with their own personal shortcomings and to ultimately live up to the expectations of two icons in their respective universes. It is truly powerful stuff!
You are totally correct in that manner; like it is easier to see the changes because of the characters. Brubaker started with Steve, Sharon, and Nick only to replace their adventures with Bucky, Natasha, and Sam; with Morrison we will see things go from Bruce and Tim to Dick and Damian. To me that screams so much talent that these writers have as they can change the “secret identity” but they developed so much character that we are excited for their continued adventures. Some of my favorite heroes are Nightwing and Winter Soldier so right now I am on cloud nine with the direction we are heading in.
Brubaker is building this spy thriller with such a slow burn but even that is still too hot to handle. I feel so bad for what Sharon is going through but also I’m so proud of her strength as she manages to play the bad guys while captured. Sam (Falcon) Wilson is such a great voice of reason and I love how he is on both sides of the heroics; he is a registered hero so he is good with S.H.I.E.L.D. and Tony Stark yet still commands enough respect that the underground Secret Avengers still interact with him. Ed Brubaker could write an amazing Falcon story which would be a smart move on Marvel’s part with the upcoming Falcon and Winter Soldier show on Disney+. I also have to say that Brubaker did a fantastic job of writing Tony Stark like this is a man who is haunted and self punishing since he sided with registration; he doesn’t know the full story of what was happening with Cap but he blames himself for all of this.
Then of course the best part of the book, in my opinion is Bucky; Brubaker just keeps building this character up and shoveling on the tragedy. The scene where Buck confronts Crossbones and reminds him that Cap was one of the few friends he has was just so heart break especially after knowing he lost Toro and even himself in a way.
All in all I think both of us had a great week’s worth of comic reading with Battle for the Cowl and Death of the Dream. We are seeing the return and rise of the prodigal son in these stories so rich with character, drama, and action. Make sure to join us next week as we look at Captain America the Burden of Dreams (Captain America vol 5 issues 31-36) and Batman Long Shadows (Batman vol 1 issues 687-691) and always remember to GEEK OUT!