By Christopher Franey & Rafael Encinas
Happy returns dear reader, and we are glad to be back and to talk about these tales of the past that help set up for the future for these wonderful characters from Marvel and DC comics. For our Bat side of things we have an adventure from Scott Snyder, Kyle Higgins, Ryan Parrott with art by Trevor McCarthy in Batman: Gates of Gotham tpb (collecting the five part miniseries) and for our Captain adventures, we are back with Brubaker and an amazing art team consisting of Butch Guide, Mike Deodato, and Chris Samnee in Captain America: Prisoner of War tpb (collecting Captain America vol 1 #616-619). Rafa and I want to share our thoughts with you about these stories and to help you, I will be in BOLD FONT and Rafa will be in ITALIC FONT. Rafa please open this up with what excited you about Gates of Gotham?
Batman: Gates of Gotham was a very interesting story that brought in some fresh ideas in both the history of Gotham, but more importantly in the characterization of Dick as Gotham’s Protector. We get away from Morrison’s big ideas for a much more personal and “family-driven” story in Snyder’s tale. First and foremost, this works because it is a bat-family title. We have a comic that focuses on Dick, Tim, Cassandra, and Damian.
I thought this was especially great because it further stylistically juxtaposes Dick’s approach as the Caped Crusader. Whereas Bruce is much more of a loner and can be quite alienating a lot of the time, Dick is much more open to working with others. I find this interesting, because it adds another layer to the psychology of Dick Grayson. Overall, as Bruce is recruiting for Batman Incorporated, we instead get an action packed story that feels equal parts detective noir with elements of steam-punk influence, especially considering the timelines and family histories introduced (and the very cool looking Architect suit).
The dialogue used throughout feels natural and world-building. This is very interesting because both Kyle Higgins and Ryan Parrot really flesh out the intrigue and mystery set throughout the story (please check out their work on BOOM Studios’ Mighty Morphin Power Rangers comics). Therefore, we are treated to a deeply involved and heavily emotive narrative in which we continue to explore the different dynamics that these characters have toward the bat symbol. We see Dick continue to compare himself to the legacy that is Bruce’s shadow. We see resentment that Damian has toward Cassandra who herself is trying to find her place in Gotham once again.
We also get an introspective Tim who continues to strive forward even after all his tragedies over the last couple of events. It is nice to see these characters interact, and we get good moments that really stand out and feel important to their overall character growth. What did you like about Batman: Gates of Gotham, Chris?
I really enjoyed this adventure and sadly I missed it when it first came out; luckily when we began this journey of comics reading this came to my attention and what a fantastic miniseries. Beautiful art and a fantastic mystery with some twists and turns. Plus this adventure really adds to my enjoyment of Scott Synder’s New 52 Batman run as it seems like he really wants to add to the origins of Gotham City. I really enjoyed seeing the Bat-Family working together here and it was a new adventure for me to see Dick Grayson as Batman. I like the way the creative team used Dick as the main character for this comic; they did such a great job with his “voice” as it was just like Nightwing but also showing him growing into the role as Batman.
They craft a flawed Batman that isn’t Bruce Wayne perfect but is getting the job done in his own manner. I also like that they kept a major aspect of Dick Grayson that he really excels at and Bruce doesn’t…working with others. Here we see a Bat-Family that chooses to work together and they allow Damian to partake too. Speaking of Damian I really like how his character was kept since he came down very hard on Cassandra but by the time the story was over he really came around to see more to her which was great growth.
Honestly, I really had no problems with this tpb. I thought it was a quick read and was more than just a one-off Batman story. It is able to stand on its own due to the character dynamics and sweet art style. Watching Dick use his grappling hook as a weapon throughout the story was very inventive and so stylized. It was nice to see him do other things besides just punch.
I was also appreciative on how he allows himself to truly accept himself as Batman by talking about how Gotham brings out the truth within all of us. In a story filled with lies and deceptions, it is a great cathartic moment to see Dick really come into his own as Batman. It feels like he has really been struggling with this legacy for the past couple of tpbs, but I think it all comes to a head in this story. And it is that much more therapeutic because we see him do it with his family by his side. Dick really brings the others together in a way where it feels like he has earned the title of Batman. He has effectively made it his own; and that is something truly special to read on the page.
Also, I was super hype to have Cassandra in this story as Black Bat. She is a very underutilized Bat-family character and a personal favorite of mine, so seeing her be so cool and collective was a breath of fresh air that I immensely enjoyed. Watching her interact with Damian were some of my favorite moments; seeing how they were so similar but so different was interesting, and I liked their forced teamwork and how Cassandra really worked as the team’s spirit for the majority of the story. Overall, this was a great story for not just Dick’s Batman, but for the Bat Family as a whole.
I totally agree with you as I found nothing wrong with this miniseries and I am glad that I got to read this. Let us switch over to Captain America and talk about Prisoner of War. Wow that was just a gritty adventure and the creative team really came together to craft that chilling story of Bucky being trapped in a Russian prison. This was rough the first time I remember reading it as I wasn’t sure Bucky was going to survive; like it really felt like he wasn’t going to make it out alive. I do appreciate Brubaker digging deep and bringing some Russian characters to help drive this story and keep it lively. Like Ursa Major, Yuri Petrovitch (Crimson Dynamo), and the Wolf Spiders just made this even more deadly for Buck. What did you think of this story arc Rafa?
Scott Snyder really showed us the fresh ideas he could bring to Batman (more on that next week); however, Brubaker continued to show us exactly how great he is at telling his story for the long term. Under Brubaker, we have seen Steve reunite with Bucky, Steve die, Bucky become the new Captain America, Steve come back, Bucky gets outed as the Winter Soldier, and now Bucky is going to jail. However, this is no ordinary jail; oh no. This is a Siberian prison where Bucky gets to fight giant bears and locked-up meta-humans. You would think that people would get bored of Bucky’s story, but Brubaker is so good at humanizing this character that we care what happens to him. We see him struggle with the legacy of Captain America, and we cheer him on. We see him get crucified on national television for his past sins, and we hope for his pardon. Now, Bucky is trapped by bureaucracy and red tape, and we still see him fight on. It is the spirit of Bucky that endears him to us. And Brubaker is good at writing this.
Overall, this feels like just another hurdle in a never ending loop of disaster that Bucky must continue to overcome. However, that does not make it any less important or significant. Here, we get the Bucky whose reputation has been destroyed and who is now trying his best to atone for past crimes and past sins. But as always, others scheme to bring him down. Brubaker is very good at making Bucky the Underdog, and it is a story that just builds and builds to the point where we want to see him come out on top. We continue to root for this character because we have seen his trials and tribulations. At this point, we have seen that he is a hero worth believing in, and so we continue to be hooked by this story because we want to see him succeed!
I like your observation about what Brubaker has done with Bucky and Steve in this volume of Captain America. Brubaker does his homework too; like those Russian characters I mentioned earlier not only did they come in to make it deadly but then to find out Henry Gyrich helped to screw over Bucky just was another twist that made this interesting. I was glad that part of the story was there to help give Steve something to do but the best character use was that of Shannon and Natasha. I loved seeing them as secret agents in this and doing what they needed in order to get their end goal met. Also I want say that Butch Guice’s art for the Russian prison scenes was perfect, he just gave the perfect vibe that added a cold element to this story that was fitting.
That’s the best part of all this we are in a part of the volume where artists are wanting to come and play. Butch Guice has been an industry legend and it was great to see him make a stop here and one of the other artist in this trade was Chris Samnee who is another legend, but I think he was relatively new when he did this story arc. I’m just glad to see his work here and luckily we will get to see even more later with our tour. Any other insights you have on this Rafa?
This story starts to shift perspectives as we now get the tease that Bucky’s time as Captain America is coming to an end. We see Bucky struggle with his past and what that does to cloud the storied legacy of the shield. We see Steve wrestle with the pressures of putting on the suit, but he is still steadfast in his belief that Bucky is the new Captain America.
Overall, it is excellent thematic writing that is able to juggle intense spy drama with hard hitting prison fights and escapes. This is kind of like “The Shawshank Redemption” meets “The Winter Soldier”. It is excellent character study in comic format! There were really no flaws with this tpb. How about you Chris? Did you have any issues with this Captain America story?
Haha I love that mix of Shawshank and Winter Soldier, that is great and two things I really love, you just made this trade even better for me. The only nitpick that I would have with this collection of issue 616 as it was full of extras for the anniversary and some of those stories were tough to read through; then again that is on me and I’m sure I was burned out by all the other anniversary issues that had been happening. I know marketing has to sell but I think if they had calmed down on that aspect the story alone would’ve sold perfectly.
Well, that wraps this set of Captain America and Batman stories; we hope you enjoyed the discussion and join us next week as we continue with Marvel’s Fear Itself event by Matt Fraction and Captain America and Bucky: The Life Story of Bucky Barnes tpb by Ed Brubaker. We will also be jumping into Scott Snyder’s Batman: The Black Mirror. As always, we are available for discussion and interaction on Twitter, and we would love to share your thoughts and opinions on these stories too. You can find me on twitter as @Mobilerafie and Chris as @StuffIShudSay, as always thank you for joining us here at Geek Elite Media and GEEK OUT!