Comic Culture With Rafa
By Christopher Franey & Rafael Encinas
Welcome fellow Comic Book connoisseurs to another adventure to the eras of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America and Grant Morrison’s Batman. What is funny about this issue…no Ed or Grant as other writers will be taking our heroes on their own adventure and we will be seeing quite the return and new additions to the families. We will be examining the Captain America Corps tpb (Captain America Corps #1 to 5) by Roger Stern and Philippe Briones and Batman and Robin: Dark Knight vs White Knight tpb (Batman and Robin vol 1 #17-25) by Paul Cornell, Scott McDaniel, Peter Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Judd Winick, Guillem March, Andrei Bressan, and Greg Tocchini. To make things easier for our readers I will be in BOLD FONT and Rafa will be in ITALIC FONT…so Rafa what were your thoughts on the Dark Knight vs White Knight tpb?
This was a very interesting read for me this week. After all these crazy stories that Morrison created, we are now winding down to “episodic” type stories that don’t seem as large in scale, but still have interesting bits scattered within. Overall, I really liked how this tpb continued to play off of Dick and Damian’s unique chemistry. This Batman & Robin feels different, and I think that is a definite strength. With that said, I was not a huge fan of this tpb which bummed me out because the cover art by Patrick Gleason is beautiful. The tpb is split into three different stories. The first story with the “villain” Absence felt absurd in a way that I did not like. I could see what the storytellers were going for, but it really did nothing for me and the philosophical themes just didn’t resonate with me. I felt bored. The second story had an interesting concept with the White Knight, and his reasoning for doing the things he was doing was pretty good, but the design felt lazy to me, and it did nothing for setting up a new iconic Batman villain. However, we did get some great bat-family moments in this one, so that was a definite plus for me.
The tpb’s only saving grace was the third story dealing with a returning Jason Todd. This felt like a breath of fresh air as we saw him take out prisoners in jail. Seeing him reluctantly teaming up with Dick and Damian was a lot of fun and their dichotomy was something I really appreciated. What I liked so much about this story is that it felt like an organic continuation of Jason’s story ever since returning from the dead. Jason felt much more than a one dimensional villain. This really sowed the seeds to the antihero and redemption he would receive in the future. Overall, if it wasn’t for the last story, for me, this tpb would have been entirely forgettable. What were your thoughts on this story, Chris?
You dissected it perfectly because we are at the end of the Post Crisis DC Universe and it really was a “episodic” set of adventures for the creative that was coming in and out as things were coming to a close. With the first adventure I was super glad to see Scott McDaniel drawing Dick Grayson again as he was a major artist on the Nightwing series so that was a beautiful evolution and getting to see him draw this version of Grayson was awesome. Paul Cornell is great at dialogue and his banter was fun between Grayson and Damian but sadly the story just wasn’t fun…guess in its absence was interest; you’ll get the joke if you read the stories…which I don’t think I’d recommend. The next story by Tomasi and Gleason was pretty fun and a huge moment because these two would continue on with Batman and Robin after Morrison’s departure and would craft many a tale of adventure!
With their story you were right it was interesting with the villain’s motivation was pretty wild by punishing the family members of Gotham Rogues, but the design just wasn’t interesting. So for it being an episode adventure it was fun but probably shouldn’t have been three issues just like Cornell and McDaniel’s story too. These are two cases where less would’ve been more. Now the last story by Judd Winick was pretty wild and entertaining…I really love all the callbacks to it from the cover of issue 23 mocking the cover from issue 1 of Batman and Robin to bring back Scarlet was cool too.
I shared this splash page from issue 23 as I loved that it was Batman (Bruce Wayne), Nightwing (Dick Grayson), and Robin (Jason Todd) what a great throwback to their history and also a strange mirror to this adventure with Grayson, Todd, and another Wayne. Judd Winnick did a great job and really closed this tpb out with a bang and started a better character path for Jason Todd that would help him grow into a better character through New 52 and even in today’s comics.
The only thing that bummed me out was that there was no conclusion or even mention of Judd’s last Batman adventure, the Long Shadows tpb, where he left us with a Dick Grayson mystery…like that never got touched on at all. Luckily this last story was a great upswing for an otherwise dull set of stories and sad endings for such great Post Crisis DC comic books. Speaking of different universes and family…what did you think of the Captain America Corps tpb Rafa?
The Captain America Corps felt like a fever dream come to life. It was loud, fun, and special. The plot is pretty out there. Like U.S. Agent so eloquently states, “it’s science fiction crap”, but in all the best ways possible. Basically, five different Captain America’s from different points in the timeline are brought together to stop a cataclysmic event. They must stop the abduction of frozen Cap, and the story gets wilder from there. This is the kind of story that just feels so wild and wacky that it is hard not to have a huge smile on your face as you read it!
Overall, this story felt like a fun romp into the Captain America-Verse. Seeing Bucky take the lead with a young Steve Rogers, a next generation female Cap, a problematic U.S. Agent, and the 25th centuries’ Asian Hispanic Captain America was something truly unique to read. They are a fun team of characters all inspired from the legend that is Captain America, and it is a story that does not take itself too seriously. It is a story that I highly recommend because a team of Captain Americas is something I did not know I needed in my life. Were you down with the Corps, Chris?
I really enjoyed this romp and this was the first time I finally sat down and read this. I really enjoyed this ragtag team of Caps and it was just such a fun side trip from Brubaker’s run and major Kudos to Roger Stern as he managed to pick up Bucky right out of Brubaker’s run and insert this “worlds threatening” adventure for him and the others. Roger Stern is a legendary writer in the Captain America adventures so it was great to see him write a rookie Steve Rogers and also a grown Bucky too. He did excellent with the characters of USAgent and American Dream and I enjoyed the new Commander A. I really enjoyed the history of how important Steve Rogers is to the Avengers and their formation and also endurance.
Because Cap did come to the Avengers at an important time and without him I don’t believe the team survives so there is a strong connection to the comic book history and the actual history of the comic book; at the time the original Avengers comic was the only place you could read Captain America adventures so people had to check there to get a glimpse of the legend. I also really enjoyed what Stern did for Bucky here…like Steve, Commander, and Dream all believe in Bucky enough to make him the leader was just perfect and I think it helps his character because when we go back to Brubaker it won’t be easy for Bucky. This was just a perfect adventure and a great way to see how much of Captain America’s legacy has touched others, all around fun.
Great insights, Chris! I agree that Captain America’s legacy truly is something that touches us and unites us all! There is something special about coming together and fighting what you believe in! And this is why we continue to read through the amazing stories that Ed Brubaker and Grant Morrison created. It allows us to live vicariously through heroic characters! This week has been another successful venture into the iconic heroics of both Batman and Captain America! As always, we thank everyone who has been following along with this series. Next week, we will be reading Batman: Gates of Gotham tpb (collecting Gates of Gotham #1-5 and Batman Annual #28 and Detective Comics Annual #12) and Captain America: Prisoner of War tpb (collecting Captain America vol 1 #616-619). As always, you can always interact with us on Twitter and we would love to share your thoughts and opinions on these stories too. You can find Chris on twitter as @StuffIShudSay and myself as @Mobilerafie. Thank you for joining us here at Geek Elite Media and GEEK OUT!
By Christopher Franey & Rafael Encinas
Hello Comic Book Champions! Rafa and I are back for another rousing round of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America with focus on The Trial of Captain America (collecting issues 611-615 & 615.1 of volume 1) and Batman Eye of the Beholder (collecting issues 704-707 & 710-712) by Tony Daniel during the Grant Morrison/Dick Grayson Batman era. In these tales we get to see the “sidekicks” bring the action/drama/suspense to our classic mantles in all new adventures with the past coming back to haunt us, but have hope as it does not always define us! So to make this easier, Rafa’s sage wisdom will be in ITALIC FONT and I will be in BOLD FONT. Rafa why don’t you start and share your thoughts on Dick Grayson’s adventures in this tpb?
Thank you, Chris! I’m not going to lie. I was a bit wary about reading this volume of Batman because I wasn’t a big fan of Tony Daniel’s previous Batman story. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed these issues. What I appreciated most about this tpb was how it was connecting back to Morrison’s writing from The Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul. The dreaded Sensei is back, and we get a cool little story about ancient evil masks and the quest for immortality. Overall, the art was great and watching Dick command the page was a lot of fun. I especially liked how it brought in the fact that Bruce had returned from the dead and that there were now two Batmen! My favorite scene in this whole tpb is at the beginning of this story where Bruce shows up and basically reprimands Dick for letting Selena and her new protege, Catgirl, run around loose in Gotham. It is such an interesting moment because we get to see the strange new dynamic that Bruce and Dick share due to his return. I liked this moment because I think it made Dick realize the added responsibility of having the original Batman watching over you; talk about pressure.
The second part to this story is an interesting coming together of Batman’s rogues gallery as they try to one-up one another in a strange duel for Gotham. Two-Face is back and so is his dead wife apparently. The Riddler is up to no good with his sadistic “daughter” as they cause chaos. And then there is Mario Falcone who thinks he can outplay these two psychopaths. It feels like an old school Batman story filled with its own noir mystery, but we get to see how Dick as Batman navigates it. Overall, I really enjoyed these stories because they didn’t feel like super important stories. They felt like natural everyday adventures Batman would have. It is a nice change of pace after so many weeks of apocalyptic events. Chris, what were your thoughts on Batman this week?
I found this TPB collection interesting; the first story, Eye of the Beholder, was very interesting and I love how it was similar to Bucky’s adventure back in Time’s Arrow (issues 43-45 of vol 5 or the Man with No Face tpb). They both had to deal with events in time that are well beyond their adventures as the main hero but they do hold their own and even save the day. You’re right Rafa about the tie in with Ra’s and Sensei being a great draw in to the adventures that were there; like it helped to cement that Gotham does need it’s own Batman and while Bruce is globe trotting it makes total sense that Grayson is the man for the job. That set of pages you referenced was perfect as it does show the amount of pressure that Grayson will have but the story does a great job of showing how he’ll live up to it and overcome it.
One of the best things about Tony Daniel writing Grayson as Batman as that Nightwing’s presence is still there but also…Dick Grayson matters! Like his secret identity life is actually important and he has character which is something I enjoyed when Grayson wasn’t in costume. The second story about the Riddler, Two Face, and Falcone was interesting and I did enjoy that it was trying to tie back into Batman the Long Halloween but sadly was cut very short since the DC Universe was ending. How’s that you ask? Well this trade collects the last couple of issues of Batman volume 1 right before the Flashpoint that leads us to New 52. So while it had merit I feel like it abruptly ended since it seemed like things wouldn’t matter in the new universe, hence Riddler’s Daughter’s death…like that was sudden and woah! What I do find interesting was the issues that weren’t collected like 708, 709, 713.
I don’t know if you read them Rafa but the cross over in 708 and 709 was called Judgement on Gotham by David Hine and crossed over with Red Robin and Catwoman. I did find myself enjoying it as it really tested Grayson, Drake, and Selina while showing just how crazy the new Azreal (aka Bat-Devil) could be. It was an interesting tale of how we can internalize evil or justify evil which was great to examine with the three Bat Family members. So I would like to give a shout out to those issues but also give a warning to those to avoid Batman #713 as it read off like a poor man’s version of Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? story. Such a shame that one of DC’s longest running books got that for an ending. So we’re in an era of flux as we’ve seen Grant Morrison end Batman, Inc and now Batman ends for New 52…Rafa what do you think of how things went for this volume before the Scott Synder New 52 relaunch?
You know, it’s quite perplexing. I agree that it’s a shame that this illustrious Batman title run ended on such a whimper. For me, I never got to read these stories, so getting all this context has been eye-opening. It’s crazy how all the build up with Batman Incorporated and Dick Grayson as Batman just ends so abruptly. I like to think of it as a consequence of Barry during the Flashpoint. In that way, you can kind of sweep all of it under the carpet. But I like how Morrison continued his Batman Incorporated book while everything else was relaunched. I think this was overall a necessary sacrifice, because we get thrown right into the action with Scott Snyder’s vision of Batman. I thought it was a smart move to put us right into the story instead of doing another origin. Overall, this stuff was a lot of fun to read. These stories felt like fun “low-stakes” storytelling that was easily digestible. Which is very different to the explosive awesomeness of Ed Brubaker’s Trial of Captain America. Chris, please give us your insights on this glorious story!
So talk about being put up in some dire straits…like Bucky can’t catch a break at all! Baron Zemo and Sin (both legacy characters themselves) just couldn’t stand the fact that Bucky is earning his redemption as the new Captain America and they are doing him dirty. Now granted all of Bucky’s activity as the Winter Soldier did get a free pass but I think this story did something fantastic that needed to happen. It wasn’t just Bucky having to face his past; we’ve seen that especially with Zemo’s attack and really getting Bucky to wake up and decide if he is waiting for someone to put a bullet in his head or will he choose life? That was beautiful and I think he is a better person for it, but sadly his friends haven’t faced the facts; while Tony Stark and Steve Rogers mean well by destroying the Winter Soldier files it doesn’t give the victims justice…and Bucky is one of those victims.
I choose this page as it shows that Bucky knows what is the right thing to do and even Steve doesn’t want to face it. No shame at Steve but wow that really showed some growth on Bucky’s part as I really think if this had been two story arcs ago, Bucky probably would’ve run. Now when he goes to trial holy crow that is a storm; but I’m glad to be rereading this issue as with things in modern times (the comics were Oct 2010 and here we are in Oct 2020) it goes to show things haven’t changed. I love how the story is shared by all as well. We can see how Sam, Steve, and Natasha are coming together to do what they can to save someone they all love and I think bringing back Cap’s ex, Bernie Rosenthal, to be Bucky’s lawyer was just brilliant! Also the villainy that is oozing from Sin is just too much. She is such a c-word but I do love how this is building up towards a future story we will be reading, Fear Itself. Rafa what did you get from this collection?
You put it perfectly into words, Chris. This was a delight to read. Here we are, thirteen weeks into these reads, and Ed Brubaker continues to deliver outstanding and heartfelt narratives like it’s an easy feat. Overall, The Trial of Captain America read sublimely. Seeing Bucky put on trial for things he did while under the influence of mind control was intense. Like you said, this story was written ten years ago and still somehow feels hauntingly as important now as it did back then. Seeing Steve do everything in his power to help his best friend was nice, and I absolutely loved Faustus in this story. Seeing him mind control the prosecutor in the courtroom and then helping a Bucky escape felt cool, and I never thought I would have any positive feelings for this bastard. It goes to show you just how well Brubaker fleshes out his characters and his stories. Everything feels important. Nothing misses a beat.
As for Bucky, this story does a great job at showing just how much he has grown as a person. You can see the good that the symbol of Captain America has done for his mindset. Seeing himself willing to parade around in this trial really says a lot of his character and his resolve. It made me appreciate the character that much more. Overall, this was an awesome story, and I am happy I got to experience it. Any last thoughts, Chris?
I like that time recap you did as it has been 13 weeks of this and Ed Brubaker really did an amazing job with the Captain America comic while he was writing it. He really did a lot for Bucky Barnes but right now we are going to see some dark days ahead especially with that cliffhanger of an ending. I am actually worried what is going to happen next but not physically to Bucky as I know he can defend himself and figure a way out, but I worry what this will do to his soul and his mind…as he is finally getting those back it’ll be such a shame to see these demons come for him, but with his friends I think it is going to be quite the feast for us to read.
Well that wraps around set of stories that we have shared our thoughts on, we hope you enjoy the discussion and join us next week as we read Batman and Robin: Dark Knight vs White Knight tpb by Paul Cornell, Pete Tomasi, and Judd Winick alongside Captain America Corps tpb by Roger Stern. So while Grant Morrison and Ed Brubaker take a break next we Rafa and I will still be at it and you can always interact with us on Twitter and we would love to share your thoughts and opinions on these stories too. You can find Rafa on twitter as @Mobilerafie and myself as @StuffIShudSay, as always thank you for joining us here at Geek Elite Media and GEEK OUT!
By Christopher Franey & Rafael Encinas
We return and this week we are seeing Bruce Wayne and Steve Rogers expand their reach with this week’s readings of Steve Rogers Super-Soldier tpb (collecting Steve Rogers: Super-Soldier #1 -4), while sneaking in some Bucky-Cap with Captain America No Escape tpb (Captain America vol 1 #606-610), and Batman Incorporated tpb (Batman Incorporated vol 1 #1-8 and Leviathan Strikes). We are outside the caves and city limits and going Global so Rafa’s writings will be in ITALIC FONT and mine will be in BOLD FONT; so Rafa take us away with Steve Rogers Super-Soldier!
After the explosive action of Siege and Steve’s promotion as top cop of the Marvel Universe, it was nice to get a couple of issues of Steve in his new role as commander of SHIELD. I didn’t feel like this four-issue story really delved into anything super important, but it was good to see a look into what Steve’s new role would be. The plot with him trying to stop an updated version of the super soldier serum from being sold on the black market and the way his past came to haunt him was fine storytelling. Brubaker did a good job of continuing his theme of “ghosts from the past” that continue to haunt characters like Steve and Bucky. I really enjoyed Steve’s new suit. It felt modernized, and the hologram SHIELD was an excellent touch. Seeing him get into action without his helmet/cowl gave me vibes of our MCU iteration of Chris Evans, so that endeared me to Steve that much more.
What I appreciated most about this story was how it did an excellent job at selling the grit and gumption that the man Steve Rogers has; he is so much more than just a super soldier. Toward the end of the tpb, Steve is zapped and he loses the super soldier serum and takes on the appearance of a scrawny Steve Rogers. He has this beautiful monologue and flashback scene where he talks about how the serum is not what makes the man. He talks about how he still knows how to fight and how that does not just go away.
I think this is important because it plays into the thematic and psychological symbol of Captain America. It reinforces that Steve does not have to wear the Captain America uniform to do good. He himself is a good man, and he can still be just as super as he is without the costume. He can still be a good man and a great hero in this new role. I think it is a triumphant moment and an importantly inspiring moment that reminds me why I have grown to love this character so much. Also, the reveal at the end of the bad guy and his plans for creating new super soldiers is wild. I did not see that coming, and I appreciate that this four-issue story was able to surprise me the way it did. I look forward to what comes next. What were your thoughts on Steve’s new adventure, Chris?
So this was the first time I read these stories as back in the day I was so enamored with Bucky’s story that I skipped them and now I come to see how great they are. I really enjoyed this and like you said with the ghosts of the past it was great to see Steve be the Top Cop yet still itching to be in the thick of it.
I think it was a fun short adventure that got Steve going and showed us just how worldly and super spy he would be in his upcoming role and adventures. The tragedy hits hard with Jacob Erskine and his “wife” Cynthia; especially when Cynthia finds out who she really is and it hits tragically but I love that she in the end finds her humanity by overcoming her programming. My only flaw with this story was that the Super-Soldier kids was never followed up on, maybe someday when I write Cap I’ll go there, haha. How about Bucky’s adventures in No Escape, what did you think of that Rafa?
Captain America: No Escape was an interesting read for me. Whereas we have now seen Bucky take on all matters of enemies from his past, I feel like this story is probably the most psychological and damning for him to take on in his time as Captain America. I really like how the son of Zemo just shows up and sets in motion an intricate plan to absolutely ruin Bucky’s life. He takes out his partner Sam. He ruins his reputation by leaking his Winter Soldier persona. And he tries to psychologically torment him with an all out symbolic battle where he died. I like the direction that Brubaker takes the story because we see a psychological foil to Bucky that I feel was not there before. We see him truly tested, and I think that is important.
What I found super interesting from No Escape was how Zemo Jr. didn’t necessarily try to kill Bucky. It all felt like an elaborate test for Bucky to prove himself; to really be worthy of the mantle of Captain America. This adds a whole other dimension to Bucky’s inner demons, especially with how he feels that he failed Mad Cap in the last tbp. This issue reminded me of an episode of the CW’s Arrow. It felt very staged, but not in a bad way. It felt Shakespearean; like a stage play with men with terrible histories and hopeful futures. Bucky is tested, and I think this is important for him to go through. Considering that this is the Heroic Age for these heroes, this allows him to truly move forward as an actual hero. Don’t get me wrong and make no mistake. Bucky has always been a worthy hero, but with this dramatization, I feel like he may now believe it too. What did you think, Chris?
I like your use of “men with terrible histories” because it is so true. Last week we talked about how Mad Cap was great because that could’ve been Bucky but luckily with his friends that isn’t him. Yet this set of stories shows us more of Bucky’s inner guilt and his feelings of what if I don’t deserve redemption?
Shout out to Butch Guide and Dean White for this page; what a horrible look into Bucky’s dreams and I love that he is seeing a down pawn so even in that guilt and moving away from it he doesn’t see himself as something more than just a pawn. This was the arc that cemented Baron Helmut Zemo as Bucky’s arch nemesis in my opinion; the guy just f’ed up his life because he didn’t think it was fair that he got a better chance at redemption, just dirty business. This arc is so strong too because this is a domino that will topple and really put Bucky to the test because, as much as I hate to say it, Zemo is right. Bucky did get a cushy redemption and all the right people are in place to help him walk the line. Zemo tried the hero route with his Thunderbolts, but in the end we knew he had selfish motivations so that is why he failed but in his falling he is dragging everyone down as best as he can and sadly Bucky is in those sights.
In a strange way though by being in Zemo’s path this causes Bucky to have to shake off those feelings of self doubt and really dig deep to find his worthiness. This trap that Zemo sets is just so crazy because it was Bucky’s last day and the birth of the Winter Soldier which is the bane of Bucky’s life. I love that even in Bucky’s inner monologue he considers it and that he hasn’t earned this life, but in the end that scrapy young kid who fought fist first in WWII surfaced and reminded him that he isn’t a quitter. When I feel down this is such a great go to issue to boost my spirits.
These are very great points, Chris, and I appreciate the power of your thoughts and words. Captain America this week felt redemptive, and I think similar in this category is Grant Morrison’s Batman Incorporated! Now, I cannot say this enough, but I absolutely loved Batman Incorporated. After the abysmal set-up of last week’s Batman: The Road Home, we get an absolutely weird, fun, horrific, and epic event in Batman’s pursuit to make the world a better place. Seeing Bruce actually expand his operations and go to different countries like Japan, Argentina, the British Isles, and Australia is entertaining. What this set of stories does so well is that it directly juxtaposes different needs and issues in different parts of the world while still bringing them together with an over the top Nazi-spy plot that could have come straight out of a 007 movie. There is an underlying spider’s web and a death machine pointed at the heart of the world, and it is up to Batman and his affiliates to stop it.
We are introduced to some new and dangerous organizations like Spyral and Leviathan! The villains seemed like they were closing in on Batman at every turn, and seeing him deduce and escape his way through Doctor Nez’s colorful maze was strange, but strangely hypnotizing. This story is big on its set pieces and builds its story to be big and bold. We have so many different story plots happening at once, but we get true Batman-saving-the-day greatness.
I loved seeing Batman recruit heroes; seeing him in Japan take on Lord Death Man was wicked; so bizarre and avant-garde. This is then directly paralleled to the poignant storytelling of Man Of Bats and his pursuit to better his community. Stephanie Brown’s Batgirl is taken to a boarding school for young female killers. And we get a story focused on internet 3.0 and an elaborate trojan horse that seeks to take out Wayne Enterprises. This is all whacky fun stuff that works because it is crazy spy espionage fun. We see a hopeful Bruce Wayne trying to make the world a better place, not just Gotham. It is refreshing stuff. What did you think, Chris?
So my mind was blown! I honestly thought I had read these issues but after the Catwoman arc the rest was totally new to me and I enjoyed it. Batman going to country and culture was just awesome and Doctor Nez was just over the top insanity but it works. Like a villain who is such a rogue yet he is suffering from Alzheimer’s is just wild and a challenge for Batman because he won’t know where to turn next. I love how the Bat Family is back and also so much more with the new additions.
I love what each of these heroes has to offer to Batman because he is going to them thinking of how he can set them up, but in reality they give a better edge to what it means to be Batman. The seeds being planted for Kate Kane is also exciting and I can’t wait to see how that plays out. Something I found interesting was how this was supposed to be 10 issues but with DC’s New 52 that is why the last two are collected as Leviathan Strikes, so I just wonder how much had to be changed as Batman and DC entered a new continuum. I would have to say my favorite issue was issue 7 with Man-Of-Bats and Raven Red; they just do so much for their community that it was heroic to see them checking up on people. I really wish they had gotten more spotlight.
I agree, Chris! I wish we could have gotten some more stories out of all these different Batmen. Maybe one day in the future, that can still happen! Batman, after all, is timeless; just like this week’s readings. Once again, Brubaker and Morrison know how to write wonderful stories that really permeate through our hearts and minds. We hope you enjoyed our reflections, and we hope you will continue to read along to these stories as we venture into next week’s readings. We will be reading Captain America: The Trail of Captain America (#611-615, 615.1, and material from the Captain America 70th Anniversary Magazine) and Batman: Eye of the Beholder (#704-707 and 710-712). You can find me on twitter as @Mobilerafie and Chris as @StuffIShudSay, thank you for joining us here at Geek Elite Media and as always, GEEK OUT!
By Christopher Franey & Rafael Encinas
Welcome back Comic Book Fans to another exciting tour of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America alongside Grant Morrison’s Batman. Bruce Wayne is back and we see how he views the Bat-Family in Batman: Bruce Wayne the Road Home tpb (collecting Bruce Wayne: The Road Home – Batman and Robin #1, Bruce Wayne: The Road Home – Red Robin #1, Bruce Wayne: The Road Home – Batgirl #1, Bruce Wayne: The Road Home – Outsiders #1, Bruce Wayne: The Road Home – Catwoman #1, Bruce Wayne: The Road Home – Oracle #1, Bruce Wayne: The Road Home – Commissioner Gordon #1, and Bruce Wayne: The Road Home – Ra’s al Ghul #1).
The action continues for Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes as we check out Captain America: Two Americas tpb and the Marvel event, Siege; with Cap’s adventures we suggest the following reading order: Captain America: Who Will Wield the Shield?, Avengers: The Way Things Are, Siege: The Cabal, Siege 1 – 3, Siege Captain America 1, Siege 4, Captain America 602-605. Rafa and I will be sharing our views, joys, and bummers on these stories and to help the reader Rafa will be in ITALIC FONT and I will be in BOLD FONT, so Rafa why don’t you open it up with The Road Home?
Batman: The Road Home is an interesting tpb because it attempts to be a prelude to Batman: Incorporated. The basic structure of this tbp is separate stories about different members of the Bat Family, and it serves as a way for Bruce to get insight into his teammates and to gather reconnaissance on what has been going on in his absence. I understand that it tries to bring Bruce back into the fold, but unfortunately, it just reads as convoluted and a bit boring. Don’t get me wrong, I liked that DC attempted to bring Batman back into the DC universe by having him reconnect with his allies, but there were too many uninteresting plots, and the overlying theme of Vicki Vale trying to expose Bruce Wayne as Batman felt forced. Some issues were okay like the Red Robin and Batgirl one-shots. We got some respect put back on Tim’s name (afterall, I felt like Tim was under-utilized all of Morrison’s Batman run), and we get a good redemptive look into Stephanie’s new role as Batgirl and Bruce’s acceptance of her in that role.
However, some issues were absolutely boring garbage for me. I am sorry. I try not to see the negatives and try to highlight the positives of every comic I read, but the one-shot about the Outsiders was long and boring, and I felt like it had no connection to anything in Morrison’s story, hell, even the overall Batman story at large. What was the real tragedy was that they were focusing on an introspective look at the Outsiders and there was no mention of Cassandra Cain, who was super important to Batman’s contingency plan should he perish. Also, the Ra’s story was something that I had to force myself to get through as well. What about you, Chris? What was your experience with Batman: The Road Home?
I am right there with you Rafa you nailed it; sadly these issues didn’t provide much but exploit the Batman “Returns” saga and this was a collection of loosely connected “zero issues” just getting our attention and then hoping to farm us out to those series. I really did have to force myself to read through this and it could’ve/should’ve been shorter. The only good I got from this was part one focusing on Batman (Dick) and Robin (Damian) and they were fun and kept their voice in this issue. Getting to see Tim Drake (Red Robin) was great and like you mentioned he didn’t get much of a chance in Morrison’s run so I would highly suggest reading his Red Robin series which was fantastic. After those two points I really didn’t care for much and I really felt so sad for Vicki Vale as she was just a plot device and we won’t hear from her again. I’m just glad that that read is done…so let us go to something worthwhile and talk about Marvel’s Siege event!
Marvel’s SIEGE event was such a home run. I forgot just how good of a story it was. What I found most interesting about this story was the way in which it served as an end to an era of comics and brought us into Marvel’s self-appointed Heroic Age of Marvel comics. At four issues, it is a blockbuster of an event that serves as the ending to all the plots brought out in Civil War to Secret Invasion to Dark Avengers. Here we get a satisfying conclusion with both Steve and Bucky who come to terms with their new-found places in the new Marvel landscape. SIEGE is great because we see Steve’s return as earned and important. Norman Osborn has corrupted what the Avengers had originally worked so hard to protect. Seeing Steve rally the troops together and then lead them in a full on assault against Norman’s Dark Avengers and the Void was just an iconic comic book event.
The action hits hard and feels important. It after all, becomes the catalyst for Steve Rogers’ new position as head of SHIELD. This event was great because we get the Avengers back together again. No Civil War politics. We have Steve, Tony, and Thor together again, and every time I read it, I feel like a little kid again. It is redemptive and long-term storytelling comes full-circle, and it feels great! But, it doesn’t end there! Besides the explosive action and violent gory moments (Sentry loved ripping people in half), there was also a lot of subtle and heartfelt storytelling as well.
We see this in two other Captain America stories. The outcome of Siege puts Captain America in a favorable position for once, making Bucky the official new Captain America and making Steve Rogers the new Top Cop of SHIELD. I liked this parallel, and I really enjoyed the tie in story Siege: Captain America, as well as “Captain America: Who Will Wear The Shield?” where we get a down-to-earth story of two men just trying to figure out who will be Captain America. It is both introspective and down to the grassroots which explores how both men are able to carry on their respective missions in their own ways.
It is cathartic to see Bucky realize that he was “meant” for the Shield, and to see Steve recognize he needs to stand up and become something bigger than the symbol. For me, seeing Bucky and Steve try to save some civilians after the fall of Asgard is truly brilliant storytelling. The fact that we have these two larger-than-life men taking the time to help a family in the midst of an earth shattering conflict is very telling. These two men truly are heroes, and it is shown through actions; not words. I get goosebumps just thinking about it. What were your thoughts on this chaotic storytelling, Chris?
Siege was a huge story back in the day; it felt like the end of Bendis’ Marvel which started with Avengers Disassembled. The hits would just keep going onto Civil War, Secret Invasion, Dark Reign, and now finally here. The best part was seeing the big three of Captain America (Steve), Iron-man, and Thor. It had been so long, like close to 10 years!! This event was done excellently and I like that it was a smaller format; four issues instead of six which just made each one that much more deeper instead of filler. Honestly it showcased just how crazy and tragic the Sentry was. This moment hit me right here with Steve and Bucky:
I love the fact that Bucky isn’t having it from Steve; he knows that if he is going to suit up he has to wield the shield and it plays so great to Bucky’s improv style of heroics. That mannerism is why I like Bucky and Dick Grayson, they roll with it. Siege was just so awesome and honestly I would recommend following up with the New Avengers book as it was great and had some awesome Bucky Cap moments. Then the ending with that last page of the heroes together just gave me chills and really had me so hype for the “Heroic Age” that was coming next; which was just perfectly timed with DC’s Brightest Day…everything was in the light and positive! Any moments of Siege that didn’t sit well with you Rafa?
The only thing that I thought could have made this event better would have been if we got more of an iconic battle between Norman and Steve. Don’t get me wrong. I love how it was Spidey who clocked him, but I felt that Osborn was taken out too easily. But, to be fair, the whole point of this battle was to show off how immensely powerful the Void was! Seeing Sentry descend into such a powerful monster was actually horrifying! I am glad the good guys made it out in one piece! However, I think overall, this was some climactic fun that felt epic in every sense of the word. It was a good end and transition into the Heroic Age of Marvel.
You’re totally right with that, it was a showcase for the Sentry; like every time he slammed into Asgard I felt like I was watching a horror version of Superman going back in time like he did in Superman: the Movie. Let us jump into our last part of this read with Captain America Two Americas…and WOW that was so good. I love how Brubaker totally revived the “Mad Cap” and made him such a worthwhile villain. Like Bucky and Mad Cap are totally in the same boat with being heroes who turned into monsters, but Bucky came out of it and chose redemption. I really liked how no matter what Bucky still tried to see a good man inside Mad Cap which just makes Bucky’s road that much more. Like he could easily have called the man a monster and be done with it, but he tried so hard to save him, yet Bucky isn’t a total fool as in the end he knew what had to be done.
Mad Cap was such a great add on to Brubaker’s run like he really challenged Bucky on so many levels and the similarities of both was just uncanny. I also loved getting to see Sam Wilson (Falcon) get some action in these issues as well. I hope when Disney+ is doing research for Falcon and the Winter Soldier they look to these issues. What are your thoughts on this trade Rafa?
I share the exact same sentiments that you shared, Chris! What I think makes this story work so well is that we get some closure into MadCap’s story. At first glance, this is a straight up James Bond level villain with his maniacal plan of blowing up the Hoover Dam. But it also has very real world politics with the issues of radicalizing hate groups and trying to return America to its old greatness. This type of storytelling that is both whacky fun but also steeped in real social problems makes for a great read, and it makes it really resonate with me that much more.
At the end of the day, I feel bad for Mad Cap, and I like how we are able to see how Bucky could have become a tragic figure like him if he did not have Steve there to help him. But this story also showcases how Bucky is now so much more than just his relationship with Steve. He also has Natasha who sees his worth, and he has Sam as the perfect “buddy-cop” partner who has his back. It is these little nuances in the storytelling that really make you appreciate Bucky’s journey that much more! This was some fun reading that also had some very real moments that I appreciated. Brubaker once again knows how to deliver!
Perfect observations and I really like how you touched on the fact that Bucky does have that supportive family with Steve, Natasha, and Sam. That really does affect us on how we view ourselves and our actions. Well folks we hope you enjoyed our thoughts and views on these stories. Join us next time as we read Steve Rogers Super-Soldier tpb (collecting Steve Rogers: Super-Soldier #1 -4), Captain America No Escape tpb (Captain America vol 1 #606-610), and Batman Incorporated tpb (Batman Incorporated vol 1 #1-8 and Leviathan Strikes). You can find Rafa on twitter as @Mobilerafie and myself as @StuffIShudSay, thank you for joining us here at Geek Elite Media and as always, GEEK OUT!
By Christopher Franey & Rafael Encinas
Hello again friends and we welcome you back to our adventures in these amazing runs which also happens to feature the returns of Steve Rogers and Bruce Wayne. I think we are in for amazing stories as we take a look at the trade paperbacks of Captain America: Reborn (featuring Captain America Reborn 1 – 6 and the digital prologue) with Batman & Robin: Batman & Robin Must Die! (featuring Batman & Robin vol 1 13 – 16 and Batman: the Return) alongside Batman: the Return of Bruce Wayne (collecting Return of Bruce Wayne 1 – 6). To make things easier in this discussion Rafa will be in ITALIC FONT and I will be in BOLD FONT. So, Rafa why don’t you open things up and treat us to your awesome insights to Captain America Reborn by Ed Brubaker?
Thank you, Chris! As always, having you to share in this experience makes reading through these tales that much more fun and insightful, and god! This was both a fun and insightful run of Captain America. Once again, Ed Brubaker knows how to set the pace to lead to an extravagant, memorable, and meaningful epic that could honestly be its own movie. Captain America: Reborn, like Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne, as you will read shortly, is a culmination of events carefully set in motion. Brubaker has done a fantastic job of spinning his story of legacy, sacrifice, and redemption. We started this run with two best friends in Bucky and Steve, and now we get a return to greatness with an awesome team-up of two Captain America’s that just feels so triumphant!
This is the payoff to all of Brubaker’s groundwork which is the actual return of Steve Rogers; the return of Captain America. We continue to get premium quality in writing with all conspiracies and mysteries laid out for us. This is Brubaker’s crescendo, his climax into Steve Rogers’ ultimate clash with The Red Skull. What I love about this story is how Brubaker explores Steve’s history once more to ultimately bring him back into the present. It is interesting how this espionage, action-thriller transforms into a science fiction adventure with time travel guns and Nazi mind prisons. It is a story of the unstoppable will of a man who refuses to let evil win. The return of Steve Rogers felt great, and I absolutely loved it. What were some things you loved about this story, Chris?
This was a great read and like you said, Rafa, it builds off of so much that Brubaker has created which helps me as a reader feel invested and validated with Cap’s return. Plus two Captain Americas fighting side by side was such a great visual that I enjoyed and look forward to what is next. Ed did so much with this series that there are so many talking points to look at; if we start with Steve Rogers himself, talk about the agony of having to be a passenger through your life but not being able to do anything for fear or destroying the timeline. That was a very clever trap that Red Skull and company created for Steve and I like that Steve actually found a way to use their own plot against them by way of the Vision. Once again the villains are just so much in this series but it works magnificently because at the time Marvel was going through the Dark Reign.
It was great to see Norman Osborn get involved, Dr. Doom has to share his genius once again and not let it be unsaid either, then to see Red Skull, Crossbones, and Sin all working this plan together was just awesome and not wasted pages or needless crossover. Sharon Carter had great moments as well with deciding to stand and face her actions in order to save Bucky; Sam “Falcon” Wilson also had great moments of being a hero saving the day. I even forgot how much Hank Pym was involved in this, of course as the Wasp…yup strange times at Marvel. Of course the big payout moment was the heroes having to fight to save Cap’s body while Steve and Skull fight over the mind, but when that finally happens and we see Bucky and Cap reunited, I can hear the audience jump up and scream! This was a great adventure and I really enjoyed revisiting; just a stronger testament to how amazing Ed Brubaker is as a writer. What would you say was your overall favorite moment Rafa?
That is hard, because there are so many standout moments. If I have to pick a favorite moment, I would have to say it’s the fight between Bucky Captain America and Red Skull Steve in front of the Lincoln Memorial; I mean talk about the symbolism and stakes in that fight. I really enjoyed how Red Skull was fighting both Captain Americas on both a physical and mental plane. It is a fight you feel invested in. After all the groundwork that Brubaker puts into his epic story, watching Steve overcome the Red Skull’s mind and bringing himself back is awesome! This to me is what makes all of Brubaker’s run so important. Also, I really enjoyed the moments where Steve is trapped in time. You can see how someone could become crazy from experiencing that.
Particularly, I love the scene where he relives the moment in which Namor dislodges him from the ice. The way he pleads for his friend to look at him feels so helpless and so sad. It was a poignant moment that showed me a man that was just tired. It is these moments where Steve is humanized, where he is made to relive the trauma of his life as he is trapped in the timeline of his past that makes this so much more endearing. You actively root for Steve to escape. Overall, this was something I truly loved about Brubaker’s Captain America; Steve is a man I want to root for.
Spot on observation that was a harsh moment and honestly when he couples that with saying he wished his eyes were closed makes me think how hard being the ice really was for him. Bryan Hitch did such a great job with that facial feature that I can’t help but feel for him. So now that we have shared about Steve’s return it is time to talk about the return of the Bat. For this read we would recommend the following road map of starting with Batman & Robin vol 1 #13 – 14, then Return of Bruce Wayne 1 – 6, back to Batman & Robin vol 1 for 15 – 16, and ending with Batman: the Return. Rafa why don’t you open this up for us as I know you really get into the mind of Morrison.
Thank you, Chris! Morrison is just one of those writers who does some truly weird things, but that just adds to the magic, and there is just so much magic in these stories! Morrison’s third volume of Batman & Robin, as well as his Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne read well separately, but are even better when read together as one cohesive story. Again, thank you Chris for providing the recommended reading order for these two tpbs. Volume 3 of Batman and Robin is entitled Batman & Robin Must Die, and it is a return to form for Morrison. This volume plunges us into the depths of a Gotham that has been doused in fire; a metaphorical fire that threatens to burn down the city. Doctor Hurt is back and with his 99 Fiends and Professor Pyg, he really causes some strong conflict for Dick and Damian.
The theatrics are turned up to eleven, and the art by Frazer Irving is truly something beautiful to behold; the way he commands texture and shadows is masterful and makes the reading feel much more pulpy which may be a way to pay homage to the Batman stories Morrison plays with. Personally, this volume felt like it could have been directed by Quentin Tarantino; akin to the likes of Kill Bill, it felt like an epic in the making. Morrison sets the stage for something big to happen; for some kind of payoff. And this is where I think this is a great read. It shows exactly how bad Gotham can get without the real Batman, and this is perfectly where The Return of Bruce Wayne comes in.
Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne read so much better this second time that I read it. It is such a weird story, and it feels like Morrison has a fun time putting it together. The insanity of the plot with Batman never really dying (from back in Final Crisis) but instead being booby-trapped as a doomsday weapon by Darkseid and aimed at the 21st century is just peak Morrison. It feels so over-the-top, but in a good way. It plays to the campy absurdity of Batman’s original stories, and I think this makes it so much more endearing. I love how each chapter takes us into a new time period where Bruce is basically summoned to be an avenging demon, a dark angel of retribution! No matter where in the timeline Bruce ends up, he is always ready to help those that need help. We get a prehistoric Batman vs. Vandal Savage brawl; we venture to the Vanishing Point while Bruce takes on a hyper-adapter in an “old Salem-esque” Gotham; we get some pirate shenanigans; we get Jonah Hex taking on Cowboy batman. It is awesome because we get an anthology of different Elseworld Batmans, but it is all in continuity and it serves as a vehicle to explore the legacy of Batman, while at the same time bringing him back to the DC landscape.
Batman’s venture through time leads us to one undeniable fact: there will always be a Batman in Gotham. It feels poetic and it is just a really cool concept that is fleshed out really well. This is important because the story therefore becomes so much more than just a fun series of stories focused on different forms of Batman; ultimately, it builds upon itself. With all the talk of the bat-people, Barbatos, and songs of prophecy and superstition, this all creates a meta analysis of the Batman mythos. Both in the comic and out in the real world, we are allowed to see how the legend of the Batman gains notoriety based off of others misconceptions. This is how Batman works. It is not just his detective skills or dope fighting skills that make him a threat. His genius and his power stem from the fear and superstition that people build into his legend. This is just a man after all, but a man who allows others to feed into the legend of the dark knight. What did you take away from Morrison’s writings this week, Chris?
Doctor Hurt is a super scumbag!! What a villain and I was so excited to see him back for his part in the “modern day” by trying to summon Barbatos and also getting to learn more about him. I will have to keep reading his appearances even after Morrison leaves the Bat books because I’m sure I’ll love to hate this character even more. Honestly that reading order helped make this even more exciting. With those two issues of Batman and Robin setting up just how lost Gotham City is getting, how wicked the bad guys truly are, and the fact that the Joker is going to help was just drama!! Then shifting gears to the Return of Bruce Wayne was interesting and like you said it created a bunch of Elseworld style tales but they are in continuity while also playing with DC Comics’ history of characters like Vandal Savage, the Black Pirate, and Jonah Hex.
I really enjoyed when Bruce got to the Pulp era in issue 5 and we come to find out the dame he helps sets him up for that crazy video that has been floating around since R.I.P. man did Morrison plan! But I have to say that if I read Return of Bruce Wayne on it’s own I don’t think I would’ve liked it as much, but adding Batman and Robin to it just made it so much better. Like Return of Bruce Wayne #6 felt very weak in regards to Bruce is back, but when he made his return in Batman and Robin #15 that was the moment I wanted to stand and cheer! Plus we still get great addons with issue 16 but seeing Bruce, Alfred, Gordon, Dick, and Damian fight to save Gotham City’s soul which was just B-E-A-utiful!! I love that Batman: the Return also sets the direction that Morrison will be taking Batman and family along with that introduction of Leviathan and some of those members; it helps that I remember some of the conclusion so it was exciting to see those seeds be planted.
I completely agree, Chris, that Batman: The Return was a great way to see how Morrison would be navigating into the next piece of Batman’s story in Batman: Incorporated. Like you, I think it is excellent to see Morrison planting the seeds for what comes next. It makes all the interconnectedness of his stories that much more exciting. All the lunacy and theatrics aside, The Return of Bruce Wayne and Batman & Robin Must Die both conclude into something truly cathartic, and something worth your time. In an adventure with Vanishing Points, time paradoxes, ancient bat demons, and designer drugs, we get a conclusion that reinforces the idea that Bruce has never been alone. Morrison’s Batman story is one of isolation vs. community. Morrison cleverly both narratively and symbolically “isolates” Batman through the introduction of Dr. Hurt’s isolation experiments at the very beginning of his run, but he then slowly introduces elements that shake this concept to its core.
Batman gets a son. Batman gets an heir to the Batman mantle in Nightwing. Morrison begins developing a sense of community for Batman. It takes all of the intertwined events of Batman: R.I.P., Final Crisis, Batman & Robin, and The Return of Bruce Wayne that allows Bruce to see that Batman has never been alone. Watching Morrison lay the groundwork for some truly thematic storytelling while still telling that story inside a bat-shit crazy narrative is both impressive and exciting. While we get lost in the absurdity of the drama, we don’t realize the nuance and attention to detail that Morrison puts into the Batman mythos. He creates a humanized Batman that may come from extravagant legend, but when all is said and done, Batman is still just a man. A man who dares to do the impossible. A man who, with a little help from his friends, is able to make the impossible a reality. I for one am so happy to see this fully realized version of Bruce. I look forward for what’s to come.
So I have to ask Rafa because I know you love toys even more than I do…what did you think of DC Direct’s offering of Return of Bruce Wayne figures? Did you get any of them and what are your thoughts on them regardless of owning or not?
I actually never picked up any of these figures. At the time they came out, I wasn’t really into them. As we all know there are three things that are absolutes in this world: Death, Taxes, and Batman Toys. However, I do think they are a really cool concept, and I am a big fan of owning them one day. By far, the Prehistoric Man-Of-Bats is my favorite but that cowboy Batman also just looks so cool. It is the fact that we can recreate these stories with these “elseworld” Batmen in plastic form which is insanely great! Now you can create your own Return of Bruce Wayne Story. Or you can even just put them in your office, and when they catch your eye at the end of a long day, you are taken back to these wonderful stories and your spirits are filled.
I tell you I miss DC Direct and am very sore that they didn’t make a Dick Grayson Batman figure, but maybe in some other Elseworld…oh well. Come back next week and join us as we continue to welcome back Bruce to the cowl and see how Steve helps to liberate Marvel from the bad guys as we read Batman: Bruce Wayne the Road Home tpb (collecting Bruce Wayne: The Road Home – Batman and Robin #1, Bruce Wayne: The Road Home – Red Robin #1, Bruce Wayne: The Road Home – Batgirl #1, Bruce Wayne: The Road Home – Outsiders #1, Bruce Wayne: The Road Home – Catwoman #1, Bruce Wayne: The Road Home – Oracle #1, Bruce Wayne: The Road Home – Commissioner Gordon #1, and Bruce Wayne: The Road Home – Ra’s al Ghul #1) and a double dose of Captain America with the Two Americas tpb and the Marvel event, Siege.
For Cap’s adventures we suggest the following reading order: Captain America: Who Will Wield the Shield?, Avengers: The Way Things Are, Siege: The Cabal, Siege 1 – 3, Siege Captain America 1, Siege 4, Captain America 602-605...I know but you’ll thank me for it after that mess, haha. 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!