The east coast snowstorm delayed delivery of my books this week, but I eventually got four and one of them was very well-anticipated.
Batman #17 (written by Scott Snyder, art by Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion) was billed as the “shocking conclusion” to the “Death of the Family” story arc, but I honestly didn’t find it all that shocking. After a multi-month buildup across multiple books, I was expecting something more than “everyone is fine and the Joker is gone” from the final issue in the series.
Even the final explanation to Batman’s extended insistence that the Joker doesn’t actually know the Bat family’s true identities comes across as hollow: Despite all the evidence to the contrary presented over multiple months, we’re left with the conclusion that the Joker couldn’t possibly know Batman and friends’ secret identity because Batman thinks he doesn’t care. This is Batman’s second major event since The New 52 and both have centered around an adversary (first the Court of Owls, now the Joker) that has gotten the best of him based on his insistence that what is must not be. This time they didn’t even bother forcing him to change his perceptions. Hopefully we’ll see something new with #18.
With that storyline wrapped up, the other Bat books are free to move onto their own storylines this month. I think they did a great job of that in Batgirl #17 (written by Ray Fawkes, art by Daniel Sampere and Vincente Cifuentes*), which for my money was the best book I read this week. The focal shift to James Gordon Jr., alluded to in #16 last month, is seamless. This issue has gone straight from a can’t-miss storyline into another great one, and I’m excited to see where it goes.
Meanwhile, Batman and Robin #17 (written by Peter J. Tomasi, art by Patrick Gleason and Mick Gray) did a much less exciting job with the transition. I recently praised B&R Annual #1 as a great stand-alone introduction to the series, but this month’s issue is another stand-alone affair that may or may not do much to hold the attention of any new fans they’ve gained recently. This issue’s little journey through Batman, Robin and Alfred’s dreams really doesn’t add a lot to the conversation, and if you’ve missed it I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to catch up.
Finally, I was pleasantly surprised by Katana #1 (written by Ann Nocenti with art by Alex Sanchez), a solid debut to the character’s first stand-alone series. Katana has a chance to be a real breakout character in the coming months as a member of the Justice League of America and a supporting character in the new Batman cartoon, and this book won’t hurt that opportunity.
Part of me is wondering if Katana isn’t getting her own book in response to criticisms of DC’s lack of strong female characters and female writers. Katana is a relative rarity as a female character where “sexy” isn’t a primary attribute. I just flipped through the book again to confirm, and there isn’t even a single panel in this issue where a female character has cleavage showing. This is a significant departure from, for example, Ann Nocenti’s recent portrayals of Catwoman.
With that said, Katana’s “strong female character” vibe comes with an odd twist: The book reveals that her swordsmanship comes not from her but from her sword, which controls her in battle and contains the soul of her dead husband. So Katana is a badass female character…but in her strongest moments she’s controlled by a man.
Moving on to the book itself, this is a compelling story of Katana’s return to the US and the start of her battle with Coil, who knows the secret of her sword. I’m glad I added it to my pull list and don’t anticipate removing it anytime soon.
My only quibble with the plotline in this book is that Katana left Birds of Prey just a few months ago to stay in Japan. Now she’s already back in San Francisco and presumably in the US to stay, since she’s a part of the new JLA. If you’re just going to bring her back in a month or two, why have her leave at all?
Looking ahead to next week, I’m expecting Birds of Prey #17, Green Lantern #17 and Nightwing #17 in my box.
* – The DC website credits Gail Simone, Ed Benes and Juan Jose Ryp for having produced Batgirl #17, but the cover credits Fawkes, Sampere and Cifuentes. If I were responsible for this great book, nothing would irritate me more than someone else getting credit for it.