Batmen and Bastards*

*Bastards is used here in the literal sense as you’ll see from my review of The Illegitimates. Actually, for that matter, Damian was born out of wedlock too unless you think Bruce Wayne’s marriage to Talia Al Gul is actually binding.

———————————-

Running a bit late on getting a manga NetGalley post together so maybe next week. Probably one of the only ways I’m going to read Jane Austen though. More on that next week. In the meantime I’m pleased to share my review of a couple of hero titles, all featuring the sons and daughters of well known heroes.

First up…

Damian: Son of Batman (Deluxe Edition) by Andy Kubert & Grant Morrison

91lK2HiBbeL._SL1500_Despite growing up with Batman via the animated series and some of the movies, it’s really only been recently that I’ve taken the trouble to read the comics in any serious way. I’ve quickly learned that not only are some titles better than others, but some require you to do a little homework before even being able to read them. Hence, I’ve developed a set of criteria for a good Batman tale that I’ll use to evaluate this book.

Stands Alone: To me, a good Batman tale doesn’t require an extensive knowledge of the current Bat continuity (which has gone through several iterations as a result of the crisis and The New 52). This book gets about a medium grade on that score. I was vaguely familiar with Damian from Batman: Son of the Demon (which apparently is only half in the continuity since it is an Elseworlds tale) and the first volume of Batman and Robin (new 52 variety). This book stands outside current established continuity (since Damian died sometime last year in the comic though you know how these things go, since there seems to be an event to bring him back this year). It didn’t do a great job of clearing up for me that Dick Grayson (the original Robin and later Nightwing) was Batman at the beginning of this tale. So when Batman is killed and Damian is avenging his death, for a long time I thought we were talking about good old Bruce (who shows up later). My understanding of this tale was greatly helped by reading Grant Morrison’s Batman and Son (though issue #666 seems apart from the rest of the material and only makes sense if you know the Batman and Son context).

Keeps the DC Universe out of it: I’m a bit of a purist. I know Batman lives in the same world as the likes of Superman and Green Arrow, but I don’t think it helps a good Batman tale when they show up (an exception being The Dark Knight Returns). The Long Halloween is a great example of a Batman only tale. Damian stays entirely in Gotham, where he should be.

Violence has a cost: Batman does not kill, but Damian as Robin sure does. It makes a little sense since he was raised by the league of assassins, but his violent tendencies force Bruce to come out of wherever he was hiding (seriously thought he was a ghost for a second) and challenge Damian’s right to wear the Robin or the Batman costume. It takes understanding Batman’s creed to really make Damian a worthy successor, though truthfully in Morrison and Kubert’s portrayal he still seems willing to kill. He just gets a little more upset about it and feels guilty when he has to.

Except no substitutes: Just as Damian is taking on the mantle of the Batman, someone is taking up the purple coat of the Joker. Bet the real Joker’s not gonna be too happy about that.

Summary: Like Morrison’s work, Kubert’s telling seems to leave out some crucial information, and makes some jarring plot leaps at times. But some of the humor, particularly in giving an origin story to Alfred the cat, does help to lighten the tale. Kubert’s work is the better part of this collection. Not a very good collection for people who aren’t more familiar with Damian or Grant Morrison’s Batman work. (3 out of 5).

DC provided me with a free electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Illegitimates by Taran Killam and Marc Andreyko

81kn9lt0gAL._SL1500_You might recognize Taran Killam from SNL (or from being married to Cobie Smulders), but apparently he is also quite the James Bond aficionado. So much so that he’s written his own “tribute” comic.

With a title like The Illegitimates I wasn’t expecting very much, but Killam displays a surprisingly good knowledge of Bond pastiches, even in his choice of mothers for his five … er …  successors to the Bond franchise. Well, okay not Bond, but Jack Steele, but you get the point. Agent Steele is killed by his arch enemy Viktor Dannikor in what I have to say is  unfortunately gruesome fashion given the tone of the rest of the book (think fighting on top of a train with a sudden stop from a tunnel and actually seeing the results). Now Olympus (Steele’s MI-5) must replace Steele with his five children out of wedlock, because his skills are genetic apparently.

Given Steele’s jet-setting lifestyle we’ve got a good ethnic variety of progeny, and most fall into particular stereotypes. We have the country hick\marksman, the Mexican Mama’s boy, a Japanese car enthusiast, an African espionage agent, and a computer expert because y’know, the story needs at least one techie. Can this team of misfits live up to their father’s legacy and defeat Dannikor? And who is the mysterious traitor inside their ranks?

Actually, quite enjoyable except for the bits of uncharacteristic violence, and a few unfortunate incest attractiveness jokes, but these are more than made up for with smart nods to the whole scope of Bond films including dams, space stations, and gadgets. (4 out of 5).

Have a good weekend!

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