Artists: Jason Fabok, Andy Clarke, Mikel Janin, Henrik Jonsson & Jason Masters
I have been a huge Batman fan all my life, and although I stopped reviewing this series following Death of the Family due to not having time to review everything, I wouldn't be much of a fan if I neglected to review the 900th issue of the series that introduced Batman, whether the issue was good, or not.
The 900 block of Gotham City has been infected, turning into Man-Bat's, but without the help of the rest of the Bat-Family, Batman is relying on someone else to help him cure this outbreak.
Birth of a Family
Dr. Francine Langstrom reveals how Dr. Kirk Langstrom created the Man-Bat formula.
Bane tells of how he faced the Court of Owls, and how they're his next target in taking control of Gotham.
Mr. Combustible, and more of Ogilvy's men raid Gotham during the Man-Bat outbreak.
Through a Blue Lens
An injured officer is visited by other members of the Gotham City Police Department, and they talk about what they think of Batman.
Now due to this being a super sized issue, featuring five different stories I'm going to review the main story, The 900, in detail, but the other stories in a more summarised fashion, although I will still mention all my thoughts on the stories, just not necessarily in as much detail as I'd normally give.
Now I have loved John Layman's run on this series so far, and he's truly turned this series from the poor series it was into something brilliant, but although overall this was a good story, it wasn't his best. The story itself was fun, and very entertaining, and dramatic, but there were minor flaws in it which annoyed me. I usually don't mind minor imperfections in stories, as long as overall the story's fun, or interesting, but these flaws were really annoying, and one in particular actually kind of spoiled the whole story. What I did however like about Layman's writing on this story, and his run on the series in general, is how he's managed to intertwine most of the previous plots that have happened, giving a series that flows very smoothly, and I've also liked that all the things he's added have been setting up the future of the whole story, which has been a good thing. I already stated that this story was far from perfect, and that although it was fun, it did have it's flaws, and although I don't want to go into much detail overall, I will say that I felt that the ending of this story, the main story was very anticlimactic, and it kind of ruined the entire story.
The art from Jason Fabok is once again superb, and I've really enjoyed his work on this series. Although Fabok's art isn't necessarily the most beautiful artwork that I've ever seen, it is however very realistic, and it suits this series perfectly. The detail in Fabok's art is also another thing that sticks out, as everything is drawn with such precision, and it really makes everything look so much better looking. Fabok also draws every character brilliantly, whether Batman, Nightwing (Dick Grayson), Ogilvy, but besides Batman the best characters he drew in this issue were the Man-Bat, as they looked simply stunning. The layout of the drawing is also fabulous, and Fabok really has a knack for making the art feel as dramatic as possible, and although a lot of artists do this, with writers helping in how they write their scripts, I still feel that it's worth pointing out, as it really makes the story feel more alive, and vibrant. I also love the way Fabok draws the facial expressions, as it really gives a lot more emotion to the story. Fabok also does a brilliant job with the inks on this issue, as everything looks so smooth, and overall tidy, adding more depth to his artwork. I do however feel that most artists that do they're own inks are better, and although there are plenty of brilliant inkers out there, the artist is bound to know exactly what he want's and can't blame others if it's not perfect prior to the colours being added. Talking about colours, the colours from Jeromy Cox are also fantastic, and they really make Fabok's artwork look truly magnificent, making it look even better than it already does, with the tone of the colours also being perfect for this style of story.
The issue starts with a prologue that shows Dr. Langstrom looking at ton's of Man-Bat's in the sky, and although this was a cool sequence, with brilliant artwork, but it did kind of makes the following sequence a bit redundant. The following sequence shows a mother and her child turning into Man-Bat's, showing that there's a contagion that's spreading, but this wasn't as powerful as it could have been, as it's already been established that there are many Man-Bat's going about. The sequence with the mother and child was however very emotional, but it would have been even more so if the prologue hadn't been there.
Although the Man-Bat's have already featured in the New 52, having featured in Batman, Incorporated, we've not really been given any details as to how they came into existence, and now we do. I really enjoyed how Layman handled this, and although the way he involved them wasn't perfect, it was still very good. The main problem with the way that Layman introduced the Man-Bat's into this story was that you could easily tell that he had to work round the fact that they'd already been used in a previous series, and that he needed to find a way of making this an introduction story, whilst also acknowledging that the Man-Bat's have been around, and although as I said it wasn't perfect, he did do a decent job of it.
This story also featured another couple of members of the Bat-Family (Nightwing and Batgirl (Barbara Gordon), as Batman tried to contact them, asking for help, with both refusing to answer. Now I know that the Bat-Family's still mad at Batman for not telling them everything during Death of the Family, and possibly keeping secrets, but I felt that this was a bit petty, and with a crisis hitting Gotham I'd have thought they'd have put things to one side. Besides that with the death of Robin (Damian Wayne) in Batman, Incorporated #8, I'd have thought the rest of the Bat-Family would have at least forgotten about the events of Death of the Family for now, and rallied round in support of Batman.
This story also featured an appearance from Batwoman. Now she didn't really do much at all in this issue, apart from putting the final element in place (which could have easily have been done without her), but I was still happy to see her make an appearance, and after the falling out she had with Batman in Batwoman #18 you could feel tension between them. The main thing I liked about her appearance was that it was appropriate for 900th issue, as having made her first solo appearance as the main character in the pre-New 52 Detective Comics series, during the Batman: Reborn era it was only fitting that she made an appearance in the milestone issue.
This was an interesting, and fun story, but it had it's flaws, and the anticlimactic ending kind of spoiled the story, although besides that it was a good read.
Birth of a Family
WARNING: MAY SPOIL THE MAIN STORY!
Again this was a very good, and interesting story, and fitting considering what happened in the main story, and once again Layman did a good job of the writing. To be honest, although I prefer the first story overall, the writing in this one was probably better, as although it wasn't quite as exciting as the first story, the structure of the story was better, and overall it was more interesting, also not having as many flaws. This was also a much more emotional story than the main story, and Layman did a good job of showing not only the sadness that Francine has over what has happened, but the joy she has from fonder memories.
The art from Andy Clarke was brilliant, and although I personally still prefer Fabok's art from the main story, Clarke's art was still very good, and really suited the style of this story. I've always enjoyed Clarke's artwork, especially on Bat titles, so I was very happy to see him featuring on one of the back-up stories. Clarke's art is very detailed, and I love the way he adds shading to the characters, as the lines are brilliant, and don't look as rough as most artists that use shading, which was very nice. I also felt that his art was very emotional, and for the type of story that this was that's what's really needed, as although most Batman stories are dark, this one wasn't so needed a more lighter tone, which Clarke's art more than provided.
This was a nice origin story, and although not the best that I've ever read, it is still one of the better ones that's featured in the New 52. What I liked most about the origin is that it comes after the main story, and that it's told by Dr. Langstrom's wife, Francine. As I said earlier this was a very emotional story, and that's probably what made it as good as it was, as despite being interesting, it was also slightly dull, simply re-telling something that's already been told, and although I don't mind the re-telling of origins, they still need something else to make them unique, and the emotion in this one, along with the fact that it's told from Francine's point of view was what did that in my opinion.
This was an interesting follow-up story from the main story, and was a brilliant re-telling of the Man-Bat origin. Besides that it didn't really do much, and was a bit dull, and it wouldn't have been as good if not for the brilliant art from Clarke, and the emotional tone to the story.
This was the only story to feature in this issue that wasn't written by Layman, being written by Talon writer James Tynion IV. This was probably the best story to feature in this issue, and I would have rated it more, but it felt more like it should have been in the Talon series, as opposed to being in this. I say this as the story appears to be a set-up for a future issue of Talon, and although I don't read Talon I still think that it belongs in that series, as it means that people who follow Talon may need to get this issue (which I personally wouldn't like). Besides that small detail this story was still brilliant, and it had a lot of excitement, and action in it, as well as being interesting. Although I don't get Talon, I will say that this story has made me more incline to possibly get the issues that have been out, or get the trades when they're released, and although that's probably the main intent of this being added to this issue (besides filling in the extra pages needed), but I still felt that it could have been put into the Talon series.
The art in this story was brilliant, and Mikel Janin did a phenomenal job, and I was very happy when I noticed he was doing the art for a story in this issue. I've loved Janin's art in Justice League Dark, and have felt that Janin is a very talented artist, having a very unique style, and I was happy to see that he could do a good job on something that wasn't JLD (although I knew he would). The detail throughout Janin's art is magnificent, as all the muscularity of Bane, and his army are brilliant, and it really shows the power that these characters have, especially Bane. I also loved how Janin handled the action in this short story, as although I've loved the way he's handled the action in JLD, it's nothing compared to the way he's drawn the action in this story, as it's nothing short of phenomenal. What I liked most however about Janin's art was the reference to when Bane broke Batman's back, way back in Batman #497, and although I sometimes feel that this has been referenced too much, it was fitting for this story, as it's not just a milestone for Detective Comics, but the first proper appearance of Bane in the New 52 (he briefly appeared in Batman: The Dark Knight, but it's best to try and forget that).
Although I felt that this story wasn't necessarily appropriate for this issue, I can't complain about how good it was, as it was brilliant, and the perfect re-introduction for Bane. With Bane being one of my favourite Batman villains I've been annoyed that he's not had a fitting appearance in the New 52, and although there are others that I'd like to see a proper appearance from more (like Riddler), I'd still love to see Bane used right in the New 52, as his appearance in Dark Knight was terrible (as was the series at the time). I liked how Tynion wrote Bane in this story, as it showed the determined character that I loved in his earlier appearances, but it also showed that he needed a little persuasion as well, which was nice, so I have every faith that Tynion will handle Bane right in the Talon series, and may actually get the series to find out. Another thing that interested me in this story was that Bane was approached by a mysterious man that persuades Bane that going after the Court of Owls is the right thing. I found this man intriguing, and although I don't know who this person is, and having not read any of Talon I can't make a judgement from that, but I'd find it interesting if it was someone like Ogilvy that told Bane, as although this isn't very realistic, and that it will most likely be someone from the Talon series, it would make the addition of this story in this issue more significant.
This was a very fun, and action pact story, that was very interesting. Talon fans in particular will probably like this, as it appears to be setting things up for that, and although it's goal appears to be to get more readers onto Talon, I personally feel that it shouldn't have been in this issue (even though I've probably been persuaded to get Talon). Besides that it was however a very good issue, and a very good read (even if not necessary for this issue).
After a small break from Layman's writing in the previous story, we're back with the remaining two stories being written by him. Once again this was a very good story, but ye again it wasn't anything special. This was however probably Layman's best story in this issue, and it showed the quality of storytelling that I loved from his run so far, and although it's still nothing too startling, it's still good, and shows signs of things to come. Like the end of the main story this story shows that Layman is far from done with the whole Ogilvy story, and I'm not surprised, as that's been the basis for all his work on the series so far, and it's been good. Although this story wasn't necessarily very entertaining, it had it's moments, and besides that it was very interesting, I loved the way he developed things that will happen in the upcoming issues, without giving too much away.
The art from Henrik Jonsson was good, but it wasn't the best in this issue, and actually probably the worst. In saying that, that shows how much talent's actually working on this issue, as with five different stories, with five different artists, and this being the worst art wise, that's got to say something, as this art was good, and most multi-story issues have at least one artist that doesn't quite make the grade. Anyway the detail in Jonsson's art was brilliant, and the only real thing that I didn't like about his art was that it was a little too rough, and although I don't mind rough artwork, it just didn't feel as good as the other artists that featured on this issue. The characters that I felt Jonsson drew the best were, Mr. Combustion, and the man that turned into a Man-Bat, as both looked brilliant. I really liked how he handled the character transforming into a Man-Bat, as it wasn't as simple as here he is as a human, and here he is as a bat, as he showed the in between. What impressed me the most however was the Man-Bat stage, as Jonsson really made the Man-bat look grotesque, which was brilliant.
Mr. Combustion was introduced in this series by Tony Daniel, in Detective Comics #6, but to be honest he hasn't really done much, and I don't really like him as a character. I don't mind the look of him, and although he looks very unrealistic, I still think that that's the best part about him, but at the end of the day I don't see him being remembered for very long, and although Layman has continued to use him a couple of times in this story, I personally don't see him lasting for too long, and if he does it'll be as nothing more than a Z list villain. I did however like that his involvement in this story revealed the reason behind the Man-Bat toxin outbreak in the first place, and that it filled some of the questions that were left from the main story. Another thing I liked about Combustion's appearance was that it showed that he was loyal, and although I won't say any more than that to avoid spoiling the story, it was something that I found noticeable, and helped to develop the possible future story of this series.
This was a very interesting story, that answers questions left from the main story, as well as developing the Ogilvy story that has been the main theme of Layman's run.
Through a Blue Lens
Although Layman once again did a good job on the writing of yet another story, I personally felt that this was the worst story in this issue. I really wanted to love this story, as I love it when we get to see the police against Batman, but this time it felt a bit tame, and the overall story just felt like a filler for the issue, and it doesn't appear to have much affect on future events. In saying that it was still very interesting, and Layman did a brilliant job of writing both sides of the argument, showing a lot of emotion, but it did feel like a filler. On another positive note it was nice that this story, like most of the stories featured in this issue, continued from the original story, and although it didn't really contribute anything new, it was still interesting, and an decent read.
The art from Jason Masters on this story was brilliant, and although I'm still not a huge fan of his work, I am starting to like it more, and feel that it suited this story brilliantly. Master has been making appearances in the Batman Inc. series, drawing two to three pages each issue, for the last few issues, and although it's not been perfect on that series, it has been nice to see, so when I saw that he was working on the art for one of the stories in this issue I was actually happy, as I've wanted to see more of his art, but not on a series that already has a brilliant artist, so this is the best way to see more. Anyway, I liked the detail in Master's art, and although some of the fight sequences between Batman and a Man-Bat (the injured officer who was affected by the toxin) looked awkward, it overall looked brilliant. I especially liked how Masters drew the facial expressions in this story, as although it wasn't much for most of the time, when he showed emotion it was brilliant, as it added a lot of drama, as you could feel what the characters were feeling.
Although I felt this was pretty much a filler story, there were elements of it that I really liked, mainly the way that most of the officers seemed to hate Batman. I can kind of see why some people, especially cops would hate Batman, as there's the clear argument that not as much bad stuff would happen in Gotham if it wasn't for his influence. What was however a bit questionable was how the cops talked about Batman, only really stating the negatives, and although there were a couple of cops that praised Batman, there wasn't actually any that had a neutral opinion, seeing both the good, and bad of Batman, only really having one opinion. In saying that the argument was written well, and it was very bold with the character emotions. Now I may be wrong (although I don't think I am), but I'm sure one of the characters that featured in this story has appeared in this series before. If I'm write that's a nice thing, as I like it when a writer re-uses a minor character that featured in a previous issue, and although he may not have done much with him, it did show that he wasn't forgotten.
The fight between the officer that turned into the Man-Bat, and Batman was also good, and although I'm glad that it didn't take up much of the actual story, it was nice to see, and it gave more fuel for the argument that was shown between the officers.
Although this was the worst story in this issue, it was still very interesting, and it showed the argument over whether Batman's a hero, or a menace brilliantly. It did however not really give anything new, and felt mostly like a filler story, which was a shame, and what made the story the worst in the issue.
Finally I'll talk about the additional art that featured in this issue, from Alex Maleev, Brett Booth, Chris Burnham, Jason Fabok, Andy Clarke, Francesco Francavilla, Cameron Stewart, and Dustin Nguyen. All the artists that contributed to all these lovely artwork did a brilliant job, but there were some that stuck out. My favourite out of these was from Booth, as he made Batman look fun, something that you don't see a lot, and although I enjoy Booth's art in general, having loved it on Anita Blake comics, and Teen Titans, whilst also looking forward to seeing his art on Nightwing, I'd love to see him work on Batman at some point. The other two pieces of art that really stood out were Nguyen, and Maleev's, as Maleev's gave a brilliant, dark feel, showing Batman next to the Bat-Signal, which just embodied everything that Batman is, and Nguyen's was a brilliant tribute to my favourite Batman story, The Killing Joke, showing Batman grabing Joker by the cuff of the neck, whilst laughing. The rest of the art was still very good, it was just these three that stood out more too me.
Overall this was a brilliant issue, and although the stories weren't perfect they were all fitting, and went perfectly with the main story (besides War Council). They were however all very different styles of stories, as some were more fun than others, and some were more interesting, but overall they were all good, and although I'm not sure if this was a fitting issue to have for the 900th issue landmark (especially considering the price), it was however a good issue, and I'd highly recommend it, whether you're a Batman fan or not.