Today’s Super Comic — Batman #17 (2013)

batman_vol_2_17Batman’s “Death of the Family” story arc is one of the most disturbing Joker stories I’ve read. It’s also one of the richest psychologically.

Writer Scott Snyder drills into the heads of Batman and the Joker, amazingly giving a fresh spin to an antagonistic relationship that’s been going on for over seventy years. On the surface, it’s creepy as hell and far too nightmarish for children to read, but lots of careful thought clearly went into the narrative. The payoff in issue #17 is brilliant. Once you get past the grotesqueries, you find an intelligent comic hiding within.

It really shows just how versatile these characters are. They fit a seemingly endless variety of stories.

But keep the kiddies away from this one!

Writer: Scott Snyder

Penciler: Greg Capullo

Inker: Jonathan Glapion

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Batman vol. 3: Death of the Family (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 15 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Batman #40 (2015)

batman_vol_2_40Batman was easily the best series of DC’s New 52 relaunch, and that’s due to superb writing and art by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, respectively. Not content to simply rehash what’s come before, they built on the Batman mythos, contributing new details and injecting fresh energy into this septuagenarian franchise.

Even though issue #40 concludes yet another climactic Batman vs. Joker storyline, it never feels like “yet another” clash between the classic foes. It’s entirely its own thing, and it’s the natural progression of events from the previous 39 issues. (The story is too recent that I don’t want to spoil anything.)

I wouldn’t call it definitive—Batman is a versatile enough character to defy “definitive”—but it is distinctive. It’s a Batman story as only Snyder and Capullo can tell it. They take this iconic character who has appeared in countless stories in practically every medium over the course of decades, and they make him their own…for the moment. And we can only hope that the next writers and artists to get their “turns” with the Dark Knight will be just as talented as these guys.

Writer: Scott Snyder

Penciler: Greg Capullo

Inker: Danny Miki

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Batman vol. 7: Endgame (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 13 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Green Arrow #17 (2013)

Green Arrow 17Green Arrow’s New 52 series became pretty amazing as of #17, thanks to excellent writing and artwork by Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino, respectively.

The story introduces the idea of Oliver not living up to his potential, and then it blows up his life in a way that evokes the classic Daredevil storyline “Born Again” without copying it. It’s one of my favorite story types, and one Green Arrow is a perfect fit for—the hero having to rebuild himself into something better. It works especially well in comics, as you get the character-development benefits of an origin story without having to rehash the same old tale.

Sorrentino’s gritty artwork grounds the events and suits a non-powered protagonist. Not only does each page fluidly advance the strong script, but they’re all fantastic to look at.

The whole issue screams, “Exciting fresh start!” This sort of thing is exactly what the New 52 should have been all along.

Writer: Jeff Lemire

Artist: Andrea Sorrentino

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Green Arrow vol. 4: The Kill Machine (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 13 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Action Comics #26-29 (2014)

Action Comics_Cv26I confess, I haven’t been a fan of DC’s New 52 reboot. But for all its disappointments, I’ve found some gems along the way. And one of my favorites is Greg Pak’s excellent run on Action Comics, and its MVP isn’t Superman…it’s Lana Lang.

Recent depictions of Superman (the Zack Snyder movies in particular) have portrayed him as far too god-like and terrifying, which really misses the point. But Pak found the perfect way to humanize the New 52 Superman—have him reconnect with a childhood friend.

This storyline shows the correct way to reboot a character. By making her an electrical engineer, Pak gives Lana a professional life and useful skills she had always lacked. But he retains the essence that made the character work previously—Lana is one of very few people who sees right through the big red S because she knew him when. If he’s in costume but no one else is around, she’ll call him “Clark,” because why wouldn’t she? And on top of all that, she’s downright likeable.

Pak also succeeds with Superman’s characterization, presenting him as a guy who befriends monsters because he takes the time to figure out which ones aren’t actually monsters. That’s a very Superman thing to do.

All in all, this is an enjoyable tale of two old friends reconnecting…in an exotic subterranean landscape filled with dangerous creatures.

Definitely a standout among recent Superman stories.

Writer: Greg Pak

Penciler: Aaron Kuder

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Action Comics vol. 5: What Lies Beneath (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up