Batman is Almost as Threatening as Michael Keaton

A column article by: Ray Tate

Welcome to Tate Necessarily So. The Court of Owls concludes with a two parter in Batman. Batgirl meanwhile faces the new villainous team of Knightfall. Trina Robbins returns to Honey West. Vampirella tries to work with the Cestus Dei, and Witchblade encounters Red Sonja.


Pick of the Brown Bag


Batman #10

Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo{p}, Jonathan Glapion{i}, FCO Plascencia{c}


This is it. Batman breaks the Court of Owls. 

Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion make Batman almost as mean and threatening as Michael Keaton's Batman. That's the highest compliment I can pay. 

Batman trespasses, breaks and enters and tosses the head femme Owl's abode, partly to find evidence and partly just to get even. He then infiltrates Owl headquarters, re-establishing his role as the king of terror.

What at first appears to be a bid for realism, numerous cult members kill themselves when cornered, turns out to be a wishful thought that leads Batman into a darker descent. One Owl is not what he seems.

Like the best mystery writers, Snyder bases the clues on previously disclosed information that just seemed like window dressing. Batman of course deduces the truth, and these facts lead to a duel to the death with a traitorous Owl, roosting in plain sight. 


The backup story by Snyder, James Tynion and Rafael Albuquerque grants greater steel to Martha Wayne. By making Bruce's parents and former butler Jarvis Pennyworth people rather than plot devices, the creative team turns plot device into palpable tragedy. 



Batgirl #10

Gail Simone, Alitha Martinez{p}, Vincente Cifuentes{i}, Ulises Arreola{c}


After dealing with a cadre of car thieves Batgirl encounters a group of vigilantes that offers her membership. Lois Lane shows up in Batgirl's neighborhood to grill a charitable Big Bad, and Batgirl bails out her roommate Alyssa.

Batgirl's fight against the car thieves demonstrates her martial arts ability. Reading her narrative, explains her rationale and also characterizes her as a police commissioner's daughter. Her choice of words is perfect for a crimefighter. 

When something goes horribly wrong, justice perverted, Batgirl becomes a beacon of compassion. Batman would not have exhibited such empathy for a criminal. Not to say he's heartless. Batman in the past gave succor to victims of crime, but his actions would have been sterner and less affirming to the criminal in question. Batman simply hates criminals. Batgirl does not possess his gut-level revulsion for any criminal. That said, Batman probably would have been a lot more caring than expected, simply not warm about it. Batman also wouldn't have left, like Batgirl did.

Intimidated by security, threatened with legal action, Batgirl allows the security detail to care for the victim. This was a nice, plausible mistake, and not a dumb one that would simply indicate stupidity on the part of the character. Rather, it shows Babs' is still stretching her newly found legs. She's also not as fierce as the Dark Knight or free to run roughshod against the law. Batgirl however knows her departure to be a mistake, and when she returns she discovers the horror of Knightfall.

Knightfall consists of a metahuman vigilante squad. At first they test Batgirl to recruit her, but Batgirl fails the test, and Knightfall learns just how capable Batgirl is as an enemy. 


In these scenes, Simone displays Batgirl's experience as a Caped Crusader. The previous issues built up to this moment. In her debut she battled a serial killer. Next she fought an Arkham inmate to be. She battled a villain with one super power, and now Simone tests Batgirl's mettle against something Batman would have fought in an issue of The Brave and the Bold.

Alitha Martinez takes over as the sole artist this issue. Previously Martinez only contributed some pages, but the entirety is Martinez's baby, and the artist without flash captures the dynamism of the Darknight Daredoll. We see Batgirl engaging multiple foes with realistic moves and counter moves that become more complex as the power levels of her opponents shift upward. Martinez already displayed a talent for more straight forward drama. So it should come no surprise that when Barbara springs Alyssa from jail, and the talk turns to Bruce Wayne and the presence of the bat community, the underplayed interaction looks realistic.



Honey West #6

Trina Robbins, Sylvestre Szilaygi, James Brown{c}


A man clad as Robin Hood for a medieval fair hires Honey West to uncover the cut and paster of threatening letters. Our suspects fall in the femme range, for the Robin Hood elects the May Queen of the fair by determining a contestant's ability to squeak bed springs.

Robin Hood's wife Posey intended to hire Honey to gather evidence on her cheating husband. Honey's refusal due to a conflict of interest reinforces her professionalism and exemplifies Trina Robbins' understanding of the private eye's ethical code. It's Honey's restraint that facilitates the introduction of another character. Some G.G. Fickling readers might wonder why Robbins didn't use Eric March from the novels or Sam Bolt from the television series. The answer is simple. Neither being allies of Honey West could be suspect in the strangulation murder that occurs.

A Tackle of Honey

Robbins and Szilagyi evoke the spirit of Anne Francis in the narration, dialogue and the art. They furthermore subtly make Honey West a period piece of the early sixties; through the styles of dress, hairdos and the liberal attitude toward sexual hi-jinks. At the same time, James Brown makes Honey West an outstanding, colorful experience lost unfortunately when viewing the black and white television series. Right at the bat, Honey's lounging in pants that matches pet ocelot Bruce's luxurious fur, and various shades of rainbow flash and flow at the fair.



Vampirella #18

Eric Trautmann, Jose Malaga, Stefani Renee{c}


It seems that writer Eric Trautmann cleans up loose ends from the previous issues and involves Vampirella on a fresh, fright-filled case. This appearance however turns out to be a ruse.

Ani, the powerful Big Bad that Vampirella faced previously, intends to wreak vengeance against the altruistic alien blood-drinker. To achieve that, Ani frees one of Vampirella's greatest arch-foes, and bestows to the creature a new lease on life. 


The creature next does something quite disgusting to offer an original twist on a memorable Clive Barker short story moment. Deep in the bowels of a forgotten tunnel in the Vatican, another of Vampirella's opponents challenges her.

All of these intriguing events occur after Vee scares the living daylights out of the personnel comprising the Cestus Dei and visits her former handler Schuld, whom she crippled last issue. Schuld catalyzed the possession of Vee's friend Sofia by old enemy von Kreist.

She's Got Those Bette Davis Eyes

Vee exacts more retribution on the evil priest, allowing artist Jose Malaga to demonstrate Vee's eerie powers in addition to her athletic body.



Witchblade/Red Sonja #5

Doug Wagner, Cezar Razek, Marlon Ilagan{c}


Ragniel abducted Hope, daughter of Sara Pezzini, the wielder of Witchblade. Meanwhile, Red Sonja merges with the Witchblade but in the past where Ragniel mortally wounded period Witchblade bearer Nissa. Can two time periods converge to stop a monster?

First, let me explain what Ragniel wishes to do with the baby Hope:


"You will be the queen that avenges my betrayal by man…and gods. Your name will ring throughout the annals of eternity, and our children will stand by my side as I rule the heavens and the earth."


Dude, the Joker just looked at you funny. Ragniel wants to make it with a baby. Even for a monster, that's depraved. Now, I'm sure he'll mature her rapidly so she can physically withstand his abuse, but it's still repugnant. Yet… perfectly in character. Ragniel vomits flies on his followers to turn them into brain sucking monsters. He's a walking, talking abomination that the spicy pulps wouldn't even have touched. So yeah knocking boots with a baby, that's a walk in the park for this sick fuck.


So, we ask ourselves, does Ragniel deserve Sonja the Red and Sara Pezzini as enemies? Ragniel deserves to be chopped up into little pieces, and those pieces deserve to be burned while a spark of life still makes them quiver. So, a resounding yes. Ragniel deserves Sonja and Sara, and it looks like both ladies intend to wreak havoc upon him. Good for you ladies, good for you.




Ray Tate's first online work appeared in 1994 for Knotted. He has had a short story, "Spider Without a Web," published in 1995 for the magazine evernight and earned a degree in Biology from the University of Pittsburgh. Since 1995, Ray self-published The Pick of the Brown Bag on various usenet groups, where he reviewed comic books, Doctor Who novels, movies and occasionally music. Circa 2000, he contributed his reviews to Silver Bullet Comic Books (later Comics Bulletin) and became its senior reviewer. Ray Tate would like to think that he's young at heart. Of course, we all know better.

Community Discussion