THIS WEEK: The DC Round-Up team convenes for their monthly roundtable chat, where they discuss the the state of the Batman Fear State event, as well as Aquaman: The Becoming #1.
Note: This discussion contains spoilers. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdicts.
ZACK QUAINTANCE: Hey team! We are once again gathered for a DC Round-Up Round Table. This week we’re going to be looking at the State of Fear State, but first, let’s talk about one of the more notable non-Batman books for the week — Aquaman: The Becoming #1. It’s been a while since there’s been an Aqua-focused title, and I was curious what you all thought of this launch?
CORI McCREERY: I liked it a lot. It’s very clearly moving things forward. It’s not ignoring Arthur, but it’s moving beyond him. He’s clearly in a mentor role here, but it’s very much Jackson’s story.
GREG SILBER: I’m not the world’s biggest Aquafan but I really enjoyed this. The art is stunning and I love how heavily it leans into the goofy side of the DCU. Arthur makes an offhand remark about leaving to meet Frankenstein on Mars, and if I was in charge of DC I’d make everyone throw a line like that into every issue at least once.
CORI: Yeah, that’s the thing, it makes sure to show you that Arthur still has his own stuff going on, but he’s not the Aquaman of this story.
ZACK: I liked that bit a lot, and I like that policy, Greg. It speaks to one thing I think this comic handles exceedingly well, and that’s tone. It’s not a jokey comic, but there’s a levity to it that the team uses really well to make the world engaging. These are characters that can swim through the oceans at rapid speed and interact with sealife. That’s all inherently a good time, and the book definitely gets it.
CORI: I also loved the diner seen with Jackson and his mom and the flustery interchange with the waiter. AND the interrogation after Jackson leaves. This book, like Crush & Lobo, keeps the DC Pride logo despite it no longer being June, and the interior reflects that too.
ZACK: Oh yeah, Jackson’s mom steals that scene, and is already an A+ supporting cast character. There’s also a nice theme of family that runs through this issue.
GREG: It’s cute, and I don’t mean that in a condescending way. Actually, that’s my take on this whole issue. It delights in the whimsical side of the DCU without being embarrassed about it or feeling the need to nod and wink to the audience.
ZACK: After this first issue, where do we think this series is headed? Surely there will be some Black Manta, right?
CORI: Probably? But he also has his own stuff going on? So who really knows. I just think it’s gonna be a fun ride.
GREG: I’d be shocked if Manta didn’t show up. I’d also be disappointed if we don’t get some King Shark action, considering his recent unprecedented surge in popularity. Also, I do hope Jackson goes on a date by the end.
CORI: I’d be surprised and disappointed if he doesn’t.
ZACK: I’m also vested in Jackson’s social life, which is definitely required of a good teen-hero book at this point. All in all, I just think this is a top-tier teen hero book first issue. If you look teen superhero drama, this is a good pickup, and then on top of that, I think fans of Aquaman in general will also enjoy it, because as we’ve pointed out, Arthur Curry is still here and still around and having his own plot develop with Mera and the baby, with fun glimpses popping up here from Jackson’s POV.
So yeah, this book gets a BUY from me.
CORI: Likewise BUY from me too.
GREG: BUY, and maybe buy an extra copy for a teen in your life.
ZACK: Buys all around. Let’s move on to the Batman – Fear State comics. There are four to talk this week, and we can get to them all, but first I want to just take a general state of fear state poll…where are we at with this event?
GREG: So, here’s where I admit that I’m still WAY behind on ongoing DC stuff. Luckily that means I can offer perspective for people thinking this might be a good jumping on point, and I’m happy to say it is. “Spookier Batman” is always a good framework to work from.
CORI: Yeah, much like the lead up to this, it just seems like the writers are talking more than they used to, and we know that’s because Tynion has made an effort to keep the office connected. It shows and I hope this remains the case in a couple months when he’s no longer here to keep that up.
GREG: I think this event benefits from the relative simplicity of the high concept, too. Which is also something I think many readers appreciate more at a certain age before they start demanding everything be Watchmen. That’s not to say these titles are dimwitted by any means, just that I get the sense the creators aren’t as confined as is so often the case in event crossovers. And that allows for really clever, fun stuff.
ZACK: As asinine as this is about to sound, this event feels both simple and complex to me. It’s simple in the sense of the Scarecrow material, but it’s also really done a great job of emphasizing its stakes, because we basically saw what would happen for two months if the heroes were to lose during those Future State comics. That all has me somewhat amazed at the planning that went into these books.
GREG: Oh yeah, I’m with you. The connective tissue is brilliant, but also not so crucial that I think readers who haven’t read Future State would be lost by any means. That’s how crossovers should work, ideally.
CORI: Yeah, exactly. The overarching concept is simple enough, but the way it plays out is less so. The nuances of everything that Tynion has built up to this point play out in intricate and interesting ways, and really set the stage for his grand finale.
ZACK: Let’s talk about the individual books. Did any stand out to you all? I liked all four this week — Batman Miracle Molly, Nightwing, Batman, and Catwoman — but there was one that stood out just a bit….
GREG: Miracle Molly was fascinating to me. I love her origin, and it’s been a while since I saw art that effectively surreal in a big 2 book. It’s Bill Sienkiewitz vibes without actually looking like Bill Sienkiewitz at all.
CORI: I’d say both Miracle Molly and Catwoman did for me. Ram V’s Catwoman has been stellar and the news that he’s stepping away from the book hit me like a ton of bricks today.
ZACK: So, Miracle Molly was the one that really blew me away.
CORI: Oh see, Greg, I got a different stylized artist vibe from Miracle Molly. To me it felt very much like Tim Sale, who’s name is synonymous with the Bat world at this point.
GREG: Oh you know what Cori, I didn’t have Tim Sale in mind consciously but I can totally see it. And that’s a very good thing. There’s a dreamlike, almost fairy tale-esque quality that I just can’t get enough of.
ZACK: Is DaNi’s work new to either of you? Because if so, please put Coffin Bound on your to-read lists, it’s so so good, especially if you enjoy gritty fairy tale-esque work.
CORI: Noted Zack, I was blown away by DaNi’s art in this so I’m definitely hungry for more.
GREG: I’ll have to add it to the ever-growing list. This was really something else.
ZACK: Excellent, my work here is done…but not really because we have four comics to go through. Anyway, I really dug Miracle Molly, and not just for the artwork. I remember thinking when we were getting previews of all these new Batman characters Tynion and co. were creating that these were going to have to be REALLY well-done to not feel gimmicky, and you know what? So far, they all are.
CORI: Yeah, even the one that felt the most gimmicky at first (Clown Hunter) has grown well beyond that and I’m really impressed.
I also wonder how much the comics division and TV division are talking right now, because both Titans and comics are doing big Scarecrow arcs, and Titans also introduced a friend named Molly in Jason’s life.
GREG: Cori, is the Titans show teasing a villainous turn for their Molly?
ZACK: I wonder about that, too Cori. The synergy is interesting because it’s been a bit absent of late and it’s not like Molly is a suuuper common name.
CORI: It is not, she’s Jason’s one human connection remaining, but when they said her name I was like “Hmmmmmm”
GREG: “One human connection remaining” sounds like a perfect setup for a new villain, though!
ZACK: It’s something to think about, and I think the fact we’re all kind of curious now speaks to just how well done the character is in these comics so far. This issue was a really compelling backstory that gave her a great personal reason to be tangled up with Batman and the rest of the Gotham nonsense. Just great work, and I’m definitely giving it a BUY.
CORI: Ditto, yet again, another BUY.
GREG: BUY from me as well. And I’m here to tell anyone on the fence because they haven’t been keeping up with the main series, it’s totally worth going in blind. This is a really strong single issue.
ZACK: Let’s talk about the main Batman book this week, Batman #113. Greg, I think you had some thoughts about Batman and horror, which would probably be great to share with this one because of the four books this week, it felt the scariest to me, or at least the one most interested in fear as a concept.
GREG: Okay, so here’s the thing. There’s a history of creators trying to tell horror stories with Batman and/or the Bat Family. I can even argue Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight is a horror movie in terms of its general structure. But Batman, despite the spooky aesthetics, is too much of a quintessential superhero to be a horror character, and the only member of the Bat Family who consistently works in a horror framework is Batwoman.
But here’s the other thing: James Tynion IV is a horror writer at heart. Ram V has a strong horror resume too. And I think there’s an understanding on display here of how the Bat Family functions (and doesn’t) in a horror context that we don’t always get in other attempts. Did you two get that impression too?
I guess what I’m saying is, it feels authentically Batman to me in a way that that Elseworlds story where he becomes a vampire doesn’t, while still being horror.
CORI: Oh, yeah, that definitely makes sense for how well this is all working. Even the weakest of this week’s books has a writer well versed in horror in Tom Taylor.
ZACK: Absolutely. I mean, they’re mixing horror elements and Batman really well…but none of it feels forced. Like they’re finding the inherent fear and giving us story reasons it’s coming to the fore. I hadn’t thought about their horror credentials, but you’re right about that too.
You all, I’m going to cut to the chase here and just say this one is BUY for me, as this title has been for a good while now. It’s just a great Batman run, and I know I’m sounding repetitive here but I’d recommend it to any and all fans of the character.
GREG: I mean, it’s yet another good Batman story from a writer who’s pretty consistently delivered those for a solid decade, and you can jump right in. BUY
CORI: We’re starting to sound like a broken record but yeah. BUY
GREG: Sorry for the repetition, folks. It’s not our fault that they’re all good comics.
The main criticism most readers have of crossovers is they disrupt what’s happening in an ongoing story, and I felt that a little bit here.
CORI: It’s not that Nightwing is bad it’s just not as good as the other three books. But yeah, it’s pulling Dick right out of Bludhaven RIGHT AFTER he started fixing things.
GREG: So a weird thing is I read this before everything else, so I didn’t catch the vibe of the other Fear State books yet. Again, I haven’t read Nightwing since Tom Taylor’s first issue, but this just read like a solid (if not especially memorable) Nightwing issue to me. shrugs
I suppose it is the weakest of the bunch, but man I love that Robbi Rodriguez art.
CORI: I did enjoy the Dynamic Duo again, but the rest of it mostly felt like it spent the whole issue setting up Nightwing’s part of the crossover without actually doing anything.
ZACK: It’s a solid issue to be sure, and it looked great. And honestly I’m not going to complain too loudly about having Dick Grayson join with the rest of the crew for a story as big as Fear State. It just had to explain on page why he was even there, and I think that was a little telling.
GREG: That’s fair.
CORI: I’d say it’s the only one of the four for me that gets a BROWSE.
GREG: Yeah, I guess that’s where I have to land too.BROWSE
Okay, so the last book of the night is Catwoman. Thoughts?
GREG: It’s pretty.
CORI: Well like I said at the beginning, it was the other highlight of the week for me, but it does rely on you knowing what has been going on in Catwoman up until this issue, because it’s the opposite of Nightwing, in that rather than breaking out of the main story of the book, the main story of the book is driving it’s place in Fear State.
GREG: Yeah, this was the only one I felt a little lost on. Which isn’t to say I couldn’t follow it, but it’s definitely not a jump-on point like the others.
ZACK: I enjoyed it, but now that you all mention it, it was the most predicated on several ongoing stories. I could see where as a new reader you might be a bit lost.
So what are we thinking, BUY If you’re already in on this run and BROWSE If you’re just reading Fear State?
GREG: Well, I can’t speak for those caught up. But I’m saying BROWSE
CORI: Yeah, Greg’s perspective got me thinking about that. It’s a whole hearted BUY from me, but with the caveat that you should be BUYing the whole dang series because it’s among the best Catwoman runs we’ve ever had.
GREG: I will catch up Cori! Eventually!
ZACK: It’s a BUY for me as well, with a note that I am very much invested in this run and echo Cori’s recommendation there.
Okay crew, well that wraps things up this week! I think we’re all in agreement here that these are all very good comics (even if some come with slight caveats) and this event is just Very Good, is that safe to say?
GREG: Yeah. It’s spooky Batman and it works.
ZACK: Indeed, well thank you folks for reading, and um, try to conqueor your fear? Idk, Greg you do the signoff this week…
GREG: Okay, you know what I’m most scared of right now? The comments section.
ZACK: On that note, please be kind…and we’re out!
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