THIS WEEK: Now on its fourth issue, Batman: Fortress has thoroughly snuck-up on our reviewer, who examines whether or not this comic actually whips ass. Also, this week sees the release of a Human Target prequel and a Swamp Thing finale.
Note: This piece 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.
Batman: Fortress #4
Writer: Gary Whitta
Artist: Darick Robertson
Colorist: Diego Rodriguez
Letterer: Simon Bowland
I didn’t know what to make of Batman: Fortress at first. Right away I noticed that it looked great, armed as it was with Darick Robertson artwork (colored by frequent collaborator, Diego Rodriguez), with Robertson being a personal favorite. Past that, though, Batman: Fortress #1 struck me as kind of funky. I wasn’t overly familiar with writer Gary Whitta (perhaps best-known for co-developing the story of Rogue One), and it’s continuity was tough to pin down. Alfred is still alive in this one, Lex Luthor is president, etc., as was Batman’s voice, just a bit lighter than it has been in mainline fare of late.
But now, four issues later, here we find Batman and President Lex Luthor trudging around the snow together looking for a missing (maybe stolen?) Fortress of Solitude, in its place a gigantic icy hole, and you know what? I think this comic lowkey whips ass. I think I like this comic a lot, actually, and I think it just might be one of those DC Universe romps, wherein a group of talented creators are having a blast doing interesting and different things with the full breadth of the universe’s ideas, locations, concepts, and characters (see also the Very Good Batman: Universe). This book has a voice to it that sort of declares, We’re having fun here, and you will too if you come along for the ride with us. That sort of confidence and whimsy does wonders for out-of-continuity superhero comics.
Past that, I’ve also been impressed with this comic’s structure. It’s built around a mystery, but it’s fairly linear. There are hints that something odd has happened with Superman in the recent past, but Batman: Fortress never resorts to one of my comics pet peeves — chopping up chronology for the sake of heightening mystery elements that would otherwise read as dull. Unless your story actually has to do with time thematically, I’d rather you just show me what’s happening, without jumping around for the sake of it. Batman: Fortress doesn’t need to do that at all. It’s just a straight up a compelling mystery we’re dealing with here. One that is stumping Batman, and also me as a member of the audience, undoing as it has all my expectations for what is really going on with the aliens threatening the earth.
In fact, the mystery elements, the slight teases, and the rate of revelation for what we do learn here has all been handled so well in these four comics, that I find myself able to relax, to lean back with full confidence that the creative team will not only land this bad boy, but will do so after taking us through I don’t know how many additional twists. And that’s really a high compliment, as writing for this website requires that I read probably too many superhero comics, less for enjoyment and more for trying to parse out which ones are worthiest of a recommendation.
Anyway, the end of this issue sees us at the halfway point for this eight-issue story, and we’ve so far seen plenty of DC characters used in interesting ways as Batman continues to forge new alliances in the name of overcoming a mystery he can’t crack. The end of this one sees a new Green Lantern aligning with Batman, along with the continued ally-ship of President Lex Luthor, and by the time I put it down, I had settled my own question, the one from the headline of this piece — as a point of order, I do, in fact, think that Batman: Fortress whips ass.
Verdict: Buy It
- Tales of the Human Target #1 arrives this week. Essentially, this book shows us the Human Target actually being a human target, doing his job and encountering some of the Justice League International cast that would feature so prominently in the main title. This issue is, of course, written by Tom King, who collaborates with several different artist, one for each of the characters who appear here: Green Lantern, Booster Gold, and Fire. Your Green Lantern scenes are drawn by Rafael Albuquerque (colored by Dave Stewart), your Booster Gold scenes by Kevin Maguire (colored by Alex Sinclair), and your Fire scenes by Mikel Janin (colored by Arif Prianto) with framing pieces by Greg Smallwood and letters by Clayton Cowles. I liked this comic well enough, though I remain thoroughly annoyed by King’s specific take on Booster Gold, which makes his flaws less about hubristic shortcuts and more about being Homer Simpson or something.
- Finally, The Swamp Thing #16 wraps up a truly fantastic maxi (and then some) series about this character, which homages great runs of the past (one page specifically does that in this issue) while pushing Swamp Thing in new and very welcome directions. Your creative team for this book is writer Ram V, artist Mike Perkins, colorist Mike Spicer, and letterer Aditya Bidikar. Curious to see what Perkins specifically does next for DC (all his recent work for them has been excellent), and hoping that the new Swamp Thing shows up in Ram’s excellent Detective Comics run, which is plenty gothic enough for that particular cameo to make perfect sense.
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