If you’re like me you only have limited funds for your comic books. Kat “Comic Uno” West wrote an article to help you afford your comics. But there is just too much exciting stuff going on in the world of comics right now. Marvel’s got the whole Avengers vs X-Men thing going on (roping in nearly all of the X-titles and all the Avengers titles) as well as Jonathan Hickman’s great run on Fantastic Four and FF. DC has All Star Western, Batman, Batwoman, and the excellent Wonder Woman. Image Comics has been on fire with Chew, Saga, and The Manhattan Projects. So when there’s all that going on out there, does it make sense for DC to publish so many Batman books?
Sure Batman is one of DC’s signature characters (one of his books even shares the name with the company) and adding Batman to any book is supposed to boost sales. (Hence his appearance in Justice League International) However, given that DC seems committed for the time being to only publish 52 books at a time and given the budgetary issues mentioned above, DC may be keeping users from exploring other books and characters if they decided to collect all that is Batman.
Right now we have five direct Batman book. (We don’t be considering ancillary titles like Nightwing, Batgirl, etc) Let’s take a look at each of the books before we consider whether we have too many books:
This is the original Batman book. Batman first appeared within its pages (in issue #27) before also getting his own book, Batman. Detective Comics has been many things to many people, but in recent years its writers have tended to take the “detective” part of the name as an instruction and have focused the comics on showing how Batman is the world’s greatest detective. Before the New 52 it featured Robin as Batman as he tried to solve mysteries.
It will soon be changing writers to John Layman (starting with issue #13) so we don’t know what direction it will end up taking. Under Tony S Daniel’s run, the story has been a little uneven. It also seemed to be a little more action oriented rather than featuring detective work. It has generally not been well received.
This book has been running nearly as long as Detective Comics. In the New 52 it has been Scott Snyder’s brain-child and has been made the flagship title in the Batman corner of the DC universe. For example, the Court of Owls storyline spilled out of here into the rest of the Batman-related books (Nightwing, Batgirl, Birds of Prey, etc and even All Star Western) and the upcoming Joker story arc will do the same. If you’ve been reading my reviews here on Player Affinity you know that I think Snyder has been doing amazing work with this book. He seems to have carried over his style from his pre-New 52 run on Detective Comics because this book seems to feature lots of detective work by Bruce.
Batman and Robin
This book was created during Grant Morrison’s time controlling the Bat-Universe. At the time it focused on Dick Grayson as Batman with Damian Wayne as Robin. There was a great “the study has become the master” vibe with the book. It continued in the New 52 as a book about Bruce and Damian as he finally comes to terms with being a father. (Damian had been in and out of his life throughout Grant Morrison’s run)
Peter J Tomasi is writing the book now and he’s been making some great strides in evolving both characters. While Damian has regressed a little in both of the New 52 books in which he’s featured, he has shown some growth over the past arc and a half. Bruce has shown the most growth as he finally has made peace with his parents’ death and Damian may finally be able to crack his outer shell in a way in which his adopted Robins never have been able to.
Batman: The Dark Knight
This book was created right before the New 52. Production delays kept it from having more than a few issues before it had to be reset for the New 52. We’ll never know what the real purpose of the book was before the reboot, but post-reboot it has been a mess. Early solicits had promised that the book would examine the effect of Bruce having somewhat come forward as Batman when he had the press conference saying that Waynetech was supporting Batman and Batman Incorporated. There was a curious and obnoxious cop in the first issue and then it suddenly became Batman and Friends with The Flash and Superman showing up.
DC has since put Gregg Hurwitz on the book and his arc shows a lot of promise, but this book still remains the main catalyst for my writing this article.
Regardless of whether you think Grant Morrison’s writing is over-rated, Batman Incorporated is the culmination of years of work by Grant Morrison on Batman and Batman and Robin. Unfortunately, part of Morrison’s vision has been compromised by the New 52. Characters and situations that feed, albeit tangentially, into Batman Incorporated either don’t exist or have radically altered timelines now. Ignoring that, this is a masterpiece to cap all his work on Batman and it’s even more important considering his announcement that he will be ending his super hero work for DC (at least for the foreseeable future).
It focuses on Bruce and Damian as they try to unravel Talia’s plot (now that they know she’s behind Leviathan) and it operates somewhat outside the purview of the other Bat-titles; it didn’t participate in the Night of Owls, for example.
So those are our five books. Grant Morrison will be leaving Batman Incorporated with issue #12 and I think the smart thing would be to end the book since it’s so rooted in his vision of the Batman mythos. However, since we don’t know for sure as I write this feature, let us assume it will continue.
What are the benefits of having five Batman books? Well, at the most basic level it’s as simple as being able to tell five Batman stories at once. Scott Snyder’s first arc just took the majority of a year and if it was the only Batman title, it would mean that it might take years for New 52 Batman to come up against his traditional rogue’s gallery, to say nothing of new villains like the Court of Owls. On a deeper level, it allows us to see into different levels of Batman’s life and psyche. Detective Comics can focus on mysteries, Batman can focus on huge Gotham stories, Batman and Robin can focus on the father/son relationship, Batman: The Dark Knight can focus on some other aspect, and Batman Incorporated can focus on the World-Wide Batman Franchise.
However, there are also some disadvantages, especially the way DC is currently running things. Each of the five books focuses on such different aspects of Batman’s life that they seem to be five different individuals. Part of that can be attributed to the fact that the different books are taking advantage showing the different sides of Batman as I mentioned above. However, it looks weird that Nightwing has appeared in Batman more than Damian has - after all he lives with Bruce. In fact, in Batman Incorporated it’s stated that Damian is grounded for his protection from Talia’s assassins. Until the most recent story arc he was also absent from Batman: The Dark Knight. I don’t expect Robin to be out on all of Batman’s missions. Sometimes Batman has to do stuff on his own without Robin. (That’s even part of the conflict in both Batman and Robin and Batman Incorporated) However, it was weird to see Nightwing come talk to a busted up Bruce post-Night of the Owls and not get Damian’s reaction to seeing his father like that or even the idea of someone that could do that to him. Detective Comics and Batman: The Dark Knight also have Bruce with two different women which seems to imply there’s no way he’d get close to either of them, but some of the neatest Batman stories have involved him getting involved with Delilahs (like The Black Glove).
Given the simple fact that both Batman and Robin and Batman Incorporated are mainly focusing on the relationship between Bruce and Damian point to the fact that there is at least one too many books - especially given the fact that Batman and Robin was started by Morrison as part of the story that is culminating in Batman Incorporated. I’ve prefer to have seen Batman and Robin take a break once Dick left the cowl behind and have it come back after Batman Incorporated ended rather than have a convoluted timeline. Additionally, despite the great work Hurwitz is doing on Batman: The Dark Knight, I just don’t see the need for the book. I think we’re already exploring all the aspects of Batman with the other three books. I could only see a place for it if it decided to explore the mystical elements of Batman. (As Batwoman appears to be doing) I think it might even work better as a mini-series that’s published quarterly or something like that. And, even then, I would argue that most of Batman and Robin’s stories could probably fit into Batman and Detective Comics. So, yes there are too many Batman books. We may get some relief in 9-10 months if Batman Incorporated ends when Grant Morrison leaves, but that still leaves too many books. And, if DC insists on having four Batman books, I think they really need to get the writers to write a more cohesive Batman so he doesn’t seem like such a schizophrenic crime fighter who belongs in Arkham even more than his villains.