Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Paul's Picks! - September 12, 2012

Well, it's that time again folks: Wednesday! And you know what Wednesday is?... Well, of course you do, you're reading a blog about comics, so you obviously know it's New Comics Day, a.k.a. Paul's favorite weekly holiday! And now for his much-anticipated pick-of-the-week...

Hello friends and fans! It's that time again, the day of the week that all comic-lovers so highly adore and anticipate, New Comics Day. And with that day comes the other part of Wednesday (or typically Thursday) that you all know and love: the newest edition of Paul's Picks! (Yes, yes, I know that's a bit presumptuous, but a guy's gotta keep his spirits up, right?)

September has been a bit of an iconic month for readers over the last year or so, especially in regards to DC comics. It was one year ago that the Big Heads decided to reboot the entire lineup, and thus the New 52 was born. One year later, they are releasing a month of Zero issues, which are intended to not only create a great jumping-on point for new readers, but also to answer some of the questions that long-time readers may have about the continuity in the DC universe.

As such, my own pull list was heavy laden with "0" issues, and so the one that rose to the top as my pick of the week is:

Batman and Robin by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason

The interwebs have been all aflame with buzz about Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's Batman series, which has certainly been deserved. With that being said, one of the unsung heroes of this relaunch has certainly been the high quality of the Batman and Robin series by Tomasi and Gleason. From the very first arc, introducing a new and compelling villain named "Nobody," they made it very clear that they have something special planned for the book. The interaction between the Wayne father and son is something that you can't really get anywhere else. The dynamic is played out to a point that it makes you wonder why it's not happening more in other Bat books.

In the vein of the other "Zero" issues, this month's entry takes you back to the beginning, specifically the birth and origin of Damian Wayne. As a long-time reader of Batman, I was already aware of the bare structure of this story. For new readers, however, I feel that this issue does a fantastic job of catching people up. We're introduced to Damian and his mother, Talia al Ghul. We see him from his unborn stasis, suspended in a "test tube" apparatus, to the point when he first meets his father. However, while this sounds like something we've already seen (particularly back in Batman and Son by Grant Morrison), Tomasi isn't telling that same sci-fi, gritty tale about a boy raised in the harsh and dangerous life of the League of Assassins. Instead, we see infant Damian, sitting at home with his mommy, beginning to questions the things in his life that he can't understand.

Nothing about Damian's life is standard. He's not even an average child of a single mother. He was incubated, not "born." He lives in a hideout, surrounded by violence and murder, much of which involves his own mother. And yet, the story told by Tomasi, and perfectly crafted by Gleason, is about a little boy who wants to know why his daddy isn't around. His one desire in life is to find out who his father is, and undoubtedly seek him out. This panel, where he finds and dons Batman's cape and cowl, which Talia has held on to over the years. That page embodies everything that I love about this issue. It condenses the story into that one moment, that one page, with the profoundly perfect line from a little boy: "Here, mama... Look... I'm a Bat." Wow. So simple that it could possibly even be missed, and yet this was the most powerful and punching moment I've read in a comic book in ages. Props to Gleason for making an image of the infant Damian somehow incredibly cute and yet foreboding at the same time.

For the new reader? This is one of the best introductory Zero issues I've read so far. For older fans of the series? This renewed my interest in Damian as a character and for this title itself in a way that I can't describe. This fervor, of course, hit its peak on the final page where Tomasi created his own version of the meeting of Damian and Bruce (originally drawn by the fantastic Andy Kubert). Just looking at that page made me want to run to my shelf and reread Batman and Son, all the way up to the most recent issue of Batman Inc. Well played, DC. Well played.

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