This week Sean Murphy’s Batman: White Knight begins, and Marvel gets spooky with Spirits of Vengeance!
Batman: White Knight #1 (of ) (DC Comics)
There have been countless classic Batman tales: The Dark Knight Returns, The Long Halloween, the entirety of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s run. Hell, even The Dark Knight counts as an incredible Batman story, despite being a movie and not a comic. With Sean Murphy’s Batman: White Knight, the hype was building that this story could be just as good as those other classics. And now that it’s out I can tell you this: the hype is real.
Set in an “Elseworlds” universe, White Knight finds the Joker being cured of his madness and deciding to become a public servant, with his main goal being bringing the Batman to justice. With this being the first issue of a eight issue series, we don’t get too much of this aspect of the story, but that doesn’t mean this opening issue isn’t without its strengths, many of which come from Sean Murphy’s stellar take on Batman, his allies, and of course, The Joker himself.
More people are aware of Murphy’s art style than his writing, but those who have read the awesome Punk Rock Jesus know that he’s one of the very few creators in comics who’s writing is just as good as his artwork, and with White Knight, he delivers a Batman universe that takes a little bit from all aspects of the character’s long history and uses it to create a Batman that is unique to him. There’s nods to the Tim Burton Batman (especially in regards to the Joker referring to himself as “Jack Napier”), the animated series, and even a little bit of Batman & Robin in regards to Alfred’s current state.
What makes White Knight work best though is that this is a universe that feels very much like our world. After being captured on camera brutally attacking the Joker as Commissioner Gordon and the GCPD look on, the media fallout against the police is swift and brutal. Plus, once the Joker is cured and begins building a case against the Batman and the GCPD, a large amount of his reasoning is pretty sound. It also doesn’t hurt that the questions posed about Batman’s actions in this issue are ones that would be brought up in the real world. We always look at the Batman as a hero, but very rarely do we think about the people on the street who have to deal with his actions every night (or the people sleeping under the roofs that his batmobile is driving on).
Of course, Sean Murphy isn’t just writing this miniseries, he’s also drawing it too. As one of my favorite artists working today, I knew I would like the art in this book, but I was still surprised at how much I loved Murphy’s take on Gotham here. Sure, we’ve seen it before in special Batman issues he’s drawn and covers, but White Knight allows Murphy to truly make HIS version of Batman and his world, and it fits right into the wheelhouse of Batman stuff I love: equal parts the 89 film, Nolan’s movies, the animated series, and a splash of the Arkham games. His designs for Batman, Batgirl, and Nightwing are all really cool and unique, but aren’t so far from the characters that you’d mistake them for someone else. Here’s hoping DC makes a designer series of statues and action figures for this story.
While it may be too early to call White Knight a new Batman classic (I typically wait and read the whole story before making that claim), I will say that this opening issue is damn good, and one of the best comics of the year. It’s accessible for both casual Batman fans who only know the movies and long time fans that’ve read every comic and know every version of the character. More importantly, it’s another awesome addition to Sean Murphy’s body of work.
Spirits of Vengeance #1 (Marvel Comics)
The Johnny Blaze Ghost Rider will always hold a special place in my heart, so I was pretty excited to hear that the character would be making a return in Marvel Legacy with Spirits of Vengeance. The latest attempt to bring all of Marvel’s supernatural characters together, the opening installment of Victor Gischler and David Baldeon’s five issue miniseries has a really interesting hook, but unfortunately there’s too much set up in this issue that causes the action to be very lacking.
When an angel is murdered, it’s up to Johnny Blaze’s Ghost Rider to find the creatures responsible. Unfortunately for Blaze, he’s not exactly the detective type, so he has to go to Daimon Hellstrom for more help. The two uncover a dark secret that could cause the realms of Heaven and Hell to go to war, and they’ll need to assemble a team of beings with similar powers in order to prevent Earth’s destruction.
For a book that features Ghost Rider, Blade, Hellstrom, and Satanna on the cover, you’d expect this opening issue to be packed with awesome Marvel horror action. Unfortunately this opening issue of Spirits of Vengeance is lacking. Gischler’s takes on Hellstorm and Blaze are great (thank god he doesn’t make Blaze sound like a “good old boy”), but there’s a lot of set up that, while serving the plot well, doesn’t make the book move at a fast pace. The mystery revolving around this team is interesting, but I worry that this slow pace will lead to similar problems in the rest of the series. This issue ends with Hellstrom contacting Blade, which means that we still don’t have the full team on the cover by the issues’ end. That doesn’t fill me with a lot of hope for this miniseries.
David Baldeon’s art, however, is pretty damn great. Baldeon has the perfect style for this type of book, and his cartoony figures work wonders on the weird, inhuman creatures that Ghost Rider encounters. While Baldeon’s style doesn’t work entirely for the human characters in this series, his action is fantastic and really well drawn. I wasn’t aware of his style before hand, but if he can land on a few more titles and keep his artwork looking this good, he’s be a star artist at Marvel in no time.
While Spirits of Vengeance was a bit of let down, I’m still intrigued by the rest of this series because I love the idea of a team of supernatural Marvel characters. Now that a bulk of the back story is finished, I’m hoping that the rest of this five issue miniseries will have a little more forward momentum. Ghost Rider deserves that much.