Batman #643

Reviewer: Tim Stevens
Story Title: Minor Discrepancies

Written by: Bill Willingham
Pencilled by: Giuseppe Camuncoli
Inked by: Sandra Hope
Colored by: Jason Wright
Lettered by: Pat Brosseau
Editor: Bob Schreck
Publisher: DC Comics

First off, I just want to make it clear that I didn’t buy this comic. I practice what I preach and since I disliked (or hated, rather) War Games, I haven’t followed War Crimes. However, assignments came out, duty called, so I borrowed this and the previous issue from my friend and colleague Tim Sheridan. Thus, I can provide you all with my review and still vote with my wallet. The best of all possible worlds.

So, what’s up with War Crimes? Do I hate it?

Actually, not really. Don’t rush out to buy the issue though. I didn’t love it (or, really, like it) either.

Starting with the cover, I have to give props to Jock once more. He just does excellent work. I’m not sure if he’s responsible for the word balloon too, but it gave me a chuckle.

Sadly, the guts of the book did not leave me with the same smirk. But once more, I am in a rush to criticize. First, the good.

I was heavily critical of how Willingham wrote Black Mask the first time around. I thought ol’ Mask came across as Joker-lite and the whole torture of Spoiler/simple offing of Orpheus only made me dislike him under Willingham’s direction even more (and not dislike in that way you should dislike villains). Here though, Willingham did a credible job with Mask. He’s not as witty or urbane as Winick has been rendering him as of late, but I didn’t once desire to rip apart the comic and toss it into a blast furnace. In fact, Mask didn’t bug me at all. I know that sounds like a back-handed compliment, but trust me when I tell you that it is actually a vast improvement.

Say what I will about Willingham’s handling of Bat characters, he writes undeniably good Alfred/Bruce banter. Props to that.

Now, the so-so. Camuncoli’s art is fine. I’ve liked it some of the other places I’ve seen it. Here though…it is lacking something. Maybe gravity? Some fairly brutal things happen in this issue and Camuncoli’s work portrays them clearly enough but none of them feel as strong as they should. I think he is a good artist, but he, perhaps, wasn’t the right choice for this script.

Why is Black Mask wearing the old Batman with a yellow circle costume? I mean, artwise, I get that it is easier to keep track of the real and faux Bats but even in DC time, Batman hasn’t employed those duds in at least a year.

Joker is barely in the issue (despite being on the cover) and when he appears he is neither funny nor scary, and certainly not both. After the conclusion of that storyline in Gotham Knights and the whuppin’ he received at the hands of the Red Hood, Joker needs a major crime to prop him back up to top Bat-villain. Here, he comes across as an also-ran that is easily defeated. It’s nice to see Batman so definitively hand the Crown Prince of Crime his head, but it does not make for interesting reading.

Aaron Black is “meh”. We know he’s bad, we just don’t know why yet. I’d prefer a bit more ambiguity on this front. Random thought: Where is Nick Scratch these days and could this guy be him? Just throwing that out there.

Finally, the bad. I can’t stand what is going on with Leslie. I can’t believe that she’s involved, and I think, in the end, that she won’t be. The fact that the script even tries to make us think that she might be is insulting. And, God forbid, it turns out that she is… well, I just can’t think about that right now.

I’m about done with this whole “the media is anti-Batman” plot idea. It’s boring and I don’t care.

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