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ORACLE OF COMICS #032 – BATMAN ETERNAL #21 – TEN FORTY-EIGHT

By Luke Abbott

Batman Eternal #21 Bullock
Halfway through Issue #21 of Batman Eternal, you think that you are reading a filler comic. It isn’t bad, but is one of those issues that this series churns out every now and again, where the story is slowly built upon, but is mainly an excuse to add some character development to proceedings. Good, but not essential. However, when the comic hits the halfway point, it speeds right up to the maximum, hitting us with a terrific scene with Alfred, a brand new villain entering the fray (no spoilers, but he is one of my favourites!), and a twist that will shake the foundations of this story.

If it seemed that I was criticising the slower first half of the comic, I wasn’t. I like that the side characters were developed. We got to see a few tender moments from characters that are often overlooked in the grand scheme of things. Harvey Bullock has been on exposition duties from day one, but this issue, we get to see his take on the events of the last twenty issues. We get a sneak peek into the private life of Bard and Vicki Vale. Falcone turns out to still be a player in the conspiracy (he is much better now he is not centre of attention, but allowed to just show up and be menacing from time to time). These small moments might seem like they are time-wasting, which they might very well be, but it does make Batman Eternal feel like a bigger thing. Everyone is a three-dimensional character and it makes the events that unfold have a much more dramatic read.

Batman Eternal #21 Falcone
Also, how badass was Alfred! Out of all of the supporting cast that never get truly explored in Batman, Alfred is usually the first to be dropped. He serves well for the origin and all of the stories that are closer to home, but for a lot of Batman stories, it’s hard to think up a reason to include him. Today, Alfred gets to show off. He is given an extended scene, where he just screams awesomeness from every angle. He has some great dialogue, handles a weapon impressively and somehow unleashes the Vulcan grip to put someone to sleep. I am glad that now Eternal has a bit of free time to explore new story avenues, Alfred was chosen to be a key part in the next one. I hope we get more moments like this from him.

Batman Eternal #21 Alfred
And that twist at the end! I am still not sure what to think of it. It definitely surprised me, but I might need to go over a few of the previous issues to decide if it makes sense or not. I hope it is a planned twist and not something thrown in to make Eternal more jaw-dropping. The next few issues on this twist be fully handled will be make or break for Eternal. Like last issue with Spoiler’s reveal, it does have the same annoying effect of the civilian characters either becoming superheroes or bad guys, rather than just being ordinary for once. But at least with the latter, it has the promise of doing something genuinely interesting. For now, I am glued to Eternal and unable to guess what this story has in store for us.

Quote of the Issue:

Alfred: You have broken into my home. You are a threat to my family. Master Wayne might have a predilection against firearms… but I’m afraid he isn’t home right now.

For more comic views and reviews follow Luke on Twitter at @LukeBbtt and check out his website at www.oracleoffilm.com

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Posted on September 1st, 2014
Category: ORACLE OF COMICS, REVIEWS
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ORACLE OF COMICS #031 – TOMB RAIDER #7 – IN MEMORIAM

By Luke Abbott

Tomb Raider is back, with a brand new story. The series is on shaky ground right now, not winning over any new fans, but partially annoying the current Tomb Raider crowd. A new story could be just the ticket to make Gail Simone’s series feel more best-selling.

Tomb Raider #7 Alex
While trekking through Snowdon, commemorating a touching childhood moment she had with Roth, Lara is struck with a vision. The vision includes her dead friend, Alex, begging her to save his sister who is in peril from something. Lara makes a few phone calls and discovers that his sister is currently in the Ukraine. Her search leads her to Chernobyl, where it becomes clear she is stumbling upon something big, especially when strange Americans start asking questions about her all over the globe. It is a hit and miss start to the story, touching upon a couple of my pet story-telling peeves. One is the whole adventure kicking off, because of a vision. It is probably meant to tie in with the new Rise of the Tomb Raider trailer, where she visits a psychiatrist, but I felt the scene was too heavy-handed and convenient. I wasn’t sold. Also, we are still mentioning Yamatai and reintroducing us to the game’s characters every few moments. On the bright side, it does seem like Simone is trying to write them off, with Lara making the decision to go out on her own, rather than risking her friends. Yes, this issue has some big problems, but I am going to call this first issue syndrome and hope that its job was to rush through the necessary exposition and set up a good five issues of action.

Tomb Raider #7 Wolves
My opinion of Dark Horse’s Tomb Raider is a weird one. I like it. I really do. It always seems to go off in the wrong direction (Yamatai as a plot point, needless flashbacks), but the core design (pun for the true fans), of this comic always shows promise. The dialogue is sharp, the action is crisp and Simone always finds time for Lara to be Lara (e.g.: the wolves!). There is the sense that this is the Tomb Raider comic we want, but we are just reading a rare, weak story. This is why the next few issues will be very important for the readers: was Gail Simone’s first story merely setting up the real comics she wants to write, or is this a series we could be better off dropping from our monthly costs?

Quote of the Issue:

American Detective: Why don’t you make me one of those delicious wheatgrass teas, pour it in the garbage and bring me a beer?

For more comic views and reviews follow Luke on Twitter at @LukeBbtt and check out his website at www.oracleoffilm.com

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Posted on September 1st, 2014
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ORACLE OF COMICS #030 – HARLEY QUINN #10 – THERE ARE NO RULES

By Luke Abbott

Harley Quinn #10 Ouch
Harley Quinn finally goes to Skate Club, where she is allowed to unleash her full Harley carnage on her opponents, without any repercussions. I had dedicated this entire paragraph to explaining the plot, but… that is about it. Um… next paragraph!

There Are No Rules is a pretty weak addition of Harley Quinn. I just don’t like the skating stories I think. They are predictable and don’t hit the mark quite as well as you want them to. I still stand by my point of the jokes being the same, but slightly bigger each time. Yes, the Skate Club format means that the bloody kill for a punchline is more gruesome than before, but it’s still the same format of joke. Harley takes a sport and turns it violent. We have laughed at this before. The banter between the team mates instantly isn’t as funny as it could be too. My biggest problem with this issue is that it feels separate from the rest of the characters, who are much more amusing to spend time with. The skater girls don’t really have their own personalities and just become a tool for the writers to fire jokes off of. If they never showed up again from this issue onwards, I doubt anyone would actually notice or care too much.

Harley Quinn #10 Stars
However, there is one sequence which is phenomenally funny. Harley gets knocked out and her mind travels to a galaxy far, far away, where we are treated to an extended sequence of an extra-terrestrial space fight. It is so random and out of the blue, (a new art style is used to highlight this), that you find it terrifically funny. The writers manage to tie it into the overall storyline by the end of the comic, but part of you didn’t want them to. I just wanted this four pages of alien nonsense to be a stand-alone gag that served no other purpose than to be wacky and zany. That is the Harley Quinn comedy I like.

I think this kind of issue comes with the territory of this kind of comic. Harley Quinn is a series where you are meant to sit back and just laugh. It doesn’t have the larger story arc or mystery that I get with Batman Eternal, but I accept that. It just means that every now and again, one of the issues doesn’t quite work. That’s OK, because I know that the next issue will probably hit the mark perfectly.

Harley Quinn #10 Quote
Quote of the Issue:

Isabella: (talking about Jaws) That film was propaganda against sharks. They are very misunderstood creatures.

For more comic views and reviews follow Luke on Twitter at @LukeBbtt and check out his website at www.oracleoffilm.com

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Posted on September 1st, 2014
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ORACLE OF COMICS #029 – BATMAN ETERNAL #20 – WILD ANIMALS

By Luke Abbott

Batman Eternal #20 Croc
Wild Animals continues the streak of action-packed fight scenes. I slightly prefer the last issue, but at least Eternal seems to be picking up the pace at a rapid rate. Here, we get the conclusion of three storylines and the birth of another one.

We start off instantly with Batman, Croc and Bard taking on Ten-Eyes and his army of spectres. This storyline is tied up a little too neatly for me, but it does feature some neat set-pieces. I assumed that Ten-Eyes’ abduction of Gotham citizens would tie into Deacon Blackfire’s schemes, seeing as they both having ghostly figures lurking around the sewers as an integral part of their plot. Sadly, it seems that Gotham is just unlucky enough to have two supernatural invasions in one night. (While we are mentioning Blackfire, where has he got to? That imminent threat was a cliffhanger a couple of issues ago that has been shoved onto the back-burner). Essentially, reviewing this entire three issue story, we can chalk this up to a simple distraction from the ongoing story, which does make this finale a little flat. We wanted it to be another part of the conspiracy, yet now this entire side of Eternal is dead in the water. At the very least, it did give us some time with Killer Croc, who is always a fun character, and Bard’s development continues strongly. I can’t say I hated my time with these three heroes.

Batman Eternal #20 Pluck
Gordon’s story comes to an end rather abruptly. It is all good, but I assumed there would be four issues worth of Falcone-fighting to get through. Gordon is apparently too efficient a hero for my liking. That being said, it is nice seeing him take on an army of goons using his wits. He hasn’t got the gadgets that Batman has, so it is rewarding to watch him hold his own in an action sequence. The downside of this story being cut short is that we never really got any more time with Falcone or the Penguin. I was hoping that they would get a few monologues out of their characters being mentioned again, maybe some more rationalisation with the wardens of Blackgate. I felt that would have been an interesting feature to have, but sadly the return of these two villains wasn’t so much of a return, but more of a prolonged cameo. On the plus side, there is a great twist to end this story, that I didn’t see coming. It adds a nice after-thought to the gang war saga that doesn’t bring too much to the plot, but adds a neat little layer of intelligence and development to the series.

Batman Eternal #20 Batgirl
Finally, Batgirl catches up with Falsario. This storyline suffers the most, as there is simply no time to do this one justice. I would have relished in Batgirl’s character a little more if I was writing this chapter. She is always threatening to break into her dark side and this fight would have been the ideal time for her to maybe go too far with the vigilante persona. As it stands, the sequence is cut drastically short, although it does add some more questions, which will keep Eternal on the watch list for comic-readers everywhere. I just hope that the ending development doesn’t mean that Batgirl’s arc has come to an end, as she was the most interesting sub-character of the lot.

And then there is one twist to end the comic. I don’t like it. A side character essentially adopts a superhero alter-ego and I didn’t see the point. I loved this character as a civilian, helpless against the corruption of Gotham. It was a new dynamic, yet now this character is yet another Robin knock-off. This storyline is now no different to the rest of Eternal. Not every character needs to be a superhero, yet the writers don’t seem to want to have a civilian develop without donning a costume at some point. I will be watching this side of Eternal with very judgemental eyes.

Quote of the Month:

Row: Go pluck yourself, Cobblepot.

For more comic views and reviews follow Luke on Twitter at @LukeBbtt and check out his website at www.oracleoffilm.com

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Posted on September 1st, 2014
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ORACLE OF COMICS #028 – HARLEY QUINN #9 – SOME NERD RAGE WITH YOUR BIRDCAGE?

By Luke Abbott

Harley Quinn #9 Badoink
Out of all of the upcoming Harley Quinn issues previewed online, this was the one that I was a little unsure about. The brief summary tells us that Harley Quinn will be covering as a burlesque dancer at a bar. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes; I love Harley Quinn, but I really didn’t want to see the writers try and use the comic to act out their Harley Quinn skin suit fantasies.

The first part of this issue plays out exactly like that. Harley is getting ready for a show and we already see her half-nude, essentially becoming the male fantasy for the night. She goes on stage, takes off most of her clothes and kisses another woman. In fact, she nearly rips the clothes off of her co-dancer (who was already pretty scantily-clad), in one frame. It is all a little too voyeuristic for me. It is clear that the male readers are meant to be sitting back and enjoying some Harley skin, but it doesn’t sit right with me. There is nothing wrong with being attracted to Harley Quinn, but there is something degrading about seeing the actual character reduced to some eye candy. This series was doing so well at giving us a strong Harley figure, but this has just taken the ‘sexy’ trait to the character too far. For me, this does not work and is not something I want to see in future issues.

Harley Quinn #9 Rat
Thankfully, the burlesque club is actually little more than a narrative device to get the real story rolling. Harley, in a punch-up in the burlesque club, gets knocked out and taken hostage by a police officer. Or at least, she thinks he is a police officer. It turns out that he is an obsessive stalker that wants to lock Harley into a cage, until she falls in love with him. Of course, Harley Quinn has a way of making the madcap, even madder, so it isn’t long before she is treating the cage like a throne and having her hostage-taker run errands around town. This was a really funny scene and showed Harley in a position of power. If I was to pick hairs here, I would have to mention that this story still revolves around how hot Harley is. The writers try to cram in as many euphemisms for ‘ass’ that they can. I don’t mind this form of sexual innuendo in the comics, as here it degrades the men in the story, rather than Harley, but seeing as it does closely follow the burlesque scene, it feels like a small improvement, rather than winning me back over.

Harley Quinn #9 Caged
Thankfully, Harley Quinn is never anything less than laugh out loud. It always has a joke just around the corner to keep me entertained. Sure, the burlesque scene annoyed me, but the hipsters in the crowd were worth a chuckle. The hamster still has a bullet hole taken out of him from a while back. The endless Staten Island jokes. It was hilarious to watch Harley break down the Miranda rights in such a funny fashion. The gags keep hitting the mark so well, how can I truly write this comic off. Harley Quinn is a tough character to write for and no matter how good previous issues have been, we must respect that this is always a tricky challenge. This is one particular issue where the writing lost its way, yet the jokes kept it on a steady enough course to avoid total failure.

And one interesting note: the first page introduces a new over-arching storyline. One of Harley’s tenants has a son in prison and has a plan to spring him out that involves Harley. Just a taste of what’s to come, but it helps keep us riveted.

Quote of the Issue:

Hipster 1: I’m going to titter how dismayed I am to all of my followers.

Hipster 2: Me too! I’ll insta-slam the ass off this place.

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Posted on August 16th, 2014
Category: ORACLE OF COMICS, REVIEWS
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ORACLE OF COMICS #027 – BATMAN ETERNAL #19 – BREAKING BAT

By Luke Abbott

Batman Eternal- #19 Croc
First things first: best title ever.

And now onto the rest of the comic. This was quite a jam-packed issue, but in the right way. It cleverly picks up three stories that each have something different to offer. Batman carries on from last issue, tracking down the mysterious kidnappers in the sewers, teamed up with Killer Croc and Bard. It is nice to see these three great characters, even if they do little more than lurk around and look awesome (the artwork for Croc is terrific). Then we have a brand new plot-line with Jim Gordon. Falcone and Penguin are continuing their gang war from inside Blackgate Prison and Gordon finds himself in the position where only he stands between the convicts and the lives of several prison guards, taken as hostages. It is a triumphant return for an important, yet sometimes overlooked character. Finally, all chaos breaks out, when Batgirl, Red Hood and Batwoman take on Falsario, one of the biggest leads we have been given yet.

Batman Eternal- #19 Gordon
The pacing works, because we have a beginning of a plot-line, the middle of a plot-line and then, a massive punch-up. We need to get through the opening exposition of Gordon’s new story arc and we also need to progress with Batman’s descent into Arkham, but the writers understand that this should never sacrifice fun. The truth is, none of the readers overly mind the slow exploration of Batman Eternal, but we just need some action to spice things up a bit. Therefore, when we are given a great fight between a brain-washed Batgirl, a slave to her anger, and Red Hood, we don’t mind breaking away occasionally to spend long scenes with little more than exposition. We never hated any of the story-building or scene setting; we just needed something a little more to make picking up a certain issue worth it.

Batman Eternal- #19 Folsario
But best of all, I am barely able to wait for the next issue. This Blackgate prison riot is a side of the Batman universe that I love, especially if we don’t have Batman to help save the day, but need to rely on a cop, who has had his hands behind his back from the very start of this series. The cliff-hanger is pretty epic and I hope it promises another great punch-up next time around. One without the supernatural illusion tricks that made the last Batwing finale a little mediocre. And while the action was certainly more hyped than usual, the Batgirl investigation isn’t over. She still has to track Falsario down, who is an interesting figure, as he does have the powers to make Gordon think he saw a gun on that subway station. Despite that arc being up and down, I think that is the advantage it has over every other plot-line: it brings the mystery right back to Issue #1, grounding this massive serial of a Bat-story.

Quote of the Issue:

Red Hood: Me, I only remember what’s important. Like the day I met Batgirl.

For more comic views and reviews follow Luke on Twitter at @LukeBbtt and check out his website at www.oracleoffilm.com

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Posted on August 16th, 2014
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ORACLE OF COMICS #026 – BATMAN ETERNAL #18 – A NIGHT ON EARTH

By Luke Abbott

Batman Eternal #18 Decided
This was a much stronger effort from Batman Eternal, mainly because we finally got to see Batman be Batman for an extended time. The issue is split fairly between Batgirl’s investigations in Brazil, as she teams up with Red Hood and Batwoman (why did Batgirl and Batwoman have to be sent on the same adventure? This is far too confusing for novices like myself!), and then Batman’s pairing with Bard. There is also a nice sprinkling of Jim Gordon, a character we must not forget is at the heart of this entire saga.

Batman Eternal #18 Killer Croc
It is good to see Bard back in good guy duties. As much as I liked his darker tone in the last few issues, I don’t want him to become a villain. I prefer him as one of the good guys, just someone who is willing to go down a slightly darker route than Batman. Here, he is thrown out of his league, as he takes on one of the more infamous figures in the Batman rogue gallery, the Killer Croc. It is a nice position to have Bard in, because at the end of the day, he is your typical police officer, way out of his league. This issue reflected that nicely, especially when contrasted with Batman’s cool and steady demeanour of going about things. It is great to see Batman get reintroduced to his own story, especially when pitted against Croc. As much as I like discovering less known Batman villains like Deacon Blackfire and the Joker’s Daughter, it is nice to have an issue grounded with a more prominent villain. Killer Croc ticks that box excellently, fantastic in every frame he is in. Croc is interesting throughout the entire arc and as the writers point out in one ghostly frame, he is no longer the scariest thing lurking in the Gotham sewers.

Batman Eternal #18 Shadows
The Batgirl storyline has been dragging its feet for some time. I liked Batgirl’s arc, because unlike a lot of the Robins that have been shoe-horned into the plot, she has a genuine reason to be involved with Eternal. However, despite the interesting premise, the storyline hasn’t really gone anywhere. One issue went for comedy over drama, while there hasn’t been a strong enough villain for Batgirl to face off against. She is paired with two characters that I don’t care much for. Red Hood is intriguing, but hardly someone I am clamouring to find out more about, while Batwoman hasn’t shown any personality as of yet. Her appearance feels like it is referencing her as an ongoing figure in the Batman universe, rather than giving her anything worthwhile to do. However, the issue does make me think twice about condemning this strand of plot. The issue ends with Red Hood reflecting on Batgirl, juxtaposed with frames of her beating up a bunch of goons. It is a terrific sequence and a great read.

Then we have Jim Gordon. His storyline doesn’t really progress, but it does offer up some nice details. We see a glimpse of Falcone, which is a nice touch. I don’t like it when villains are defeated and then written out of the plot. Eternal has been good with that, as evidenced by Professor Pyg. This issue is great with the small touches and I think that is what takes a comic book from good to great.

Quote of the Issue:

Bard (about Batman): Does he always talk to himself like that?

For more comic views and reviews follow Luke on Twitter at @LukeBbtt and check out his website at www.oracleoffilm.com

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Posted on August 11th, 2014
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ORACLE OF COMICS #025 – HARLEY QUINN #8 – PIES IN THE SKIES

By Luke Abbott

Harley Quinn #8 Mutant
This week, Harley Quinn backs away from story-telling and returns to its usual nonsense self. The issue pretty much just has a few sketches of Harley getting up to mischief. While it is a little disheartening that little happens here, it still provides enough laughs to keep us invested in the story.

First Harley takes on some thieves who break into a pawn shop, which she is selling some jewellery stolen from a dead victim in one of the previous issues. This is the best of the bunch, as it features that sort of humour I like from Harley Quinn. She is a deadly killer and this series lets us have a rare glimpse into the funny side of that. The scene where she gives her target a chance of convincing her to show mercy is hilarious and everything I want from this comic. It also features some pretty nifty dialogue. Sometimes Harley’s dialogue is a little poor (hell, later in this very issue, she is given some doozies). She is a bizarre mix of childlike, sexually active and homicidal and occasionally that clash of different personalities does not work. It takes a good writer to blend them well enough to entertain the reader, so when it is managed, it deserves some form of celebration.

Harley Quinn #8 Quinnzilla
Then there is the tying up of the roller-skating club. I like that this strand of plot isn’t forgotten, but I will be glad to see the back of it. The joke is always the same: it is a violent sport, but Harley takes it to the next level. Here, she is given a worthy opponent, Big Bertha, and the two fight on the pitch. It is a fun moment and the madcap style of humour we expect from Harley Quinn. However, the story never progresses in these scenes. At least with the other sketches here, little details build up the bigger picture, but the sport scenes are a simple distraction. Fun, but I don’t need them. The writers give the sports team a good farewell scene and I hope the mysterious ‘skate club’ provides better jokes and more chances for future plot points.

Finally, we get some good old toilet humour. Harley invents a catapult for her block of apartments to deal with all of the animal poop that her large array of pets have built up. I hate toilet humour usually and poop as a joke device seems immature and tired. But god, some frames are gloriously hilarious. It does make sense that Harley would first shirk poop-cleaning duties and when confronted by the other lodgers, she would jump to a childish and immature method of disposing of the faeces. What follows might come across as distasteful, but it suits the tone the previous issues have set and, admittedly, works here. We also get one of the best kills of the series so far, which is always becoming a harder category to top.

Harley Quinn #8 Kitty
Quote of the Issue:

Female Lodger: I am so glad I am on her good side.

For more comic views and reviews follow Luke on Twitter at @LukeBbtt and check out his website at www.oracleoffilm.com

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Posted on August 4th, 2014
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ORACLE OF COMICS #024 – BATMAN ETERNAL #17 – THE SAVIOR

By Luke Abbott

Batman Eternal #17 Deacon
Last issue, Deacon Blackfire was revealed to be the master behind the strange going-ons at Arkham and this issue handles his further invasion of Gotham. Jim Corrigan and Batwing try to fend off the first wave of his minions from the deep, but with the Joker’s Daughter and the endless numbers pressing against them, they are really struggling against the odds. Also, in other news, Bluebird and the Red Robin confront the man behind the nano-technology, always pushing closer to discovering if Jim Gordon really did hallucinate the gun in the man’s hand.

Batman Eternal #17 Cleanse
This issue is little more than atmosphere-building. Looking back through the pages on a second read confirms that not a lot actually happens here. We are still underneath Arkham, Deacon Blackfire is still bringing his minions together for an attack on Gotham and everyone is still in danger. We could argue that Issue #17 brings little to the table in terms of story. Bizarrely, I didn’t mind this as much as I minded the last few issues of Batman Eternal. Mainly, this is because its goals as a comic were very clear. We were meant to put down this comic, mind blown and wondering how anyone is meant to take on the power of Deacon Blackfire. The comic achieved that goal very well. The last page is eerie and creepy. We have no idea what is going on with the supernatural throwing us all out of our comfort zone. We are lost and this means that we are also part of the nightmare. The supernatural also gives artist of the week, Dustin Nguyen, several opportunities to show off his artistic skills.

I enjoyed breaking away from the story to see Blackfire’s origins. This was clever because of two things. One – I know nothing about Blackfire, but I left this issue moderately up to speed with the man. While we didn’t get to cover how he got his supernatural powers, we left understanding his motives, and for me, that is far more important. Besides, writers have a tough job of getting newcomers, like me, up to date with the canon, without boring the veteran readers with details they have already heard hundreds of times before. Batman Eternal, on this occasion, handled exposition well. The other good thing about Blackfire’s origins was that it gave us some time with the actual Batman rather than his crew. Not enough Batman for me, but he gets a cool moment, it has a pretty neat bit of misdirection and I left this comic, feeling as though I read a Batman comic, rather than a Robin comic. Good job, in my books.

Batman Eternal #17 Kick Ass
Quote of the Issue

Batwing: I’m supposed to accept the supernatural. I accept it, okay? And now I’m going to kick its ass!

For more comic views and reviews follow Luke on Twitter at @LukeBbtt and check out his website at www.oracleoffilm.com

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Posted on August 4th, 2014
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ORACLE OF COMICS #023 – BATMAN ETERNAL #16 – THE MONSTER MACHINE

By Luke Abbott

Batman Eternal #16 Harper
This issue focuses more on Arkham Asylum, keeping other stories to a few pages, but there is so much going on in the Asylum that this issue feels just as all over the place as some of the other comics. Jim Corrigan takes on Mr. Bygone, a cursed man who has become maddened and vengeful from his incarceration in Asylum. He wants to inflict his hordes of spectres on Corrigan and make him unleash the Spectre, his alter-ego that he seems terrified of letting out into the open. Meanwhile, the Joker’s Daughter has kidnapped Batwing and seems determined to carry out the orders of a mysterious benefactor. Logic dictates that she is idolising the Joker, but as events spiral out of control, it becomes clear that the mastermind behind this nightmare is able to dabble in the supernatural. Also, Bluebird and Red Robin finally get a major lead as to where the nano-technology originated, but will they survive long enough to truly get to the bottom of this mess?

Batman Eternal #16 Pyg
Arkham Asylum’s storyline is a welcome change of pace from the gang war. I have never been a fan of the supernatural in comics and as characters like Mr. Bygone and Dr. Phosphorous arrive in Eternal, villains I have never heard of before, I feel on the back foot when it comes to the other readers. However, the material is approached well. The creepy exploration into the Asylum, more prominent villains like Scarecrow and Pyg reduced to helpless victims, slowly sheds light on the horrific truth of what is going on. The tension is dialled right up to the maximum. This is far more exciting than corrupt cops and gangster, which is the norm when it comes to Batman. This is the 75th Anniversary; we need something to break the mould and the supernatural definitely does that. I just wish that it took its time a little more. Eternal never stops to take a breather and relish a moment. We are always racing to the next plot point, which wastes the potential of this chapter in this 70 issue story. Maxie Zeus cameos here, but he never really makes an impression. He is just a pawn in this massive game, because no time is given to explore him.

Batman Eternal #16 Jokers Daughter
Eternal is much better with the smaller beats. Let’s forget last issue’s back-step and talk about how interesting Jason Bard is. A massive flaw with Batman is that few characters are given the space to develop. They are not really characters; they are symbols. The Penguin will always be a greedy gangster with violent tendencies. Scarecrow will always be fascinated by fear. No one ever changes in Batman, because then they will become something that new readers don’t recognise, excluding the wider audience. With Jason Bard, we are finally given a character arc that excites us. Bard started as a Gordon copy, but he has become a character in his own right. His relationship with Batman, and now Vicki Vale, has changed and this has made him the one to watch in this whole comic. While I am glad he has been side-lined for a moment, so other stories can be explored, he is the best thing I have seen from Batman Eternal as of yet.

On more depressing news, Batman is once again cameoing in his own comic series, which is a massive shame seeing as it is his anniversary week. Surely, this goes against the whole point of Batman Eternal: the comic celebrating 75 years of Batman.

Quote of the Issue:

Red Robin: You idiot. You are going to get us…

Bluebird: …saved. I’m going to get us saved!

For more comic views and reviews follow Luke on Twitter at @LukeBbtt and check out his website at www.oracleoffilm.com

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Posted on July 26th, 2014
Category: ORACLE OF COMICS, REVIEWS
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ORACLE OF COMICS #022 – TOMB RAIDER #6 – THE WAY OF THE WIND

By Luke Abbott

Tomb Raider #6 Viking
Observation #1: Why is there a Viking on the cover? There isn’t as much as a Norse reference in this issue, let alone a bad-ass punch-up with one.

Observation #2: What a finale! I will be the first to admit that it could have been better. Matsu’s daughters have been bigged up for quite some time, yet they never really come into play, other than some creepy frames. Mathias feels like a cash-in to the old game. The fight is good, but not as climatic as I would have liked it. However, it could also have been a lot worse, which is my overall opinion of the first season of Gail Simone’s Tomb Raider series. It did the job well, tying up the story satisfyingly (although my Solarii plot hole question from the last review still stands), providing some decent set-pieces and some glorious explosions captured once again by Nicolas Daniel Selma’s art. Matsu was a fun villain and while he slipped into more stereotypical trademarks, he still made an impact. Without a strong villain, series like this often feel adrift, so it was good that he was well-written until the end.

Tomb Raider #6 Mathias
My favourite thing here is the twist at the end. It suffered slightly at the fact that this adventure only had six issues to tell its story. I would have liked it to have been slyly weaved in throughout the previous installments, but it definitely brightened up proceedings. Just when the finale seems to drift into the predictable with Lara’s friends coming in at the last minute and the cult’s plan being fully revealed, the twist added to the spark. Gail Simone is aware of this trick too, because this is one of the few points where the series isn’t rushing through material. The dialogue is really sharp too, highlighting Simone’s strongest point as a writer. In fact, the dialogue has always been the best thing about this entire collection of comics. There will be several Tomb Raider quotes joining the canon here.

Tomb Raider #6 Mummy
So where next? Another story (I assume a six-part one), is about to hit us and I hope it only improves on the first. I want to move away from Yamatai, move away from this specific group of friends (Will the game be using them? Can we kill one of them off?), and focus on Lara’s development into the character we know her as from the original games. This is a welcome comic for me to review, but it has a long way to come before it hits the expectations of Tomb Raider fans everywhere.

Quote of the Issue:

Lara: They forgot that they might not be the only monsters in the room.

For more comic views and reviews follow Luke on Twitter at @LukeBbtt and check out his website at www.oracleoffilm.com

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Posted on July 26th, 2014
Category: ORACLE OF COMICS, REVIEWS
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ORACLE OF COMICS #021 – BATMAN ETERNAL #15 – THE COMMON LIMIT

By Luke Abbott

Batman Eternal #15 Batgirl
Batman Eternal once again decides to go through several plot lines at once, rather than knuckling down and truly getting to grips with a specific set of characters. I partially expected this after the gang war story was brought to a close; we need to be reminded what is left to do for the next set of issues. However, a bit more tack would have been nice.

Batman Eternal #15 Spectre
Personally, I would have liked to have spent the whole issue with Corrigan and Batwing in Arkham Asylum. This story is the most intriguing at the moment, because no one has quite figured out what it is all about. We have seen Dr. Phosphorous rising from the depths and the Joker’s Daughter seems to be behind it all, but otherwise we have just witnessed a few terrifying shots of the inmates being tortured by supernatural forces. In fact, I would have happily had a whole comic book series of Batwing and Corrigan slowly making their way through the Asylum, a gripping horror mystery. As it happens, the writer’s attention is often elsewhere (with Bluebird, or with Batgirl), so the Asylum is never fully tackled. It moves along too fast, jumping from the eeriness of an empty Asylum to the horrors of the two heroes taking on zombies that come out of the brick walls. Don’t get me wrong, I liked this particular section of the issue, but I just wished that it was slowed right down, so we could appreciate every beat of the story, rather than rushing through it to get to the point.

Batman Eternal #15 Bluebird Robin
The other stories were kept to a minimum and therefore too short to comment on much. Red Robin and Bluebird remain a fun team, never really progressing with the story, but being so much fun to spend time with that you don’t mind wasting a page with them bickering. Bluebird’s ‘hand-made costume’ is quite a fun addition. Batgirl and Red Hood uncover a lead, but it doesn’t seem to be in any rush of carrying on Batgirl’s interesting arc. Batman is given the worst deal of them all. His appearance in this comic does little more than remind everyone that we are reading a Batman comic. In fact, his brief interaction with Bard actually hurts the overall story. Doesn’t this little conversation totally ruin the interesting dynamic that the last issue left us with? This is a problem with a story this big with several writers attached to the project: you end up getting issues that contradict each other.

Quote of the Issue:

Red Robin: You pull a stunt like this, you deserve nine hours in a stress position.

For more comic views and reviews follow Luke on Twitter at @LukeBbtt and check out his website at www.oracleoffilm.com

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Posted on July 18th, 2014
Category: ORACLE OF COMICS, REVIEWS
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ORACLE OF COMICS #021 – BATMAN ETERNAL #14 – NATURAL ORDER

By Luke Abbott

Batman Eternal #14 Penguin
This weeks issue handled something very interesting: a finale of sorts. The end of the Penguin vs Falcone subplot. Interesting, yes. Good, no.

The problem with handling a franchise as massive as Batman is that it leaves you very restricted with where to take new stories. For example, the writers here felt very restricted by the fact that they were unable to kill off Falcone or the Penguin. It would have made a very bloody end to the gang war and would have made the build-up justifiable. However, seeing as there is the possibility that the fan base (as well as the writers themselves), would revolt if one of the more intriguing bad guys was written out of the canon, they felt unable to make that risk. As it stands, the gang war fizzles out rather than coming to an explosive end. The solution Bard came up with felt like the writers tying off an arc, rather than giving us a great ending to one of the main storylines of Eternal. The Penguin got to scene-chew, Falcone got what was coming to him and the gang war is finally over. As a reader, I wanted more. The Batman felt like an outside force rather than the hero of the story; I was happy with Bard doing the heavy work for a change, but Batman needs to actually progress some of the action, as it is his comic book series.

Batman Eternal #14 Bard
When we are dealing with a series as long as Eternal, we want assurances that the finale will be good, otherwise there is little point to investing time and money into the series. On the other hand, one good thing does come out of the finale: Bard’s character is a very interesting one. I actually thought he wasn’t going to make it. Seeing as I assumed Falcone or the Penguin weren’t going to be biting the bullet, I thought Jason Bard would be the major shock of the issue. Blossoming romance, check. A force of good in a corrupt town, check. A character minor enough to be killed off but major enough to deliver emotional impact, check. Maybe it is a good thing that the comics didn’t do the obvious thing, because now the Batman and Bard have an interesting relationship. Bard committed a crime to bring down the bad guys, something Batman couldn’t allow. It was a justifiable crime and the loss of life belonged to mobsters; it just doesn’t match up to Batman’s black and white morals. This brings the two major good guys at loggerheads, which could make some of the following stories much more interesting.

Batman Eternal #14 Jokers Daughter
And now all eyes are turned to the Asylum. It has all but been forgotten about, but the Joker’s Daughter reappears for the final frame, kidnapping the Scarecrow. And when the Scarecrow begins getting terrified, you know you are in for something good just around the corner.

Quote of the Issue:

Mayor Hardy: (insulting) You’re just like Gordon, kid…

Bard: Thank you.

For more comic views and reviews follow Luke on Twitter at @LukeBbtt and check out his website at www.oracleoffilm.com

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Posted on July 11th, 2014
Category: ORACLE OF COMICS, REVIEWS
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ORACLE OF COMICS #020 – BATMAN ETERNAL #13 – INTERNAL RELATIONS

By Luke Abbott

Batman Eternal #13 Plan
For once, I am more than happy to let Batman take the back seat on this issue. Jason Bard is a very fun hero to spend this issue with, especially as his plan goes full throttle and he turns into the smartest guy in the room.

The writing, pacing and dialogue of the thirteenth issue of Batman Eternal is terrific. I love Jason Bard as a character; he is the newcomer to the Batman franchise, but he instantly becomes a success with the reader. He takes a bad situation, and this issue spends a lot of time hammering home to the point that Gotham really is a corrupt nightmare, and works out a plan that could usurp Forbes corrupt rule of the police force, allowing Batman to properly take on the vigilantes, tearing up Gotham right now. I love his scenes with Vicki Vale; their back and forth banter is always delicious to read and adds a spark to the issues in a place I didn’t expect much excitement to be coming from. The Bard gang war storyline plays out incredibly well and again, even though Batman is essentially only here to look awesome in a handful of frames, I didn’t mind. I hope Bard becomes a major figure in the next few issues to come.

Batman Eternal #13 Jim Gordon Jnr
The other subplots are whittled down to brief recaps, which is fine, because they cover everything they need to. The Red Robin and Bluebird story is kept to a few pages, but its only job is to remind us that this is an ongoing side-plot, so when the issues are ready to tackle it, we haven’t totally lost interest. All we need from the writers is a few funny and charming moments from the two characters (Bluebird will end up a fan favourite for sure), to keep us happy. The Cluemaster storyline is still the best thing about Eternal overall. I love how the comic handles the Cluemaster, Vale describing him as a ‘second-rate Riddler’. However, everyone’s complacency is causing a massive problem for Stephanie Brown and the inability of anyone to take the Cluemaster seriously has a serious consequence for a few characters. Again, this side-plot is still my vote for the one to watch. I hope it plays a massive part in the finale.

Finally, Jim Gordon comes face to face with his renegade son. It will be a nice parallel between James Jr. and Batgirl and seeing how they both cope with Gordon’s imprisonment. I hope the two children of the Gordon family come face to face at some point in this series. I could criticise the scenes in the prison as scene-chewing. It is essentially the two characters reeling off monologues and justifications for their actions. If this was a movie, it would serve as nothing more than giving two good actors a reason to bounce off of each other. However, these scenes are far too fun to criticise. It opens up some interesting ideas and, most importantly, makes Jim Gordon the central figure once more, something that Eternal is always moments from forgetting.

Batman Eternal #13 Crap ones
And in the background, I cannot shake the memory that this gang war means little. It is killing time while the true nemesis, the nanobots, the real reason Gordon fired at an unarmed man, is revealed. We still have to explore the Joker’s daughter, Dr. Phosphorous, the mysterious first frame of the entire series. Batman Eternal is only just kicking off and we have a lot more great set-pieces waiting for us.

Quote of the Issue:

Stephanie Brown: Out of all of the super-villians in the world, why did my Dad have to be one of the crap ones?

For more comic views and reviews follow Luke on Twitter at @LukeBbtt and check out his website at www.oracleoffilm.com

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Posted on July 5th, 2014
Category: ORACLE OF COMICS, REVIEWS
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ORACLE OF COMICS #019 – BATMAN ETERNAL #12 – THE GOOD MAN

By Luke Abbott

Batman Eternal #12 Red Hood
This was the issue I figured out I had been reading Batman Eternal all wrong. Rather than checking them out each week, I should have collected the entire series and marathoned them in a single evening. There is not a lot I shall say in this review that I haven’t said before. “We check in with everyone’s storylines.” “Something big is around the corner, promise!” The truth is Eternal is playing the long game and the people who will get the most pleasure out of this series are the ones who are content to wait until they have every issue in their hands, before even beginning. However, I have started this weekly review now and I will see it through to the bitter end.

Batman Eternal #12 Trial
The Good Man tackles far more of the ongoing stories than any of the other issues so far. Jim Gordon makes a return after a long absence. His trial gets underway and we get a savagely delicious courtroom scene. Meanwhile, Penguin and Falcone are going to greater lengths to win the city back, the first page showing Penguin’s thugs getting mown down by armed thugs. Jason Bard, Harvey Bullock and Captain Sawyer get together and come up with a plan to end the gang war once and for all, but it requires a risky step which is revealed in the last few pages. Also, Batgirl and Red Hood’s encounter is carried on from the last issue, but without the distracting art or silly humour. Also… takes deep breath… we check in on Red Robin and Bluebird, who haven’t shown up in forever. And on top of that, there is more drama in the Pennyworth family. Yes, this issue is action-packed, yet the writers even find time to slip in a cameo from a certain famous DC reporter.

Batman Eternal #12 Harper
It’s all good. It really is. There isn’t any part of this issue where I could point to a certain beat and say: “that’s wrong!” As far as issues of Batman Eternal go, that would make this particular episode a success. It is just always promising something interesting in an issue’s time. Every frame is orchestrated into making you buy the next issue, rather than focusing on this particular one in your hands. This is a common sin for any comic book collector. However, it works, because I am unable to stop buying this Batman comic now: I am in too deep. So yes, if anyone is still on the fence about buying these comics, do it! Just maybe read them in one go, rather than sitting through a single issue that seems perfectly content to inch along with its narrative.

Quote of the Issue:

Bluebird: “Just told me to ‘buck up’ or something like that.”

For more comic views and reviews follow Luke on Twitter at @LukeBbtt and check out his website at www.oracleoffilm.com

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Posted on June 26th, 2014
Category: ORACLE OF COMICS, REVIEWS
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