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Batman: Gotham Knights #39
writer: Scott Beatty
artists: Roger Robinson and John Floyd

Almost without notice, the follow-up to Bruce Wayner: Fugitive has been playing out in these pages. Batman's antagonism toward the government has been played up in all his books, and since the loss of Sasha, he has had a particular beef with Checkmate.

Over the last couple of issues, it's looked like Checkmate planned to simply repeat its earlier stratagem: take a supposed ally of Batman and turn her against him. Of course, readers would know that The Huntress has been the most tenuous of allies anyway, but we assumed that the government wouldn't know that.

Trying to break Helena, Checkmate has even brought in The Mad Hatter and The Scarecrow as psychological experts. It's sort of like the proverbial fox guarding the henhouse, but why not? The insane denizens of Arkham know the human mind too well.

Unfortunately, the psychology of it all has tended to get a little muddled. Psychobabble has replaced real characterization. There's a fleeting reference to Batman possibly not knowing The Huntress' identity, but it's handled in such a way that after reading it twice, I'm still not sure why he wouldn't.

Where Beatty fails in characterization, however, he makes up in plotting and just sheer action. Plus he manages to bring in The Question; Vic still lurks in Gotham City, and it's only a matter of time before the faceless one has to step in and lend a hand.

Alex Garland and Sean Phillips contribute a nice light Black & White. It's not a make or break on buying this issue, but it does make for a good extra.


Birds of Prey #53
writer: Gilbert Hernandez
artists: Casey Jones and John Beatty

When all else fails, and the pulse-pounding action needs a break, you've got to send your heroines on vacation. And so for this issue, that's exactly what guest writer Hernandez does.

In the process, though, he makes Barbara and Dinah into people we don't really recognize.

A little torn up over the reappearance of Oliver Queen into her life, Dinah feels a need to test her affection for him by playing around. At the same time, Barbara has grown unsure of herself as a result of the recent break-in to the clocktower.

But deciding that Dick might be taking her for granted, and thus letting him stew in his own juices for a while? This is Oracle. She was once the greatest Batgirl of them all. And she plays by The Rules?

It's kind of insulting to the level-headedness of the character. Not to mention a throwback to the early days of the editorially decreed relationship. The couple has already had its share of re-evaluation. Sometimes in life, the one thing you can count on is your loved one. Just not in comics, I guess.

Not much crime-fighting occurs here, but Hernandez does set the stage for some to come, with a twist ending that clearly, you have to know some obscure continuity to understand. All I really know is that the next issue blurb promises a return of Metamorpho. While it's a weird team-up, any excuse for the Element Man is a good one. (Except for that "how he came back to life" story - I finally found it and hated it.)


The Flash #196
writer: Geoff Johns
artist: Phil Winslade

Regular artist Scott Kolins takes a month off, with the more naturalistic Winslade stepping up. It's a mixed bag, as some of Flash's supporting characters look unrecognizable without Kolins' more edged style. However, the issue's "villain," Peek-a-boo, looks more like the sad young woman Johns meant her to be in the first place.

Despite the fill-in, this issue isn't just meant to mark time. No Flash creative team can feel complete without tackling Professor Zoom, The Reverse Flash, and it's pretty obvious that Johns is laying the groundwork for his shot.

Along the way, he wrestles with the state of medical care in the DCU, a sticky wicket at best. This is a world full of scientific miracles (an oxymoron?), and yet people's organs still give out. And The Flash's ally, Hunter Zolomon, can't walk as the result of his run-in with Grodd.

It's always fun and games until somebody lets out the giant homicidal gorilla.

Hunter wants Wally to use the fabled cosmic treadmill, to go back in time and stop his injury. Or, more poignantly, go back even further to what he considers the first domino that fell in his line of bad luck. It's an intriguing notion that gets a little brushed by here; however, I have a feeling it's going to be very crucial in the months to come.

Peek-a-boo's plight remains poignant, and she stands revealed as a woman with a barely controllable power who really doesn't mean harm. With this issue, we can probably scratch her off the official Rogues' list, but her farewell makes a good read.


Green Arrow #22
writer: Scott Beatty
artists: Phil Hester and Ande Parks

It had to happen. After 21 issues of successive sweeping story arcs, Green Arrow suffers the dreaded fill-in issue.

DC plays it pretty cannily, with the art team remaining intact, just waiting for Judd Winick to jump aboard. Helping fill the void is their new utility player Scott Beatty, who despite going down to CrossGen still seems able to pop up at DC with great frequency.

As was clear in Gotham Knights this month, Beatty has great plotting skills, telling a story that really zips along. It's when he gets into deeper waters that he tends to run into trouble. So if you're used to every issue of this book delving into the character of the man named Oliver Queen, you won't find much of that here.

Instead, Oliver tries to go back to the beginning, to the island where once marooned he developed his skills as an archer. Unfortunately, over in the D.E.O. Green Arrow's arch-nemesis Count Vertigo has gainful employment, with the only mark on his personnel file being an unhealthy obsession with killing Green Arrow.

In the tradition of his mentor, Chuck Dixon, Beatty throws as much macho around as he can. This is a basic man against the elements tale, as the island Queen returns to isn't so nice during a storm. Evidently, he lucked out the time before.

But Beatty isn't Dixon. Right now, he doesn't have much of a voice of his own, blending into the shadows of a story. In many ways it's a relief; Beatty just wants to be a good comic book writer. However, he needs to develop a stronger imprint, because his most high profile work remains Joker: The Last Laugh, not something he really should want as his calling card.

For long-time continuity geeks, we also have to chalk this issue up to Hypertime. When we last saw Count Vertigo, The Spectre (the first one) had leveled his country as a Gordian knot solution to centuries of ethnic strife. Vertigo has no people to return to and fight for their freedom. Even his enemies are dead.

Even ignoring that, the resolution of this story feels a bit hollow. But at least it looks like a regular issue of Green Arrow.


Derek McCaw


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