Off the Shelf — Batman Vol. 6: Graveyard Shift

Batman Graveyard Shift cover

Nutshell: A great series of stand-alone stories that are hamstringed by a strange shuffle of continuity, and my inability to connect issues with stories.  Could be my bad, but this TPB doesn’t make it easy either.  N00bs, be prepared to pull your hair out if you’re an order snob like me.  Or just give in and sink into the stories, enjoing each one separately.  Grade: B

Publication 411:  Collects Batman #0, #18-20, #28, #34 and Batman Annual #2.  Hits stores May 5, 2015.

Best Line: “You came here looking for the ‘kingpin of crime’… well here I am.”

Thoughs: Okay first things first; I am not a decades-long reader of The Bat.  I’d pick up the occasional TPB, fall in love with a few (The Long Halloween, The Killing Joke, and Batman: Arkham Asylum immediately spring to mind) but not read ’em on the regular.  But when DC did its New 52 reboot, I figured now was the time to jump into a few of the series titles I’d always wanted to get to know/get back into.  Therefore, as a relative n00b, I’m not gonna dissect continuity minutae, or touch on any possibilities of SORAS or other chronology questions because they make my brain cry. Those points can/will be discussed by better minds than mine, and if you’re this deep into the New 52 that you’re up to Graveyard Shift, you’re down with the new program. This review be from the vantage point of one who digs a good story well told, and loves her some cool art. I am, however, gonna drop spoiler bombs for anyone who hasn’t been in on Batman Vols 1-5.  I figure if you’re reading a review for Volume 6?  You know enough already, or you don’t mind the spoilers.  Onward!

The Batman Night of Owls storyline was totally kickass.  The way it pulled in so many Batman, Inc. folks, so many talented writers and artists…it’s the kinda thing that makes my heart go a-pitterpat. So I was hooked on the Batman series after that.  And I haven’t been disappointed.  Am I disappointed now?  Well, no…and yes.  No, because each one of the stories here in Graveyard Shift are amazing.  The kind of stories you’d force non-comic readers to sit down with to see what the $&*# they’re missing.  And yes, because the order of issues in this volume is kattywampus, and I spent many a moment (or hundred) trying to figure out which issue linked with which storyline.  I finally gave up and decided to simply go with the titles they give in the TPB. [NOTE: I’ve finally decided to link a few.  But any fubar is my fault…with a little “assist” from Comic Book Reader.] So let’s have a look at what’s inside, shall we?

Bright New Yesterday/Tomorrow” (Batman #0) – Red Hood Gang, back for more mayhem. And Bruce Wayne, back from four years away from Gotham.  Meanwhile, Comissioner Gordon and his daughter Barbara hope that the city is turning around, a young Tim Drake is in middle school, Jason Todd is thinking twice about his teenage life of crime, Dick Grayson is in the circus…and things are about to change.  Hello, Zero Year!
A brilliantly written and paneled issue, which works well as a stand-alone, an introduction to the New 52 Batman mythos, or a companion piece for longtime fans.

“Resolve” (Batman #18)  – Blackgate Pennitentiary.  For folks who aren’t crazy, just evil.  Young Harpo (Harper) and her brother Cullen visit their dad, and later Harpo decides to try to help Batman.  Again.
Love Andy Clarke’s attention to detail.  He puts bits and pieces into each panel that don’t need to be there, but flesh out the vibrance and day-to-day-ness (what?) of Gotham.  And Tynion’s story is just the rally cry this part of Batman’s life story needed. “Tomorrow” is a touching look at how Batman was affected by the death of his son Damian, and how Harper (aka Bluebird) helped him come back from that.  The chronology is a bit whack here in Graveyard Shift, as #18-20 are still to come…but I’ma ride it.

Nowhere Man/Ghost Lights (parts 1 and 2)” – Bruce Wayne goes rogue!  But why?
Snyder does an excellent job tying in Batman’s loss of self after the death of Damian, with a villain who can become you.  Clayface gets bolder, as the storyline from gets fleshed out in part 2. (Heh.)  The obvious Star Wars “homage” scene feels more like a rip-off than a tip of the hat.  Perhaps because it’s out of place in Batman’s noir-ish world.  Or perhaps I’m just a huge New Hope nerd.  I was still sucked in though.  And dat ending tho’.  Got me right in the feels.  Then the afterword — featuring a ghost and a Will-O-The-Wisp — has a decidedly Affleck-y looking Superman.  Coincidence? Nicely done.

Ages” (Batman Annual #2) – Batman gets locked up at Arkham Asylum.  No wait; there’s more.  Welcome to the Tartarus Wing!  But what about that lone inmate in the old section of the asylum…?
It’s good to see when Eric Border started work at Arkham, and to see Batman behind the bars the villains he’s overcome think he’s meant for. (Cue the “the only thing different between the good guys and the bad guys is which side of the bars they’re on” quip) As with the rest of the stories so far, this plays well as a stand-alone, but fans of The Bat will enjoy the layers.  Nicely creepy, and a very interesting “villain” in the Anchoress.  Snyder doesn’t pen this one; it’s by Marguerite Bennett.  Bravo, Marguerite.

The Meek” (Batman #34) – (Snyder/Bennett, Craig) Someone is slaughtering random citizens of Gotham. Can Batman — with a little help from Arham’s Eric Border — find the killer?
Deeeeeam.  That final panel.  Heartbreaking, horrifying, and incredible.  This is one of the more gruesome Bat stories out there, not in terms of blood — goodness knows Wayne has shed plenty — but in terms of downright creepiness and horrific deaths.  But it’s damn effective.  Reading this after I started Endgame, I look for layers, and things readers may have missed earlier, things that could have tipped Batman to what was in store.  But nope.  Snyder weaves a good tale, and while there’s no continuity errors, there’s no hints either.  A teriffic stand-alone.

Gotham Eternal” (Batman #28) –  Bluebird!  Catwoman!  Spoiler!  What?  Oh yeah.  But don’t worry; this is a super-quick tease of what’s to come in Batman Eternal.  Loved this little taste of things to come, especially the shifting dynamic between Wayne and Kyle.

Okay, that’s it.  I’m exhausted from the constant back-n-forth trying to figure out which story corresponds with what issue(s).  I probably would have loved this a whole lot more if I’d been a casual reader, rather than someone reviewing it and trying to come off semi-coherent to her readers. Off to grab a beer.

 

[NOTE: I received an ARC of this issue from DC through NetGalley.  I received nothing for this review, not even kryptonite gum.  Which is probably a good thing anyway.]

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