It's been too long a while since I've read a good new Batman story, much less five at one sitting. Which is why I'm telling you Batman: Private Casebook [DC; $19.95] is worth every penny of its cover price. This hardcover anthology collects six stories by Paul Dini and one by Peter Milligan. The tales originally ran in Detective Comics #840-845 and DC Infinite Halloween Special #1.
Dini's full-length stories focus on classic Batman villains. The book starts with one of the best Batman/Ra's Al Ghul clashes ever, followed by the best Mad Hatter story ever. Then, in a two-parter, Scarface returns with a brand-new, gorgeous Ventriloquist for his partner. To finish off the villain parade, we see the now-reformed Riddler competing with the Dark Knight to solve a string of baffling serial killings. Zatanna has a substantial guest role in the Scarface/Ventriloquist story while Catwoman has a character-defining cameo in the Riddler episode. Every one of these stories is terrific with penciller Dustin Nguyen and inker Derek Fridolfs doing equally fine work on the visuals. I haven't enjoyed Batman comics this much since the last time I read Batman stories written by Dini. He suits the character and vice versa.
The Milligan story - "The Suit of Sorrows" - isn't close to being as entertaining or well-written as the Dini tales. It's more of a "crazy Batman" story - I prefer my Caped Crusader to be sane - in which our hero's mental state is being affected by a suit of armor sent to him by Talia. The villain of the story is a Jack the Ripper imitator called Gotham Jack and, at one point, Batman just lets him run free. Talk about a jumping the shark moment.
The Halloween story pits Zatanna against the Scarecrow and, though written by Dini, is just sort of there. It's too short to leave much of an impression, save that Nguyen is definitely not his own best inker. But the other Dini stories are so good that I can overlook the two lesser efforts.
I've scant fondness for time-travel stories and that's putting it mildly. However, I've decided Booster Gold is "the time-travel comic for people who hate time travel comics." I made this decision when I realized how much I enjoyed Booster Gold: Blue and Gold [DC; $24.95], the second hardcover collection of the ongoing series by Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz.
Booster Gold has become one of the most complicated, heroic, human, and yet still fun characters in the DC Universe. Okay, that could be taken as damning with faint praise, but I really do mean it as a compliment.
Booster was recruited by Rip Hunter to be time's repairman. He poses as this arrogant, greedy, largely laughable media whore of a hero, but, in reality, he has sacrificed his reputation - for all of history - to protect all of history. When villains try to alter the past for their benefit, it's Booster who, unknown to the world now and forever, stops them.
The stories in this second collection revolve around what happens when Booster breaks the prime directive of time by saving his best friend - Ted Kord, the second Blue Beetle - from being murdered by Maxwell Lord. The ramifications of that rescue are severe and the two friends must, somehow, set time to rights again. It's a human drama with comedy and tragedy mixing in equal measure and enlivened by dozens of guest stars. There are surprises, good and bad, and, at the end of this volume, an unexpected revelation that would have knocked me on my ass if I weren't already sitting.
Artists Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund do an outstanding job on the visuals. Their storytelling is both dynamic and clear. Every character looks right. You don't need flashy tricks when you can present an exciting story this well. Great stuff.
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.
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