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Is He Dead?

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In the November 5, 2007 edition of his Lying in the Gutters column, Rich Johnston dropped this bombshell:

In June/July, DC are killing off Batman. Or rather, Bruce Wayne. Robin will inherit the Batman cowl. One of the Robins anyway. Tim Drake. Jason Todd. Or possibly Red Hood. Hey, maybe Jean-Paul Valley, it has been ten years since Azrael.

Either way, the book will relaunch with a nice shiny #1.

Later columns revealed that in fact, Jason Todd would be taking over as Batman, and Bruce Wayne would be ascending to godhood in the Fifth World—a “new” New God if you will.

Then, before the month of November was over, Johnston reported that the idea was scrapped. Batman will not be killed.

And now, months later, we have an arc starting titled “Batman R.I.P.” and future solicitations of the Bat-books listing him as being mysteriously missing.

So, what really is going on here? This whole thing has more twists and turns than the Kennedy Assassination. What is the truth and what is a lie? Was the original story the truth? Was the reprieve real? Or is Batman destined to die?

It’s one big murder mystery. So, let’s treat it as one. Let’s do an investigation on our own. Lucky for us, there is only one suspect—DC Comics.

What does DC have to gain by killing off Batman. Well, Batman is one of their most recognizable characters. There are people who have never even picked up a comic book in their lives that know that Bruce Wayne is Batman. He’s been on TV screens and in movie theaters, on T-shirts and lunchboxes.

Killing off an icon of Batman’s magnitude means a boatload of mainstream press, perhaps even front page news on a slow news day. This means sales of whatever issue Batman bites it in will go through the roof as non-comic collectors rush out to buy the landmark issue, thinking they’d be able to sell it for a profit in a few months time. This means more money in DC’s pocket.

What does DC have to lose by killing Bats off? They could lose the respect of their target audience. All savvy comic fans know that the death of Bruce Wayne will not be final. Whether or not he becomes a New God or not, it will only be a matter of time before Bruce is wearing the pointy-eared cowl.

Also, DC would appear to lose face in the comic community. Marvel’s killing off of Captain America, and the press maelstrom that it created, is still fresh in everyone’s mind. DC would look like they are simply taking Marvel’s idea and making it their own. How will that battle play out in their battle for market share, especially if Marvel decides to call them on it?

You also have to consider the “going to the well too many times” scenario. The death of Superman was a media blitz for DC over ten years ago. The death of Cap was another for Marvel in the last year. But eventually, audiences will get tired of companies killing off their characters for some cheap press and a sales boost. And if that happens, there won’t be cheap press or a sales boost anymore.

So, is Bruce Wayne destined to die in this arc? Yes or no? We will have to find out in the coming weeks and months. But the real question is, is it a good idea for DC to kill off one of its most recognizable characters? Personally, I think the answer is no.

Also out this week:

Genext #1:

Way back when, Marvel held a poll for the fans to choose what Chris Claremont’s new project would be. Genext won, but before the fans’ wishes could be realized, Claremont suffered some serious health problems, and all his projects were put on hold. Now, at long last, Claremont is healthy and Genext finally hits the stands.

It’s not hard to see why fans selected this book as their favorite choice. It takes the unique view of what it would be like if the X-Men aged in real time. This series introduces the sons and daughters of the original X-Men, the true next generation of mutants.

In a world where Spider-Man only ages about five years in four decades, this approach is fresh and unique. It is right up X-Men Legend Claremont’s alley.

Chris Claremont (W), Patrick Scherberger(A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Five-Issue Miniseries.

Huntress: Year One #1:

The Huntress is one of DC’s younger heroes, being created only in the last 35 years, but various continuity revamps have made her backstory somewhat confusing. This week, she is the latest character to get the “Year One” treatment in the form of a new, bi-weekly miniseries.

Helena Bertinelli is the last survivor of her family. She is the only one to avoid the bloodbath that killed her parents. But her parents weren’t innocent victims—they were part of one of the biggest crime families in Gotham. Their deaths weren’t an accident, it was an organized hit. Helena is now the only one who can avenge her parents. But will it be righteous vengeance, or simply a case of misguided revenge?

Ivory Madison (W), Cliff Richards (A), DC Comics, $2.99.   Six-Issue Miniseries.

Star Wars: Knight of the Old Republic #28:

The first leg of Dark Horse’s year long Star Wars event, Vector, comes to end, two weeks late. And since the next stop is the consistently late Star Wars: Dark Times, well, you do the math. Year long might just have been a guesstimate.

Zayne Carrick, Gryph and Celeste Mome are nearly overrun by an inescapable ancient evil. They are at a crossroads where any decision they make will require a great sacrifice. But what they don’t know is that their action won’t just affect their own destiny, but also the fate of the entire galaxy.

The story line flashes forward to the future next as it enters the post-Revenge of the Sith era Dark Times, and involve a newly turned Darth Vader to the mix. 

John Jackson Miller(W), Scott Hepburn (A), Dark Horse Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

Death Grub:

24-hour comics are all the rage. Creating a comic—writing, penciling, inking and lettering—completely in the span of one day is a creative exercise that pushes the skills of the writers and artists to the limit.

This one shot is the 24-hour comic created by Invincible artist Ryan Ottley. Ottley has a unique artistic style, but how much of that style is sacrificed by his rushing? And how are his writing skills? This issue will put these questions to the test.

The comic is about a creature called the Death Grub. When this creature arrives, rampant destruction is soon to follow. Only one man can possibly stop it. But will he be in time? And what happens if he is too late?

Ryan Ottley (W/A), Image Comics, $2.99.  One-Shot.

newuniversal shockfront #1:

Four human beings have developed extraordinary powers. Their lives have changed forever. But their new found abilities garnered the attention of the government, whose attitude is four superhumans is four too many. Now, these enormously powerful beings are about to be hunted. But everyone will soon find out that these four were only the beginning. There will be more, many more.

Warren Ellis’ renovation of the New Universe continues here. This time he is joined by The Last of the Mohicans’ Steve Kurth on art.  This might not be so bad. At least we might not have to play “guess who the artist used as photographic reference” like we did with Salvador Larroca on the last arc. I mean, Leonard Nimoy as a previous Star Brand is one thing, the cast of the Sopranos as a small town Sheriff and his Deputies was just downright distracting.

Warren Ellis (W), Steve Kurth (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99. Six-Issue Miniseries.

Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein: Prodigal Son #1:

When it comes to the world of horror writing, there are usually two names at the top—Stephen King and Dean Koontz. And I’m sure fans of the latter would put his name first. Well, Marvel has Stephen King, but their former partner Dabel has laid claim to Mr. Koontz. This week, they adapt one of his works for comics.

The police in New Orleans are on the trail of a new serial killer. The killer is keeping body parts from each of his victims. Is it just some kind of sick trophy, or something far more sinister? Well, since Frankenstein is in the title of the comic, I’d vote for the second option.

Chuck Dixon (W), Brett Booth (A), Dabel Brothers Productions, $2.99.  Five-Issue Miniseries.

###

William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer. He also writes periodic comic reviews for PopMatters, is a weekly contributor to Film Buff Online and writes title descriptions for Human Computing’s Comicbase collection management software. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com

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