Carlos Williams requested a Flash comics chronology. Personally, I'm not a big fan of reading a comic about someone who runs fast. The character is much better suited for TV, and the CW is doing an incredible job with the current Flash TV show, and it's spin-off, "Legends Of Tomorrow". "Arrow" sucks, though.
If I were to make a five season chronology for The Flash, I would skip out on all the silver-age Barry Allen stories. So, unlike some of the previous chronologies, you're not going to get a ton of origin stories and first appearances of villains. The Flash will follow Wally West (who is not like the Wally West in the TV show...instead of being Iris's brother, he is her nephew) and the villains he inherited from the previous Flash.
Fuck you uncle Barry!
art by Greg Larocque
Season 1: Terminal Velocity
(Showrunner: Mark Waid)
Serial 1: The Flash By Mark Waid Book One
written by Mark Waid, art by Greg Larocque, Jim Aparo, and Pop Mhan
Wally West is Barry Allen's favorite nephew. But Barry has always been careless with chemicals and lightning, so he accidentally, and against astronomical odds, recreates the situation that turned him into The Flash, thus turning Wally into Kid Flash. Idiot. But it's not too long before Wally has to go from Kid Flash to regular old Flash when Uncle Barry disappears saving the universe.
Kid Crisis. 2 episodes.
Serial 2: The Flash By Mark Waid Book Two
written by Mark Waid, art by Greg Larocque and Sal Velluto
It seems like just one serial ago when Wally West was Kid Flash and Barry Allen rescued the universe, meaning he was gone forever. Oh, wait. It was. Then how is Barry back already? And why is he such a dick? Original Recipe Flash, Jay Garrick, and some Green Lanterns step in to try and solve the mystery.
The Premature Return Of Barry Allen . 2 episodes
Serial 3: Impulse Reckless Youth, The Flash Terminal Velocity
written by Mark Waid, art by many
One of the things that drives me crazy about Flash books is that there are So Many Characters whose power is that they can run fast. And this series adds even more! Bart Allen, Barry's grandson from the future (comics, sigh), finds himself in the present, and it's up to Wally West, Jay Garrick , Johnny and Jesse Quick, and Max Mercury (alliteration, ugh) to train him, lest he become any more of a bratty nuisance.
Impulse Control. 3 episodes
Episode 8: The Flash Dead Heat
(written by Mark Waid, art by Oscar Jiminez, and Humberto Ramos)
The lamest part of the Flash tv series is how terribly CGI the villain Savitar looks. It's so substandard to the other effects on the show that I have a hard time taking him seriously. Well, in this book we meet Oh So 90s Savitar, who looks like Rob Liefeld designed him but someone with talent and opposable thumbs got to draw him. Once again, all the speedsters are in this book. And Savitar, also a speedster, has brought a new army of speedsters. So much running. So much hair.
Faster Than The Fastest Man Alive. 1 episode
Episode 9: The Flash Race Against Time
written by Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn, art by Oscar Jiminez, Anthony Castrillo, Jim Cheung, and Sergio Cariello
Another another goddamned Flash??? This one wears a blue suit and, like very other new Flash before him, his arrival changes everytthzzzzzzZZZZzzzzzzzZZZZxxxxXXZXZxzzxzx, huh? Oh, changes everything. While this Flash is in the present, Wally West is doing some serious Ghost Of Christmas Future adventuring around the timeline on his way home from defeating Savitar.
Blue Steal. 1 episode
Serial 4: The Flash Emergency Stop
written by Grant Morrison and Mark Millar, art by Paul Ryan...not the spineless Speaker Of The House
Wally West is dead. And it's up to the eight billion speedster characters, including Wally West, himself (totally not dead) to solve his murder. In addition to yet another speedster villain, we get some time to visit with classic villains like Mirror Master and Captain Boomerang.
The Suit. 2 episodes
Serial 5: The Flash The Human Race
written by Grant Morrison and Mark Millar, art by Paul Ryan and Pop Mhan
Alien gamblers arrive on Earth and demand a champion speedster human race an alien speedster. Sure. Featuring all the speedsters, and even new speedsters! Alien speedsters! Speedsters that Wally might have encountered when he was a child! And then, The Black Flash. No, it's not a cool new character of color, it's a...speed force demon doppelganger maybe? It runs! Fast! And Wally must conquer it to avenge yet another death that may or not be permanent!
The Human Race. 3 episodes
Season 1 of The Flash is 15 episodes that don't go as fast as you might imagine a book about speed would.
The Avengers franchise is what made Marvel Studios the completely dominant force in comic based entertainment. The way they streamlined Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and other characters into an expansive universe that also includes television shows like Daredevil and Agents Of SHIELD is something that has never been achieved before in motion picture entertainment.
The Avengers continuity, even without including the individual characters is supremely daunting. So, I’ve put together a chronology of some of the best Avengers related books that are currently or were recently available in collected editions (the recently available are still around for pretty cheap on various online outlets and in bookstores) into ten TV seasons.
Last season ended with an almost out of control three cosmic battles. It’s hard to imagine how this season could have more cosmic consequences, and more at stake without tossing in the DC Universe, too. But that will never hap---oh, ok.
Cosmic Scavenger Hunt, anyone?
art by Ed Benes
Season 2: Crossing Worlds
(showrunners Kurt Busiek and Geoff Johns)
Serial 1: Avengers Epic Coll Operation Galactic Storm
(written and with art by many)
The Sh’iar and The Kree go to war, and, of course, The Avengers are caught in the middle.
Galactic Storm. 3 episodes
Serial 2: JLA/Avengers
(written by Kurt Busiek with art by George Perez)
Yeup. DC’s greatest heroes and Marvel’s greatest heroes collide as we get a typical cosmic entity presents heroes with a quest to save their universe. It’s only fun because you get to hear what DC heroes think of Marvel 616, and Marvel characters react to DC’s Earth One. It’s otherwise a pretty typical tale of betrayal, finding understandings, and saving the day. It did take twenty-five years between when Perez started working on the first issue and when DC and Marvel finally got it together and release the final issue, though
JLA Avengers. 3 episodes
Serial 3: Avengers Citizen Kang
(written by Roy Thomas and Mark Gruenwald, art by Larry Alexander, Geof Isherwood, and Herb Trimpe)
An entire town goes missing in Wisconsin, as does The Vision. The Fantastic Four and the Avengers team up to try and find him, and the town. Of course, Kang is involved, so things are about to get weird.er.
Citizen Kang. 2 episodes
Serial 3: Avengers Supreme Justice
(written by Kurt Busiek, art by George Perez)
Scaling things back just a bit. What if a similar story happened between The Avengers and The Squadron Supreme. Of course, The Kree are involved, too. And Carol Danvers just doesn’t feel as important as she wishes she was. Be patient, Carol, your time is coming.
Supreme Justice. 2 episodes
Episode 11: Marvel Boy
(written by Grant Morrison, art by JG Jones)
One of the Kree’s greatest weapons is a child named Noh-Varr who crashes on Earth, only to be abducted for his technology. The way he is handled by Earth’s heroes might be a terrible mistake.
Noh-Varr. 1 episode
Serial 3: Avenger World Trust, Avengers Standoff, Avengers Red Zone
(written by Geoff Johns, Dan Jurgens, and Mike Grell, art by Keiron Dwyer, Rick Remender, Gary Frank, Jon Sibal, Alan Davis, Ivan Reis, and Oliver Coipel)
After some Kang-centric shenanigans, The government decides to make The Avengers an official task force, as opposed to Nick Fury and SHIELD’s secret friends. But how will the nation react to The Avengers becoming sanctioned American superheroes? Plus, Jack Of Hearts has custody issues. Thor gets reprimanded by Secretary Of Defense, Tony Stark, and a familiar terrorist releases chemical warfare at Mount Rushmore.
World Trust. 5 episodes
Serial 4: The Search For She-Hulk
(written by Geoff Johns, art by Scott Kollins and Stephen Sadowski)
Jack Of Hearts searches for purpose, Ant-Man tries to patch things up with Wasp, and both The Avengers and The Hulk try to help She-Hulk with her rage issues. And someone totally dies (but not anyone most people remember).
What Happens In Vegas. 2 episodes
Serial 5: Avengers Disassembled
(written by Brian Michael Bendis, art by David Finch)
Dead Avengers come back to life, only to immediately die again. Kree attack. She Hulk goes even crazier. The Avengers mansion is burned to the ground. One drunk slip by an Avenger causes all hell to reign down on them, and they’re going to have to seriously rebuild if they’re going to remain a team.
Disassembled. 2 episodes
This season falls apart at 20 episodes
Interseason Special: Jessica Jones Alias (AKA Jessica Jones) Vols 1-3
(written by Brian Michael Bendis, art by Michael Gaydos)
A small-time New York City detective specializing in superhuman affairs used to be an Avenger named Jewel (no, she didn’t live in her car and put out a popular folk-pop album in the 90s). This story is also part of my Daredevil continuity because it plays a big part in his story, but she also has a relationship with Luke Cage that’s going to make her an important part of this continuity, as well.
I was never much into The Green Lantern, but I started working in comic book stores right before Geoff Johns brought Hal Jordan back to prominence as a major character in the DC Universe. There are about five seasons worth of stories that I’ve read that fit pretty neatly into the continuity that Johns mined from, and then created himself.
Season 2 brings us the downfall of Hal Jordan, and introduces us to yet another Green Lantern of Earth, Kyle Rainer.
Almost an entire season of Kyle as The Green Lantern? Haters gonna haaaaate.
Art by Dale Eaglesham
Season 2: Ion
(showrunners Ron Marz and Judd Winnick)
Serial 1: Emerald Twilight New Dawn, Zero Hour Crisis In Time
(written by Ron Marz, art by Darryl Banks)
Hal Jordan’s hometown, Coast City, is destroyed in the wake of The Death Of Superman. Because the guardians won’t allow him to save the city where he was raised, Hal goes absolutely bonkers, destroys Oa, and kills as many Green Lanterns as he can. Once he becomes Parallax, he tries to repair Coast City as well as the timeline. Several DC superheroes step in to try and stop him.
Emerald Twilight. 2 episodes
Serial 2: Green Lantern Baptism Of Fire
(written by Ron Marz, art by Darryl Banks, Paul Pelletier, Romeo Tanghal, and Albert de Guzman)
Kyle Rainer is the new Green Lantern of Earth and has no corps or guardians to train him. So he seeks out some of The Justice League to try and teach him how to wield the green power ring. Batman, The Flash, and Wonder Woman guest star.
Baptism Of Fire. 2 episodes
Episode 5: Green Lantern Emerald Allies
(written by Ron Marz and Chuck Dixon, art by Darryl Banks and others)
It’s the next generation of Green Lantern/Green Arrow as Kyle Rainer teams up with Connor Hawke to solve some serious daddy issues.
Emerald Allies. 1 episode
Episode 6: Green Lantern Emerald Knights
(written by Ron Marz and Chuck Dixon, art by Darryl Banks)
Kyle goes into the past and brings Green Lantern Hal Jordan back to the present to battle Parallax Hal Jordan.
Emerald Knights. 1 episode
Episode 7: Justice League New World Order
(written by Grant Morrison, art by Howard Porter and John Dell)
Now that Justice League International has been stripped down to a core group of superheroes, Kyle Rainer is given a spot in the Big Seven.
New World Order. 1 episode
Episode 8: Green Lantern Traitor
(written by Steven Grant)
Another three stories across time collection. This time it’s Abin Sur, Hal Jordan, and then Kyle battling a villain called The Traitor. The Hal Jordan portion is the least compelling, but it’s nice to spend some time with Abin Sur, particularly in The American West.
Traitor. 1 episode
Episode 9: Green Lantern Circle Of Fire
(written by Brian K Vaughan and Scott Beatty)
Kyle Rainer gathers a group of fringe DC heroes to battle a villain called Oblivion. This is the only DC proper story I’ve read by Brian K Vaughan, and it’s of a higher quality than much of the Kyle Rainer stuff.
Circle Of Fire. 1 episode
Episode 10: Green Lantern New Journey Old Path
(written by Judd Winnick)
Yellow power rings? Oh, dear. A prisoner at a mental hospital is given access to a yellow power ring before escaping and wreaking havoc that captures the attention of The Justice League and Kyle Rainer.
Yellow. 1 episode
Episode 11: Green Lantern The Power Of Ion
(written by Judd Winnick, art by Dale Eaglesham, Eric Battle, Brandon Badeaux, Jamal Igle, and Pat Quinn)
Kyle loses his Green Lantern identity in a battle with Oblivion. But fear not, he’s now the Green Lantern-like hero called Ion.
Ion. 1 episode
Episode 12: Green Lantern Brother’s Keeper
(written by Judd Winnick)
This is a fairly preachy story, pretty consistent with Judd Winnick’s early work. Homophobia and bigotry are bad, yo. And Judd’s not afraid to let you know it. Repeatedly. There’s also an interesting Alan Scott story here.
Brother’s Keeper. 1 episode
Episode 13: Green Lantern Passing The Torch
(written by Judd Winnick)
The end of Winnick’s run. Ion and Jade go to the reformed Oa and meets with the reformed guardians. Jon Stewart stays behind to protect Earth.
Passing The Torch. 1 episode
Serial 3: Green Lantern Rebirth
(written by Geoff Johns, art by Ethan Van Sciver and Prentis Rollins)
That was an intensely long season of Kyle Rainer to read through but there needed to be some dramatic tension before Hal Jordan, former Green Lantern, former Paralaxx, and former Spectre, comes back to the Green Lantern Corps. Yes, Corps. The Corps is back! Jon Stewart, Kyle Rainer and the Justice League are onhand for Hal’s redemption.
Rebirth. 2 episodes
Season 2 is 15 episodes
The X-Men franchise has had a few animated series, and is on their way to a sixth live action movie. But how would you put together a ten season live action show with continuity and including the best stories from the various X-books over the years?
At its heart, The X-Men have been a small band of mutants brought together by Professor Charles Xavier. He’s a professor because he runs a school. A small school. A small private school for mutants. But when Marvel handed the reigns of their franchise to Grant Morrison, he thought “What if we made everything about the X-Men bigger?” More mutants, bigger campus, higher stakes. And thus, all the X-men writers and artists followed him as he helped the X-Men involve into the 21st century.
Xorn meditates on how to eat a cheeseburger while wearing a metal mask
art by Frank Quitely
Season Five: Planet X
(showrunner: Grant Morrison)
Serial 1: New X-Men Ultimate Collection Volume 1
(written by Grant Morrison, art by Frank Quitely, Ethan Van Sciver, Leinil Francis Yu, Igor Kordey, and Tom Derenick)
Grant Morrison fucks shit up. Secondary mutations, how mutants fit into the evolutionary timeline, Professor X takes his school global, the X-Men give up their random uniforms for leather jackets with yellow Xes, Professor X has a twin sister, Emma Frost has a British accent and a heroic streak, a whole mess of new characters. So much goodness in one giant book.
E Is For Extinction. 4 episodes
Serial 2: X-Treme X-Men Volumes 1-3
(written by Chris Claremont, art by Salvador Larroca)
Meanwhile, Chris Claremont is back for a weird little run of his own. Rogue is trying to figure out Destiny’s book of predictions for the X-Men and how to stop world ending events. There are a lot of Claremont tropes of losing powers and team dynamics that are a fun respite from the Morrison stuff.
Destiny. 2 episodes
Serial 3: X-Corps
(written by Joe Casey, art by Ian Churchill, Sean Phillips, Ashley Wood, Ron Garney, and Aaron Lopresti)
On a more serious note, while Morrison’s book focuses on Xavier’s School, Joe Casey shows us what happens when Angel’s money allows the X-Men to form a corporately funded team to react to world events. Banshee leads a squad in Europe, while back in the US, some of the usual X-Men are joined by Chamber and Stacy X, as Casey explores a lot of religious and sexual themes (but not X rated sexual themes).
X-Corps. 3 episodes
Serial 4: New X-Men Ultimate Collection Volume 2
(written by Grant Morrison, art by John Paul Leon, Igor Kordey, Phil Jimenez, Ethan Van Sciver, Keron Grant, and Frank Quitely)
Our leather clad school teachers try to deal with the aftermath of an extinction level event and the outing of Professor X (as a mutant), a drug epidemic, a school based riot by a naughty psychic student, and then Bishop returns from The X-Treme X-Men to solve a murder of someone who is totally and completely dead forever.
Riot At Xavier’s. 4 episodes
Background story: Mystique: The Brian K Vaughan Ultimate Collection
(written by Brian K Vaughan, art by Jorge Lucas, Michael Ryan, and Manuel Garcia)
Throughout the third and fourth serials, we witness Professor X sending long-time X-foe, Mystique, out as a mercenary to do the jobs that Professor X can’t have traced back to him. What could possibly go wrong?
Episode 15: X-23 Innocence Lost
(written by Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost, art by Billy Tan)
We spend an “episode” away form the main teams as we meet yet another stabby member of the Wolverine “family”, as a young clone fights her Weapon # training to try and be a good uhhhh person.
X-23. 1 episode
Serial 5: Assault On Weapon Plus
(written by Grant Morrison, art by Phil Jiminez and Chris Bachalo)
I’m sure you imagine this season will end with New X-Men Ultimate Collection 3, the denouement of Morrison’s run. Ehhhh. Look, you can buy it if you want, but the last few issues of his run is a giant middle finger to Marvel’s Editorial, and while that’s conceptually interesting, it’s kind of annoying to read. I recommend getting the smaller trades. In this serial we meet Fantomex and discover what the “X” in “Weapon X” really stands for. (Spoiler alert: It’s not porn related.) Plus, bonding between Cyclops and Wolverine is always so much fun.
Assault On Weapon Plus. 2 episodes
Serial 6: Planet X
(written by Grant Morrison, art by Phil Jiminez)
I’m not really a fan of Planet X but it does wrap up all the plot development that Morrison laid down. We learn more about Xorn than we imagined. The “special class” at Xavier’s school goes rogue. Plus, while I’m usually sarcastic when I mention that a character death is totally permanent and forever, the death in Planet X has lasted fifteen years and that character isn’t back yet. Very much.
Planet X. 4 episodes
Season 5 is 20 episodes
Interseason special: NYX Wannabe.
(written by Joe Quesada, art by Joshua Middleton and Robert Teranishi)
X-23 and some other young mutants live in New York. They’re not on the X-Men’s radar, so they live their lives on the streets making dubious choice after dubious choice.
One of the easiest questions I get asked about Batman is, "Where do I start?"
Since most of us have a finite amount of time to devote to comics, and a possibly more finite budget, the ability to track down a copy of Detective Comics #27 and start reading from there is a crack pipe dream. Sure, DC has collected the beginning of the Detective and Batman comics in their DC Archive hardcovers, and DC Chronicles, and, yes, if you don't care about the art being colored, you can save yourself a chunk of change and start buying the Showcase collections DC has been putting out. But, for those of us who didn't grow up with, or grow to love Golden Age and Silver Age comics, these options represent an unrealistic level of dedication.
So when a customer walks into the store, and says "I love Batman. Can you recommend a good place to start reading from?" I always recommend Frank Miller's "Year One" I'll get to why I start there in the next entry. The problem is when a customer buys Year One, loves it, and returns, asking "What's next?"
There is almost too much next to contemplate. Unlike your favorite indie comic, or your favorite television show, Batman doesn't have a straightforward chronology. Hundreds of writers have written official DC Batman stories in the pages of Detective Comics, Batman, Gotham Knights, Shadow Of The Bat, Batman & Robin, World's Finest, Streets Of Gotham, and Batman/Superman to name a few. Plus, he is often a member of the Justice League Of America, and shows up in just about all of the big DC Crossovers.
It is nigh improbable to come up with a chronology for Batman, even if you start at Year One (which came out in 1986). But that's what I'm going to attempt to do here. I'm not going to go issue by issue through the Bat-verse. I'm going to go by the trade paperback collections that DC comics has released, including all the titles I mentioned above, plus the spin-off series such as Robin, Nightwing, Birds Of Prey, Batgirl, and others.
Apart from skipping the Elseworlds tales (stories that take place completely outside of DC's main universe), I'm going to be as thorough as I can. I've been buying most of the trades at local comic book stores, and even finding some out of print books in used bookstores, and online.
The order that I recommend reading Batman in is not necessarily by issue number. It is by what I think is currently in continuity, and how it would be presented if the book was by one author (other than Grant Morrison, who has a more complex understanding of how time works than I). I am absolutely open to people presenting alternate chronologies. So if you read an entry, and think "Hey, that event took place before" for example: "No Man's Land. There's no way it can happen after Bruce adopts Tim Drake as his son." You don't need to send me hate mail, or call me a clueless moron, just tell me why you think I'm wrong, and I'll either explain my reasoning, or else defer to yours and make a correction.
The only real limit I have is that because DC makes interesting decisions when compiling and releasing trades, there will be hiccups in the reading order. For complaints about DC's trade paperback policy, please e-mail Dan Didio, not me.
I'm forward dating this entry, so it will always be up top. It may be edited as the series progresses. Hope you enjoy reading this, and that it's helpful. Feel free to comment. I tend to only bite when provoked.
As you will learn through the course of this blog, I have a very love/hate relationship with Grant Morrison's Batman. And while my recent feelings towards his Caped Crusader usually involve me blacking out with rage, I'm a huge fan of his 80s and 90s work.
One of the things I find most intriguing/frustrating about Morrison's Batman is how he plays with time and dreams. In stories such as Gothic (Legends Of The Dark Knight 6-10), Morrison gives us his signature coded dreams that tie into Bruce Wayne's real life. Whereas in recent years, I've felt his dream sequences and time fluctuations detract from the stories he tries to tell, in Gothic the dreams are placed in context almost immediately.
This story also gives us a rare glimpse into Bruce's childhood. Most writers seem to think there was nothing to his youth other than the night his parents were shot. Morrison presents us with a trauma of a different sort, as Bruce is nearly the victim of a serial killer who moonlights as the headmaster of the Bruce's very creepy alma mater.
The killer, Mr. Whisper (no relation to Hush, though it's interesting that the two villains connected to Bruce Wayne's childhood both have names with a quiet theme), returns during Batman's early days to take down a group of criminals who had tried to kill him shortly after Bruce was pulled out of school.
These sort of chronological coincidences usually rankle me the wrong way. All the characters and subplots of the story wrap up a little neatly for my taste. I do appreciate that there's a misdirect early on in the story when a young nun shows up, looking very similar to Selina Kyle's sister from Year One, and My Sister's Keeper.
While it's probably due more to editorial reasons than Morrison's shortcomings as a writer, it is disappointing that we don't see any other continuity characters in this arc. The criminals don't appear to have any connections to the Falcones, and there's no mention of James Gordon. We do have the first use of a, not the, a Bat-Signal in this issue, when the nervous criminals attach an upside-down Bat logo to a spotlight to get the caped crusader's attention.
Story 3/5, Art 3/5
In 1993, DC comics asked Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale to create a Halloween special issue for their Legend Of The Dark Knight series. The pairing of this creative team would go on to create The Long Halloween and Dark Victory, two of my favorite Batman stories. Haunted Knight is a precursor to those storylines. While it's not as tight a narrative as the other two collections, it does feature some plot points that will come up later.
The major problem I have about this collection is that it's set up in the order that the specials were released, which doesn't appear to be the order that the stories take place. So, while I don't suggest reading the collection manga style, I do recommend reading the third chapter in this collection, Ghosts, first. My reason being that I believe this collection should be read as 48 hours in the life of Batman, not three different years on Halloween.
Ghosts starts the night before at a banquet where The Penguin makes his first appearance, interrupting one of Bruce Wayne's shindigs. Batman captures the villain, retrieving a medallion Penguin stole from Lucius Fox. The medallion features either an exact mock up of the Wayne family door knockers, or else Bruce's father's face. Either way, the charm induces a sort of hypnosis on Bruce, and the story turns into a Halloween retelling of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, with Thomas Wayne as Jacob Marley, Poison Ivy as The Ghost Of Christmas Past, The Joker as The Ghost Of Christmas Present, and a grim reaper as The Ghost Of Christmas Future. Among the memories is a primer as to how Lucius Fox got into Wayne's life, as well as unintentional foreshadowing to Final Crisis and Blackest Night.
Next up is chapter two: Madness. In it, The Mad Hatter kidnaps Jim Gordon's niece, Barbara, who he's just adopted. Adoption is a bit of a theme in this book, as we are also introduced to Leslie Thompkins, a doctor who helped Alfred raise Bruce after (brace yourselves, new info here) his parents were killed. (Note: If you want to turn this website into a drinking game, sip a beer every time I make a joke at the expense of Grant Morrison, and a shot every time I have to mention that (spoiler alert) Bruce's parents were killed.) This story also injects Alice In Wonderland into the Batman mythos. I grew up loving the book, but I find its saturation in comics, particularly Batman, a bit overwrought. This story is not one of the finest examples of working the book in subtly. The "through the looking glass" line hurt to read, but the rest of the story is pretty solid.
The first chapter, Fears, takes us back to another Wayne Halloween party. While Ghosts and Madness could happen in the same timeframe, this party and the party from Ghosts can't really be the same party, so let's say, for argument's sake, Wayne scheduled a second party due to his guilt over the first one being crashed by The Penguin. This party is slightly more successful, as none of the rogues gallery interrupts, but a woman named Jillian Maxwell attempts to seduce Bruce, much to the disdain of Alfred. Alfred does his own detective work while Batman is off dealing with The Scarecrow, and discovers Jillian is a black widow who serially marries and then murders rich husbands under a variety of names.
While all three of these stories are very good, the highlight of this collection is Tim Sale and Gregory Wright's art. The panel layouts are effortlessly complex. Despite their nontraditional placement, there's never any doubt where the eye should go next. And Wright's colors are an integral part of the story. I especially love his greyscaled pages with the lightly colored narrative boxes.
Story 4/5, Art 5/5
There's something nearly poetic about how many of the books that portray Batman as being a bad guy are, themselves, terrible. I lumped Batman Deadman and Teen Titans Year One together mostly to get them out of the way.
Batman Deadman is by James Robinson, who has done a lot of work for DC, and is best known for Starman. While I highly recommend the Starman series (currently being released in omnibus hardcovers), none of his mainstream character work really stands out to me as good. So, while I read this blind for the first few pages, I quickly flipped to the cover to see who was killing my post-Trinity Batman buzz and was not surprised to see Robinson's name on the cover.
Robinson's writing, like Grant Morrison's, tends to stray from typical stories. And while I applaud him for that initiative, I don't tend to connect with his characters. And if I don't feel something for the characters, no amount of interesting plot concepts is going to win me over.
What did win me over was John Estes's art, which looks like early 90s Vertigo, if it were made using colored pencils and watercolors. The details in the background and props make up for the, at best, mediocre dialog.
The basic premise of the story is that while pursuing The Joker, Batman seems to black out and when he wakes up, he is believed to have killed police officers, and is holding an innocent woman at knife point. The story descends into magic and possession and demons, which are not my favorite aspects of comics.
Most of the focus on this book is on characters involved with Deadman, although we do have some Alfred and Jim Gordon moments.
(a biased against possession) Story: 2/5, Art: 5/5
While the two stories aren't supposed to be intertwined, and have two different demons, possession of Batman, and other members of the JLA is also at the core of Amy Wolfram's Teen: Titans Year One. This time we see Batman's possession through the eyes of Robin. Batman is behaving as though he was in Frank Miller's All Star Batman And Robin, but with less rat eating and cursing.
Batman isn't the only one behaving strangely, though. The entire JLA is possessed by a demon called Antithesis. Robin rounds up a few of his sidekick friends in order to discover why the heroes are behaving strangely. So this collection features the chronological debut of Kid Flash, Aqua Lad, Speedy, and Wonder Girl.
This collection is intended for children, and so the voice of the characters is skewed from how they're written in other books. But The Teen Titans are an important part of the Batman mythos, so I felt their origin story needed to be included. It's cartoony style is a little out of place in the chronology, but as the debut of the sidekicks as heroes, it's brightness in both art and storytelling can be seen as metaphorical. And it makes what happens to the team down the line seem all the darker.
Story: 3/5, Art: 4/5
I'm going to add Full Circle to this entry, though it doesn't contain a possessed Batman, but it does continue the theme of characters written in an odd voice. Batman Full Circle features a very silver-agey Dick Grayson as Robin. Lots of cheesy one liners, and the classic Batman benches Robin storyline. Much like the book that this is a direct sequel to, Fear The Reaper, this book has a lot of tropes, and suffers because the tropes are not used as well as they are in other collections.
The concept behind this story is the next generation of the families from Fear The Reaper. Joe Chill's son and grandson, Rachel Caspian's relationship to The Reaper, and, of course, Batman and Robin. We also have another appearance by Leslie Thompkins, and your requisite hookers and nuns.
Todd Mcfarlane drew this book, and it's not his best work. He seems not to know quite how to draw The Reaper. His proportions linger somewhere on the border of inconsistent and awful. And Batman and Robin look too golden agey when presented against the designs of the other characters.
Story: 2/5, Art: 2/5
The Full Circle Story is also included in the Year Two: Fear The Reaper Trade. I would say "I wouldn't waste my money buying this collection on its own." but clearly I not only would, but did.