Welcome to the first installment of Inside Gotham, where we’ll look at all the books involving members of the Bat Family every week. We’re tripling up with a look at books from the last three weeks. Enjoy, but remember there are spoilers ahead.

Batman 29
The War of Jokes and Riddles moved from the streets of Gotham to a new battlefield…Wayne Manor? Yes, Bruce Wayne invited Joker and Riddler, along with three members of their respective teams, to partake in a nine-course dinner at his estate.

His plan? Figure out what’s motivating this bloody war between the two sides and to determine what he can do to stop it. Joker arrives with Mr. Freeze, Penguin and Ventriloquist & Scarface in tow, while Riddler’s backup consists of Killer Croc, Two-Face and Poison Ivy.

During the second course, Bruce tells his guests that Gotham, his beloved home that the Waynes have dedicated their lives to, is suffering because of their fight. He wants to put an end to the suffering.

As dinner progresses, tensions mount between the two sides. Bruce intercedes and cooler heads prevail as he steers the conversation towards a simply question: why Batman? His two foes agree that Batman is “problematic.” Riddler and Joker take turns calmly explaining exactly how the Dark Knight would meet his maker while dining on their entrees.

Over sorbet, Bruce gives his guests a chance to plead their case as to why Batman should die, and why the rival shouldn’t kill him. He offers one billion dollars to the side he feels made the better case. He hears both sides then declares the winner will be contacted through James Gordon for fear the losing side wouldn’t take the news very well.

With the sides dispersed and having retreated to the cozy confines of the Batcave, Bruce reveals he knows who he’d fight for, which man he’d join up with. It’s a beautiful cliffhanger to tide us over for the next two weeks.

Another brilliant issue from arguably the best writer in the business. A must-read.

Nightwing 27
Dick Grayson’s past as a Spyral agent catches up with him in Nightwing 27. Tim Seeley, who along with Tom King wrote Grayson’s series as a super-spy during the New 52, penned the issue.

New readers might struggle with the backstory about Dick’s past with the spy organization, but it’s always fun to see him and Huntress kick bad guy butt together. A nice twist at the end will ensure that I come back for more next month.

Batwoman 6
The future of Gotham is shown in all its bleakness in the first part of the Open Fire storyline from Marguerite Bennett, James T. Tynion IV and Renato Arlem. We’re given a look at the future shown in Batwoman: Rebirth, where Gotham is a totalitarian state and Kate finds herself in charge of The Colony.

It was also great seeing Renee Montoya and Harvey Bullock again…it feels like forever since I saw them together.  It’s an interesting read, but I have to wonder if this is actually going to be Kate’s future or just a possible one. Either way, it was a fun read, despite all that bleakness.

Nightwing: The New Order 1
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a story where a hero turns against his friends in hopes of bringing about a new world order. This time, the fallen hero in question is Dick Grayson, who has eliminated most of the heroes in the DCU. His motivation is noble enough: to make the world safer for the ordinary joe. However, keeping the peace and maintaining his humanity proves to be more difficult that Dick could imagine.

We’re treated to something new in this series: seeing Dick as a father. His son Jake, born to Dick and an unnamed mother, serves as the series narrator. It’s an interesting dynamic, seeing Dick in the father figure role we’re so accustomed to seeing Bruce Wayne in, with Dick in the son role.

Kyle Higgins’ return to Nightwing is a rousing success. I loved this issue and eagerly await issue two.

Batman/The Shadow 5
The impossible has happened: I found myself underwhelmed by a comic with Scott Snyder’s name on it. This issue of the crossover featuring two of the most beloved heroes in comicdom, yet something caused the issue to fall flat on its face.

In the first half of the series, the heroes spent much of their time putting their investigative skills to use, but now the series has degenerated into a typical find the bad guy, beat up the bad guy story and it’s a waste of these two incredible characters.

It’s a shame, because this series started off so strongly.

Batman Beyond 11
Dan Jurgens, take a bow. You’ve done something in this issue I didn’t think possible: you made me like Damien Wayne. The finale of the Rise of the Demon storyline was an action-packed, emotionally-charged roller coaster ride with a superb payoff at the end.

Damien has assumed his grandfather R’as Al Ghul’s mantle as head of the League of Shadows, and is hellbent on eliminating Terry McGinnis. The Wayne scion challenged Terry to a battle, and Damien’s father Bruce is caught in the middle. Damien is bent out of shape that he has been replaced as the successor to the Batman mantle, and it determined to eliminate this pretender to his throne.

The Damien-Terry battle, drawn by Bernard Chang, is breathtaking. It’s one of the best-looking books of the year, hands down. My favourite moment came at the end, when Bruce called Terry and Damien his two sons. It showed a human side to Bruce, a side that isn’t portrayed often enough.

This is a fabulous read and a perfect culmination to a great storyline.

Batgirl 14
Reunited and it feels so good! Hope Larson brings Barbara and Dick back together again (at least temporarily) to try and solve a case that ties back to their past. We learn about a woman named Ainsley, a substitute teacher at Babs’ school and someone who had something bad befall her. The big takeaway from this is that Babs is guilty about the whole thing, and that the past is coming back to haunt her.

We’re also treated to a fun little flashback of Babs and Dick in their Batgirl and Robin guises. It’s always good to see those two together, whether it’s present day or throwback like this. Can we just hurry up and put them back together, please?

I’m curious to see where this mystery goes.

Detective Comics 963
Ugh. This isn’t a comment on the quality of the issue of the creators involved, not by a longshot. It’s about the character that featured prominently in this issue: Anarky. I’ve been reading comics for over 40 years, and there are characters that have, for whatever reason, never resonated with me. Anarky is on that list.

His appearance sullied the issue immediately for me, and I am hard-pressed to find anything good to say about it. Perhaps the Tim-Stephanie flashback, but that’s about it. I look forward to this arc’s conclusion so the creators can move onto something more interesting.

All-Star Batman 13
Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque have confirmed something I’ve believed for years: Alfred is awesome. He’s so much more than a simple butler, and the talented creative team did a bang-up job showing us in the penultimate issue of the series.

I love that Snyder took this opportunity to tell the story from Alfred’s point of view, bringing him out of the shadows and into the spotlight where he belongs. We get a look at his training for the Nemesis Program, and how his mentor, Briar, would fit in perfectly with the other freaks in Gotham.

It’s a shame that this series is coming to an end, but the ride has been a blast.

Busiek and Leon team on new miniseries
Kurt Busiek and John Paul Leon team up to present Batman: Creature of the Night. From the original DC press release:

Every Batman fan has dreamed of becoming the Dark Knight—putting on the cowl, firing up the Batmobile and heading out to take on the Joker. However, we’d imagine that very few of them have dreamed about being Bruce Wayne as a child. While having your own Batcave and hanging with the Justice League would be fun, the important tragedy it took for Bruce Wayne to get there is often overlooked.

That’s not the case in this fall’s new Batman miniseries,Batman: Creature of the Night, in which a young Batman fan faces a childhood that suddenly becomes unbearably similar to his hero’s. Written by Kurt Busiek (ASTRO CITY), drawn by John Paul Leon (MOTHER PANIC) and set outside of regular continuity, Creature of the Night is a four-issue, prestige format limited series set in Boston in 1968.

Bruce Wainwright is a comic book-reading kid whose obsession with the Caped Crusader leads him to some very dark places which he must ultimately confront when his parents are murdered after walking in on a robbery. It’s a story about loss and confronting your inner demons in the face of that loss that takes a turn towards the unusual when a familiar-looking crimefighter begins to appear on the city streets.

Creature of the Night #1 will hit store shelves November 29.

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