Review: “Batman” Breathes New Life Into A 72-Year-Old Character

Also, Image Comics continues its indie dominance with The Walking Dead, Severed, and Who is Jake Ellis?.

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In a tight economy, it's not always clear what you should spend your hard-earned money on, and with comic books getting more and more expensive, your dollar doesn’t go as far at the comic shop as it did in the past. We here at Complex feel your pain, so we're providing you with a rundown of the best comics coming out on November 16, 2011.

Reviews by Jason Serafino (@serafinoj1)

Batman #3

What it’s about:Detective Comics may be DC’s longest running title and Action Comics may be its most prestigious title, but Batman has been the company’s the most consistently readable comic over the past seven decades. Backed by legendary creators such as Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams, Dick Sprang, and Frank Miller, Batman has served as a launching pad for some of the most important careers in the comic book industry.

In 2011, Batman is serving as a high-profile showcase for the burgeoning career of writer Scott Snyder. Along with artist Greg Capullo, Snyder’s recently relaunched Batman series is an instant standout amongst DC’s “New 52," proving that the superhero genre doesn’t just have to be relegated to clumsy crossover events and publicity stunts.

What to expect this month: Over the first two issues, Bruce Wayne has been slowly coming to the realization that there's another winged avatar making its way through Gotham: the owl. While no one knows who this mysterious force is, it got up close and personal with Wayne last issue until Wayne threw him out of a window of his company's tower. Somehow this bizarre villain wasn’t killed by the fall, thus it's still out to bring Batman and the Wayne family down. As Batman tries to get to the bottom of the mystery behind his would-be assassin, his obsession leaves him vulnerable to attacks, both mental and physical.

Snyder is crafting a mystery that calls the Dark Knight's recent adversaries into question and reveals an ancient conspiracy that his family has faced for decades. It’s gripping, unpredictable, intelligently plotted, and, most of all, incredibly illustrated thanks to Greg Capullo. In short, this is the only Batman book that you should concern yourself with at the moment.

Justice League #3

What it’s about: When DC launched its “New 52” initiative, the company needed to put out a book that eased readers into the new universe, and Justice League was an obvious choice. Set five years before almost every other DC title, Justice League tells the story of how the world’s most powerful heroes joined together in the first place.

With blockbuster plots by Geoff Johns and some wide-screen art by Jim Lee, Justice League is the perfect book for superhero fans who don't necessarily love comics. It doesn’t force people to memorize years of back-story, and there aren’t a lot of corny concepts that are hard to swallow for the average reader.

What to expect this month: Last issue saw the Flash, Green Lantern, and Batman all try to take down the Man of Steel with very little success, but the first signs of teamwork were displayed after all four were attacked by Darkseid’s minions. Now the team will come face-to-face with Wonder Woman for the first time as she joins in the battle against the ruler of Apokolips.

Johns and Lee may be traveling over well-worn territory, but there's enough style and flash to make even the most jaded fans take notice. And the fact that Justice League is a slow burn that's building towards the inevitable epic clash against Darkseid makes the anticipation almost unbearable.

Wonder Woman #3

What it’s about: There's no doubt that Wonder Woman is one of DC's most preeminent characters, but over the years she has never really found a creative team that could make her comics worth reading. Whether her stories lacked any distinct personality, featured lame villains, or revolved around a thin mythology, Wonder Woman has been an afterthought for decades.

Thankfully, the folks at DC recognized this (about three decades too late, mind you) and finally decided to put some mega talent behind the book. Writer Brian Azzarello and artist Cliff Chiang aren’t just on Wonder Woman to create a run-of-the-mill superhero title; they have injected this book with off-the-wall characters, killer art, and a surprisingly dark plot.

What to expect this month: After it was revealed last month that Strife, a.k.a. Eris, the goddess of discord, was in fact Wonder Woman’s sister, Azzarello further pushes the envelope in this issue by revealing that Zeus is actually her father. This is a stark departure from Wonder Woman’s classic DC origin, which featured her being created solely by her mother using enchanted clay.

Now the princess of the Amazons has to face her man-hating sisters and explain to them that the brashest man in the history of mythology is actually her father. While she deals with her bizarre family issues, she must also attempt to find out what her newfound sister is really up to. Azzarello and Chiang are in the middle of a modern classic that shrugs off superhero clichés in favor of more sophisticated storytelling, much akin to what goes on at DC’s mature readers imprint, Vertigo.

Severed #4

What it’s about: Scott Snyder isn’t strictly a superhero writer like most comic pros; he can also write a well-crafted, character driven horror book that most people can only dream of being capable of. In his Image series Severed, Snyder, along with writing partner Scott Tuft, presents a twisted tale of terror set in the infancy of the 20th century.

The story puts a focus on trust, appearances, and the dark side of humanity. Centering on two kids as they try to navigate this harsh new world, Severed is a slow-moving suspense tale that builds gracefully towards a crescendo. It’s in this pacing that the title leaves all horror comic competitors in the dust.

What to expect this month: Here's the most intense issue of Severed yet. The interplay between Jack and Sam is absolutely brilliant as their relationship begins to both prosper and fall apart all within 20 pages. But character development is only half of this issue’s appeal because the full-blown horror aspects of this book finally come out here.

There are always going to be victims in horror books, of course, but Snyder’s ability to make us really care about these characters give their misfortunes the impact of a two-ton weight. This issue is both heartbreaking and engrossing as Snyder proceeds to rip our hearts out with every new installment, aided by the heavily atmospheric art from Attila Futaki and inker Bill Nelson.

Whether you want to collect all of the individual issues or wait until the collected hardcover comes out, Severed is the perfect marriage between horror and the comic book medium.

The Walking Dead #91

What it’s about: If you don’t know what The Walking Dead is by now then you might be on the wrong site. Robert Kirkman’s sprawling zombie epic has been running strong for 91 issues, and it’s not showing any signs of slowing down at this point. While the TV show is getting all of the press recently, the comic series is still where it all began.

Most independent comic series can barely go 20 issues without a drastic drop in quality, but somehow Kirkman has been making this title work since 2003. If you’re only watching the TV show and not reading the comic, do yourself a favor and start picking up the back issues and realize why this is one of the best comics of all time.

What to expect this month:The Walking Dead succeeds this month with little more than a brief zombie cameo. Kirkman is keeping things interesting by continuing to poke and prod at the emotions of his characters. The most fascinating person in the whole book is, of course, Rick Grimes. His increasing paranoia and stress over leading his camp is beginning to affect his personal relationships as well as how people view him as a leader. Rick's fear over the future of the camp, especially their food supply, is now the driving force in his life no matter how unhealthy his obsessions may be.

The hero's fraying nerves are but a mere microcosm of the mood of the entire camp. Kirkman is building towards something big, part of which is revealed on the issue’s last page, and this ominous feeling permeates every page of the book. Don’t expect high-octane action and horror from this issue, but fans of intimate character pieces should feel right at home.

Who is Jake Ellis? (Trade Paperback)

What it’s about: It can be argued that, over the last five years, Image Comics has been the most consistent comic publisher in the world. Most of their success comes from the fact that they’re not shackled to mainstream properties and superhero books like Marvel and DC. The company can attract top talent and let them create whatever they want. Nathan Edmondson’s Who Is Jake Ellis? is a perfect example of this, and now the whole story is collected in one paperback.

Part Bourne Identity and part Fight Club, Who Is Jake Ellis? is a psychological thriller about a master thief/spy who gets aided by a mysterious man that only he can see. The story begins with a Hollywood-esque action scene on a yacht in Spain and never slows down until the closing pages.

This globetrotting espionage masterpiece doesn't need to rely on appearances from brightly colored corporate mascots. Edmondson’s smart, unpredictable script is matched perfectly by the highly-detailed art of Tonci Zonjic. Zonjic easily recreates exotic locales and landscapes with a photorealistic flare and eye for detail, which makes his action scenes flow with the same energy as a big-budget spy flick.

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