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"Batman: Earth One, Volume Two" and "Kingdom Come"

Batman: Earth One, Volume Two

By Geoff Johns (Author), Gary Frank, Jon Sibal, Brad Anderson (Illustrators) DC Comics (Publisher)

In case you missed the 2012 debut of Batman: Earth One, don’t fret: you’ve got another chance with Volume Two. The Batman: Earth One series of graphic novels reimagines the Dark Knight at the beginning of his journey to become a legend. This second volume, timed six months after the events of the first volume, takes place in the aftermath of the mayor’s death. The new mayor, Jessica Dent, and her brother, crusading District Attorney Harvey Dent, are trying to clean the criminal elements from Gotham City. But the criminal empire of the former mayor has been taken over by five city officials hell-bent on keeping business as usual. Unfortunately for them, business is not usual, not with a serial killer with a penchant for riddles stalking them and blowing up portions of the city. Batman, who is notably not a detective at this point in his career, ends up fighting a war on two fronts as he contends with the deadly machinations of the Riddler while trying to assist the Dents in their own investigation. Add in the debuts of Killer Croc, an insane recreation of Two-Face and a very sly, subtly perfect introduction of Catwoman, and the Dark Knight has his hands full. Geoff Johns, whose stellar career includes turning burned-out hero franchises Green Lantern and Aquaman into must-have titles, crafts a fast-paced storyline full of twists and turns that even a veteran comic book lover won’t expect. And the art team of Gary Frank, Jon Sibal and Brad Anderson delivers images worthy of the tale—lots of shadows and sharp-edged lines, which are perfect when telling tales in Gotham City.

Kingdom Come

By Mark Waid (Author), Alex Ross (Illustrator) DC Comics (Publisher)

The near-dystopian future world of Kingdom Come, crafted by Mark Waid and Alex Ross, sent shockwaves across the comics industry when the four-issue series debuted in 1996. In this futuristic DC Universe, Waid takes on the “grim and gritty” interpretation of superheroes that prevailed in the 1990s by showing what would happen if the “classic” heroes retired, leaving those wild, unrestrained, so-called “heroes” to inherit the Earth. Indeed, the so-called heroes, as noted by protagonist and narrator Norman McCay, “number in the nameless thousands ... inspired by the legends of those who came before... if not the morals.” One memorable page not only asks how much people “missed the concept of human achievement,” it hammers the point home with an image of a signed baseball from the 2002 “last-ever World Series.” Biblical prophecy runs alongside a tale of personal discovery and redemption as McCay must bear witness to the events that might spark the end of the world. Ten years after Superman abandoned the fight for truth and justice, he returns to make things right, building a new Justice League with the intent of reining in the newer, deadlier generation of heroes. But humanity has had enough of superhumanity running riot, and is prepared to end the problem once and for all. And caught in the middle is the Batman, trying to keep both sides from tipping the balance into world destruction. Words can’t really describe the rich complexity of the plot, a blend of superheroics, politics and an analysis of the human condition. Waid’s words are deftly complemented by Ross’ hand-painted pages, bursting with color that shifts with each page’s individual mood. If you’re looking for a classic, self-contained spectacular storyline with fantastic art, this is the book for you.

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