Batman: Death and the Maidens #1 (written by Greg Rucka, art by Klaus Janson)
If you buy Batman comics you probably have already bought this, because, hey, it's by Greg Rucka and it features Ra's Al Ghul, who's a cool and intriguing villain when handled right. But if you haven't, you really should, and don't forget to pick up Detective Comics #783 with the prologue, though it's not strictly necessary to read this one.
It's a character driven story, there are almost no action scenes at all, most of the time we either spend inside the characters' heads, or watch them talk, yet still the first issue builds the suspense nicely. The main "plot" so far is that due to Batman's interference with his Lazarus pits Ra's Al Ghul's health is failing and he's first asking Nyssa for help (a woman whom Ra's asked in the prologue, taking place 1923, to hand over her newborn son, but she refused, and doesn't seem to have aged since then either), then after her renewed refusal seeks out Batman. Meanwhile Bruce commemorates the anniversary of his parents' death, and feels guilty that his memories of them are fading, that he doesn't feel their death as intense as he used to. And of course I'm a sucker for Bruce angst, so I loved those scenes. As usual I also throughly enjoyed Alfred's more than dry responses.
I'm curious what exactly Nyssa's connection to Ra's and his followers is or was, besides that Ra's wanted her to hand over her son, and if this issue is any indication the things between Batman and Ra's in the next issues promise to become interesting. I really like when Ra's feels like the charismatic leader with a vision he's supposed to be.
Though I really don't understand why DC felt the need to give it a thicker, glossy cover and charge $2.95 for a 22 pages story instead of going with a regular cover and charge $2.50. Not that I don't regularly ask myself that each time I see one of those covers that seem to inflate the price for no real extra value.
Detective Comics #785 (written by Ed Brubaker, pencils by Patrick Zircher, inks by Aaron Sowd)
I've already gushed about the first part of Made of Wood last month and the second part doesn't let you down either. It's still a great mystery story, and I liked to see Bruce and Alan together, both in their in and out of costume scenes -- uhm, rereading that it sounds a bit weird especially to the slash-corrupted mind, but the scenes are not like that. Alan just knows Batman's secret identity and they go golfing by day and crimefighting by night. I think my favorite scene is when they talk on the roof about how whatever they do it always feels too little. And this part has Jim Gordon doing detective work because clearly quiet retirement is not for him, and I like Jim Gordon, so that made me happy too. I was also happy to note that this time the title and credits were back at the beginning -- well on a splash panel on page four -- and not again squeezed at the end like last time.
I'm not sure yet what to think about the backup story (about a Gotham dogcatcher), but the opening could turn out well, and certainly it's better than some backups, like 'rith I also remember Spore with dread. At least the art of this one is definitely okay.