Batman #43 – Tom King, Writer; Mikel Janin, Hugo Petrus, Artists; June Chung, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW
Ray: Tom King’s had a tough task with this arc, telling his definitive Poison Ivy storyarc after what was a…divisive first go with the character in The War of Jokes and Riddles. Batman #43, the conclusion to this three-part story delivers a satisfying wrap-up with some great emotional beats, but it also has some pretty clear retcons that have some shades of writer-on-board. What surprised me about this issue is that to a large extent, Batman is irrelevant to it. This is a Gotham City Sirens issue at its core, and while Batman plays a key role – largely as acrobat and driver – it’s the bond between the three anti-heroines who save the day. When the issue opens, a possessed Harley is keeping watch over an injured Batman, while Catwoman sneaks into the park where Ivy became a killer and tries to reach the woman she used to know before it’s too late.
Bruce’s escape from the hospital with a briefly awakened Harley is a great action scene, as he evades several possessed Supers, but it’s once he gets Harley to the park and the Sirens are reunited that the issue really takes off. The friendship between these three women has been a fixture of several great runs, particularly under Paul Dini’s pen, but while Catwoman and Harley went towards the light, Ivy’s face-turns have never stuck. That might finally change here, as this issue plays on the fact that the War of Jokes and Riddles essentially drafted a lot of young, vulnerable Gotham criminals and metas, and Ivy was essentially a pawn. So much of one, in fact, that Riddler might have deceived her about what she actually did. This has shades of the retcon that Hulk has never killed a single person in all his rampages, but if it opens the door to Ivy as a lead character again, I’m for it. I also loved the reference to Sanctuary, an upcoming project of King’s, and the final scene with Batman and Catwoman was excellent. King stuck the landing, and I think Ivy fans will be very happy.
Corrina: I wouldn’t say Harley has completely walked into the light. She can be quite cheerful about killing people (mostly seriously evil but not always) and she is a member of Waller’s Suicide Squad.
But that aside, I thought this ending reflected back to much of King’s writing on how fighting in a war carries a serious emotional trauma, whether it be in Iraq (The Sheriff of Babylon), space (The Omega Men) or Gotham. (Kite-Man in the “War of Jokes and Riddles” and Bruce himself.) Ivy has never been a flat-out villain, she’s simply wanted to protect what others cannot and, well, in Gotham, one has to take the law into one’s hands to get anything done, as Batman himself proves.
I like that Bruce and Selina appeal to Ivy’s moral strengths, rather than using force, I like that Ivy’s love for Harley is used to reach her. I’m more than a bit uncomfortable that Harley is seen as Ivy’s conscience/moral center, rather than Ivy making a conscious choice once she knows the truth of what happened in the park and that she’s not truly a killer. (Also, again, Ivy has never been quite as homicidal as Harley.)
But the arc was an interesting look at Bruce and Selina’s teamwork and the artwork has been eye-popping and brilliant. King’s run on Batman has been blessed by an amazing lineup of artists and after seeing what Janin can do with the entire Justice League plus more (like New Super-Man), I’d love to see his work on Justice League.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.