Batman #48 – Tom King, Writer; Mikel Janin, Artist; June Chung, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: I..Have No Idea Why This Issue Happened
WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW
Ray: Tom King is a master of shifting genres, tones, and styles in an instant. Coming off a three-part time-travel arc with a large scope and a twisty timeline, this issue pulls back and sets its entire story inside one building, playing out over the span of less than an hour. And it doesn’t need a big set piece or plot twist, because it has the Joker. Tom King’s Joker may be more human and less supernatural than Snyder’s, but in some ways he’s even scarier. That’s because his violent unpredictability can often take even veteran readers by surprise. His brutality is senseless and shocking, and that’s where this issue excels – but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s too much for many readers. Picking up from the short story in DC Nation #0, it starts right after Joker got his “invitation” to Batman’s wedding. How he even knows Batman is getting married, we don’t know (and there’s some odd developments on that front in another comic this week), but he’s decided to get Batman’s attention, and his method for doing that is by taking another wedding at a church hostage.
The scenes set in the church are shockingly intense, with Joker leaving a trail of carnage among innocent people to get Batman’s attention. This calls back to the chaos and death he caused during the War of Jokes and Riddles. One thing I notice about King’s Joker – he never seems happy. He seems like barely coiled rage, all the take, which is unsettling when it comes to reading him. By the time Batman arrives, he leads Batman in a bizarre one-on-one game of cat and mouse through the church, alternately threatening his own life and Batman’s, as part of his strange quest to get an official invite to the wedding. It’s almost quaint, like something Cesar Romero’s Joker would come up with – except for the fact that he’s leaving bodies everywhere he goes. Selina only appears in one scene this issue, but that seems to be setup for her to take the starring role next issue, as she faces off against Joker to save her stubborn husband-to-be. It’s not going to be for everyone, but to my eye, this issue is brilliant.
Corrina: This issue is brilliant.
It’s also a horrible Batman story.
I also love Janin’s art but, like Brian Bolland’s art in The Killing Joke, I feel Janin’s beautiful lines are ill-suited to such a dark and horrifying tale. Kelley Jones or Bill Sienkiewicz would make me feel more like I’m in dark horror tale that is this issue. There will be some who say that the cleanliness and beauty of the art added to the horror rather than being a discordant note and, hey, fair enough.
But back to why this is a horrible Batman story. I originally thought this was a dream sequence because it practically revels in the murders. There’s a fine line between showing the Joker being horrifying and a Joker rampage becoming violence porn and this one crosses it. (Again, perhaps different art…?)
King has a habit of not allowing readers into a character’s head and simply letting scenes play out. It can serve him brilliantly, mostly with Omega Men and Mister Miracle, but one of the joys of reading Batman is being in his head and going on an adventure with him and, over and over, King had locked us out of Bruce’s head. (King does the same with Selina, so much so that she’s an utter cipher to me.)
In any case, that Batman has little emotional reaction to the Joker’s murderous spree is meant to be chilling–but it has the effect of locking the reader out from any emotional reaction as well. It was simply one horror after another, almost to the point where I was bored.
I also don’t buy Joker being so powerful that Batman can’t save anyone in the church. This is the same King who wrote Batman literally taking apart hundreds of armed men when assaulting Bane’s fortress and coming out the victor and he can’t take down one gunman with a hostage before he kills her? Not buying it, and that’s another reason it’s a bad Batman story.
I also take issue that Batman would tell Catwoman to stay back or that she would stay back if told. Cat never does anything she’s told. That’s her nature. Unless we’re leading up to Selina jilting Batman at the altar (entirely possible) it makes no sense he wouldn’t treat her as a full ally. (Yes, King’s Batman also put his boys into suspended animation for a while which…WTF…there too.) As long as I’m picking on concepts, I’ll point out that Bruce should have known that if word got out that Batman was marrying Catwoman, the wedding would be crashed by villains in horribly violent ways, especially by the Joker. In a sense, the deaths of everyone at this wedding is partially Batman’s fault.
Finally, I can’t help pointing out that the death of an entire wedding party of black men and women in a horrific way, while two white men fight some private battle, is an unfortunate subconscious message to send in these turbulent times.
So, all in all, as a short horror tale with a nihilistic ending? Maybe it’s brilliant. As a Batman story, it fails on all levels.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.