DC Comics is trying something new. In the wake of their Rebirth initiative, the publisher has rapidly expanded its content to include diverse new imprints such as Young Animal, Wildstorm, Black Label, Ink, and Zoom. As their lineup expands, it can be hard to figure out what to pick up each week. That’s what the Comics Beat managing editor Alex Lu, entertainment editor Kyle Pinion, and contributor Louie Hlad are here to help you with.
THIS WEEK: Alex looks into Justice League #2 and Batman #49 as the wedding we’ve all been whispering about nears the horizon.
Note: the reviews below contain **spoilers**. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdict.
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mikel Janin
Colorist: June Chung
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
The road to Batman’s and Catwoman’s much anticipated wedding next month has been a little rocky lately. Batman‘s previous arc, “The Gift,” had an interesting premise– Booster Gold’s wedding gift to Batman being a timeline where he gets a “perfect” life and where it turns out things aren’t so perfect after all– but the arc ultimately didn’t hold together for me. It felt more perfunctory than anything else– a way to kill time waiting for July 4th. I thought this filler mantra might take hold of Batman #48 and Batman #49, the “Best Man” arc as well, but I came to it with open eyes regardless and, to some extent, was pleasantly surprised.
In terms of plotting, “The Best Man” is a relatively muted story arc. The first half focuses on Batman’s fight with Joker in a church where he’s just murdered everyone inside. The second half, this week’s issue, focuses on Selina’s fight with the Joker after Batman ends up incapacitated by the Clown Prince. The fights themselves are not so much the focus of the issue however– more important to King and Janin is establishing the complex relationship between the Joker and our two protagonists. If you’re more interested in the action of Batman and less so in character shading, this arc may well move at a snail’s pace for you, but I found it quite refreshing, with this issue offering us a look at Batman’s rogue’s gallery from a vantage point that we don’t normally get to see.
There’s lots of fun tidbits and anecdotes to cling to as you move through Batman #49— from Joker not understanding why Selina never smiled the way that other villains did while tangling with the Batman to Catwoman trying to figure out the exact intent of the umbrella in Penguin’s costume. Not a ton of this is absolutely necessary information, but it reminds us that these characters aren’t just toys in a nearly-century old box– they’re people in of themselves. They have desires.
And indeed, as Batman #49 goes on, we learn the reason why the Joker lured the Cat and the Bat to him on this night. While some takes on the Joker present him as a motivationless agent of chaos, I prefer takes on the character where chaos is more of a means to another end. And that’s what we get here. Adhering to much of what was established about the Joker by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, King and Janin show us a Joker paralyzed by fear of a Batman who might find too much joy in his life to put on the cowl again. A happy Batman cannot exist, he argues, so the only way to make sure the Joker’s fun can continue is to make sure Batman is never happy.
It’s not exactly revelatory stuff, but I’ve found the Joker in recent years to be rather tired anyways. He’s been mined for so many stories over the years that it’s hard to keep track of up and down with him anymore. That said, he is an indelible part of Batman’s legacy, so it’s nice that we get to spend some limited time with him here.
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Jorge Jimenez
Colorist: Alejandro Sanchez
Letterer: Tom Napolitano
There’s nothing I love more than a good Scott Snyder mystery. There’s a sense of scope and history to the best of them– his rapid fire introduction of new characters and concepts make you feel like this story will change your fundamental understanding of a universe that you thought you knew. And like Kyle mentioned in his review of Justice League #1, this storyline might well succeed and establishing this sense of history and scope in a way comparable to Snyder’s and Greg Capullo’s landmark Batman Court of Owls arc.
At its core, the reason why this Justice League arc works for me is because it takes full advantage of the ideas belied by the story’s concept. The Source Wall, which holds our reality away from…well, everything else, is broken. So of course that means reality itself is going to break, too. Suddenly you have the Totality, a giant shard in the shape of a skull that has crash landed on Earth and threatens to morph everything it touches. The book uses this central MacGuffin to great effect, building dramatic tension for our heroes as they try to solve the mystery of what the Totality. Meanwhile, these mysterious stakes are heightened by an increased focus on Lex Luthor, who evidently knows more about the Totality than either we or the Justice League do. His story smartly bookends this issue, giving us a grounding lens through which to see the conflict in the pages between.
And while the mystery presented by Justice League #2 is a powerful motivation to keep reading, that desire to turn the page is further reinforced by the fun the creative team playing with new ideas tangential to the Totality itself. I was awestruck to see the way that Killer Croc was mutated by entering the aura around the shard, emerging as a giant mutated beast designed to defend the Totality from attack. Jorge Jimenez and Alejandro Sanchez do a great job of capturing Waylon Jones’ magnified brutality here, giving him a sublime scope fit for the monster he has become. And how about Sinestro discovering an ultraviolet spectrum of light and making John Stewart the head of this new, dangerous Ultraviolet Corps?! Absolutely wild.
Moreover, I fully appreciate how dense Justice League #2 is. One of my big complaints with serialized comics is how often they feel like cogs building into a greater whole rather than working as satisfying chunks in of themselves. However, Justice League #2 is packed to the brim with content– and not just purple prose, either. The creative team works hard to mine character moments out of every panel not devoted to pushing the story forward, resulting in some hilarious moments like an intergalactic criminal getting knocked out by a left hook from a peaceful flower Swamp Thing has co-opted control over. These small moments lend the book a sense of life, keeping things from becoming too melodramatic while also allowing us to further fall in love with our protagonists.
Ultimately, I’m excited to say that I’m more psyched about Justice League than I’ve ever been before. If you’re looking modern mythmaking, this is it.
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Alex is the Managing Editor of the Comics Beat. He is also a freelance comics editor with previous credits at Papercutz. He is your go-to fella for creator interviews, conversations about comic book structure, and general DC Comics nerding. Currently geeking out over movies, too.