THIS WEEK: With Batman & The Joker – The Deadly Duo #1, Marc Silvestri delivers a team-up that seems like it would have been done in the past more times than it actually has. Plus, a number of very good DC titles keep chugging along, including Gotham City: Year One, Poison Ivy, Sword of Azrael, and, best of all, The New Champion of SHAZAM!.
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.
Batman & The Joker – The Deadly Duo #1
Writer/Artist: Marc Silvestri
Colorist: Arif Prianto
Letterer: Troy Peteri
This week’s headlining DC Comics title — Batman & The Joker – The Deadly Duo #1 — was first announced all the way back at San Diego Comic-Con 2018. It’s been a long road to publication, but now nearly four and a half years later, the first issue of the series has arrived. The background on how the book came together seems simple. It’s written and drawn by Marc Silvestri, a long-time friend of DC Comics publisher, Jim Lee. A while back Silverstri drew a single piece for a Batman anniversary celebration, and Lee liked it so much, that he steadily encouraged his old pal to do a full series. And here we are.
The central concept of this series is that someone is sending pieces of Jim Gordon to Batman, while at the same time, someone has kidnapped Harley Quinn. Oh, and a pack of feral, Joker-looking monsters are running wild through Gotham City. There’s also just generally a whole lot of severing going on, from hands with guns in them to heads to the aforementioned pieces of Gordon. Eventually, all of this leads to Joker proposing that he and Batman join forces, both to get Harley back and also to stop whatever is happening before Gordon “starts losing parts he probably wants to keep.” That’s the basic rundown of the premise as it’s set up in this week’s first issue.
I had a chance to hear Silvestri talk about the series last month at NYCC, during the Jim Lee and Friends Panel, and he said that when he proposed this idea — a Batman/Joker team-up — he assumed it was something that had been done many, many times before. While there days it is increasingly difficult to find any Batman idea that hasn’t at least sort of been done in the past, a Batman/Joker team-up wasn’t as common place as Silverstri suspected it might be, and off he went. And I think he must be right, because this story didn’t feel familiar or predictable to me in any sort of broad sense.
On a micro level, this comic had a lot of nice attention to detail, almost as if Silvestri, who to the best of my knowledge has never before illustrated a largescale Batman story, was really savoring his first major visit to Gotham City. There are some grandiose set pieces in this first issue — from the early two-page spread of Batman sailing above a crime scene to a truly stunning establishing shot of the Gotham City skyline. But I was really captivated by some of the smaller choices Silverstri makes here, including right after that Gotham establishing shot, cutting to Catwoman coyly looking on and observing from a perch, “A storm’s coming…” Nice bit of ambiance, plus if you’re a Silvestri fan, you’re going to want to see his take on as many Gotham faces as you can throughout this book (see also anytime he shows us Harvey Bullock, who fits Silvestri’s style surprisingly well).
So the visual storytelling in this comic was interesting, and it was also well-paced, setting up the pieces of this comic quickly. Just generally, it felt like the creators were really enjoying their time on this book, and it all worked well for me. I think it will be a big hit for DC, drawing in both Silvestri’s fanbase as well as Batman fans. Batman, after all, is almost always guaranteed to deliver sales success for the publisher.
All that said, this is maybe a title that readers will enjoy (or not enjoy) based on their relationships with Silvestri’s work. Basically, if someone heard/read “Silvestri Batman” and thought, oh hell yes, they will without a doubt love this book. I suppose it also works the opposite way, too, but I think people who are somehow unfamiliar with Silvestri and just want a solid, interesting Batman comic will also come away from this one glad that they took the ride.
Verdict: BUY IT
‘Don’t Read the Comments!’ – The Round-Up
- Man, how good has The New Champion of SHAZAM! been? With the third issue out this week, I would say “so good that it is just about perfect.” So good that I haven’t had this much fun with a SHAZAM! title in years. So good that I pulled a fun line out from it to subtitle this round-up section with. So good that it makes you wonder what writer Josie Campbell (a relative comics new-comer) will do next. So good that you remember Evan “Doc” Shaner is one of the best DC Comics artist in the current stable. So good that I could just keep going on, but my point is maybe clear by now — this book is excellent. Catch-up now before next month’s finale drops.
- I have enjoyed writer Tom King’s noir sensibilities when they have been applied to other DC Comics characters. However, I am enjoying these same sensibilities even more in Gotham City: Year One, where they are brought to life perfectly by the pencils of Phil Hester, the inking of Eric Gapstur, the colors of Jordie Bellaire, and the lettering of Clayton Cowles. In this pre-Batman Gotham City tale, King can really cut loose with his exploration of noir, taking it to smart and fascinating places. This second issue is perhaps more character-driven than the first, but it also continues to advance some of the questions about urban development responsibility from the debut. Overall, after just two issues, this one is so far shaping up to be something very special.
- Poison Ivy #6 left me with two thoughts, which aren’t quite at odds with each other but maybe are a little bit. One, I am happy that this series was extended and will now run to 12 issues, proper maxi-series length. Two, I am sad because G. Willow Wilson, Marcio Takara, Prianto, and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou deliver here what would have been a very satisfying finale to a basically perfect miniseries that would have been the defining Poison Ivy comic for years to come. But hey, why can’t the magic keep going? I’m going to try to be optimistic that it will.
- Finally, if you are a fan of Azrael, you are probably having a very good year reading DC Comics. Sword of Azrael #4 is another great issue in a relatively under-the-radar miniseries that is as good as anything coming out at DC right now. I have mostly been a light Azrael fan throughout my time reading DC Comics, and I’m still really into this one. Just great work all around from Dan Watters, Nikoa Čižmešija, Marissa Louise, and Otsmane-Elhaou.
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