by Louie Hlad
In June 2016, DC Comics kicked off the start of its Rebirth initiative. After a wave of criticism surrounding the way they have treated their characters’ rich histories since 2011’s New 52 relaunch, DC has decided to rebrand. They hope that by restoring their characters’ pasts, they will restore readers’ faith in them as well. Do they succeed? That’s what the Comics Beat managing editor Alex Lu, entertainment editor Kyle Pinion, and contributor Louie Hlad are here to discuss. Book by book. Panel by panel.
THIS WEEK: Louie Hlad looks at Batman: White Knight #3 and The Jetsons #2.
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: Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Pier Brito
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Meet George Jetson, a mechanic for a sprocket company whose product seems to be a component in everything these days. While the company’s systems are an important part of our technological environment, they aren’t exactly what you’d call reliable. George’s boss, Mr. Sprocket, relies on him to quickly assess and repair any malfunctions as discreetly as possible. Time is money after all, and staying ahead of the competition is a more important concern than limiting the constant overtime and unavoidable job hazards of one lowly mechanic. Besides, George needs the job and isn’t really the type to stand up for himself.
Jane, his wife, is a leading mind in the scientific community. A visionary. Her job often keeps her away from her family, but it’s incredibly important work. The world doesn’t realize how much we rely on the research, analysis, and swift decision-making of geniuses like Jane. Her dedication is rewarded with experiences that the rest of us can only dream of- martinis on the International Space Station and expeditions into the depths of the ocean trenches. At least life’s never dull. If only she could spend more time with her endearingly hapless husband.
Their boy Elroy is a chip off the old block, exploring science and young love. Daughter Judy is something of a socialite. And their live-in grandmother has transferred herself into the body of an unaging robot. Just a typical modern family living an everyday life.
It’s easy to roll our eyes when we hear of yet another remake of a childhood classic or to complain that we’ve run out of ideas as we recycle so many intellectual properties. But let’s not overlook the rich storytelling possibilities in so many of these old familiar territories. Stories have always been intended to be retold, updated, modernized. Anyone who reads comic books can appreciate the concept of a timeless story that needs to be tweaked every now and then for a new audience and a new world.
The Jetsons was meant to be a look at our near future. An imagining of what might change and what might stay the same. In this updated version, the world has been all but lost to climate change and natural disaster, but we humans have adapted and survived. Floating platforms hold our schools and office buildings above the rising oceans. Flying cars and delivery drones and weather control systems maintain a semblance of life as it always was. Though the stakes for our species may be higher, we still wake up to bacon and coffee and cold showers. A middle aged man still worries about keeping his job and being a good husband and father. The family unit adapts and survives along with humanity and time keeps marching on.
Speaking of adaptation, this series does a great job balancing faithfulness to the original material with the injection of fresh concepts. Two issues in, the storylines are compelling and every character seems fully realized. Judy Jetson isn’t just a pampered valley girl- she is a young twenty-something with a keen fashion sense and an avid interest in exploring her subconscious through her dreams. Elroy has been aged a bit from the original series to allow for a Romeo & Juliet style teen romance subplot. It’s exciting to see The Jetsons move away from an episodic format in favor of a longform story that can breathe and unfold gradually. It feels natural, as if this is the way the story was always meant to be told.
The Jetsons is a story about us, both in the future and now, dealing with monumental changes in the world around us. It reinforces what we know deep down: that as long as we have family, we’ll all be okay.
Cartoonist: Sean Murphy
Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth
Letterer: Todd Klein
The Joker is a maniacal, homicidal madman. He has no regard for the people of Gotham and will destroy anything and anyone if the mood hits him. He loves only destruction, mayhem, murder, chaos. Only the Batman can stop him and save the people of Gotham- all is lost without him. We all know this. We’ve been told this for years.
But what if that’s not true?
What if the Joker story is a fiction, created by the police and the politicians of Gotham as a cover story to hide widespread corruption at every level of the government? In Batman: White Knight, Sean Murphy has crafted a brilliant counterpoint to the traditional Joker story in which the public has been fed a false narrative for years, scaring them into believing that the Joker was a much greater menace than he really is…a bogeyman to justify the means to their ends. A scared populace is an easily controlled one. Allowing his periodic “escapes,” the city officials have manipulated a mentally unstable criminal into stoking the flames of fear that allow average citizens to accept (and even embrace) the idea of vigilantism and turn a blind eye to the profiteering that follows the inevitable crime scene cleanup.
They created a world that needed a Batman.
If the themes in this comic hit too close to home, it just means you’re paying attention. The book touches on mistreatment of minorities, police brutality, and media fabrications. It explores the interesting dynamic of a vigilante Batman and the police force that turns a blind eye to his obviously criminal methods in the name of justice. The logic goes that allowing Batman to operate outside the law (and even helping him to do so) protects us from the Joker and his like; but if the police are only selectively applying the law then what safeguards does the public have against corruption and abuse? It’s a well crafted story that presents more than one side of the complex issues it ponders, with a media portrayal reminiscent of the talking heads in Dark Knight Returns.
Sean Murphy’s art is beautiful as ever, featuring detailed backgrounds, emotive facial expressions, and dynamic car chases. The scenes in issue #2 with Mister Freeze and his dying wife Nora are heartbreaking, glowing with a soulful blue diffused throughout the pages. In this most recent issue it’s all reds and yellows as anger and grief take over the action. The introduction of a new Harley Quinn is masterfully planned and executed and the Joker is transformed into his best version in years, while his shadow retains the wild hairstyle of his previous incarnation to remind you that the past is not so far removed.
And we’re not even halfway done yet.
- I genuinely enjoyed the Halloween special that DC published back in October. It was filled with satisfyingly creepy tales from lesser known creators and I found myself wanting more of it. Be warned: the DC Holiday Special 2017 is not the same kind of creature. The stories feel hastily thrown together, as if DC remembered at the last minute that it’s already December and it was running out of shopping days before Christmas. So we get holiday classics like Batman karate chopping a gun out of a crook’s hand and Deathstroke arguing with his wife. The art is a almost high point, with Nick Klein providing a gorgeous rendering of Swamp Thing (in space!) and Phil Hester reprising his Green Arrow duties, but it’s not enough to save the book. Poor Francesco Francavilla was given a script that consists of two characters talking to each other for eight pages. There are a lot ways to spend ten dollars- this isn’t a great one.
- I’ve written before about what a disappointing comic Cyborg is, but this week’s issue takes the cake. Let me recap it for you so you can save yourself the time. Cyborg finds a magic rhino horn and talks to a genie who grants him three wishes. He wishes he was fully human again and immediately starts complaining when he gets what he wished for. Then he gets malaria. Then a bunch of children explode. The end. Luckily we only have one more issue of this mercifully canceled series.
- Batman #36 is one of those fun one-shots that serves more as a day-in-the-life glimpse than as an important storyline continuation. Batman and Superman have been spending more quality time together since their sons have become friends and partners. Now it’s time for their significant others to get acquainted. Lois Lane, meet Selina Kyle!
- I can’t make heads or tails of the latest Neal Adams Deadman madness. It’s almost nostalgic I guess, but really it’s just a mess of characters screaming at each other and looking shocked with their mouths wide open. I couldn’t tell you what the hell is going on.
- Dastardly & Muttley is just as weird. But, like, in a good way.
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