A slow start, but damn does this book pick up and end well.
Sean Murphy continues his elseworlds tale this month and it has politics turned all the way to eleven. Joker aka Jack Napier is cured and on a mission to end Batman for good. His plans move forward this issue, but a surprise clown princess emerges.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Jim Gordon and the GCPD are thrown into disarray when Jack Napier leads a show stopping campaign to become councilman of the politically abandoned neighborhood of Backport. Civic backlash brews as Mayor Hill struggles to find creative ways of criminalizing Napier’s democratic aspirations, and Batman’s interference blooms into a liability for the GCPD’s public image. Through it all, the new Joker plots to derail everything–and new secrets about Harley’s past are revealed.
Why does this matter?
Sean Murphy draws some of the most detailed and beautiful pages in the business. He’s also a talented writer, obviously, as he’s developed an interesting new sort of story here. It’s worth a look if you like to see a different side of the best hero in the business.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
I don’t think the Joker has ever done this much talking.
This issue threw me for a loop partly because its opening pages drag a bit for me, but the middle and end are fantastic. There’s plenty of politics in this one as Murphy shows how Napier utilizes the political process and the planning that goes into proposals to win over key characters like Jim Gordon in order to end Batman forever. It’s still unclear why he wants him out of the picture but one can assume it’s to run Gotham and do bad things eventually. It’s fun to see how he wins over the police department and his plan actually makes some sense. That’s the best part of this issue; Murphy passes off a lot of good ideas that actually make sense! If you’ve ever stayed up late at night with your friends mulling over the logics of a superhero comic you’ll be right back there with your friends reading this.
Some excellent action in this issue utilizes almost all of Batman’s rogues gallery as well as a sex scene between Napier and Harley that was hinted at a few months ago. This issue really does have it all, even if Batman is used sparingly. The best part is a twist that involves the second Harley who was introduced a few issues ago. This character was an enigma, but this issue gives her a proper flashback and it’s a clever backstory too.
The art continues to be simply great. The action scene is exciting and utilizes a fun eight mini-panel break in the middle of one page to show the quick movements of Batman to save Jim Gordon. The very next panel has a crashing bat signal (into a trash can — nice symbolism there, Murphy!) that’s highly detailed and yet only takes up less than a quarter of the page. The sound effect “Crash” mixed with Batman’s cape, speed lines, and the detail of the city around them is awesome. And that’s just one page. The colors by Matt Hollingsworth have a dreary tone during the day, like one might find in Ireland. Then you have the night scenes which are cast in red. This title is visually telling us bad things are happening — you don’t have to read a single word to get that.
Police brutality seems to be an undercurrent in this story.
It can’t be perfect can it?
As I said above, the opening scene is long and dense with dialogue. It runs about five pages and involves Napier giving a campaign speech, a character of the people speaking about Napier, and then the conflict of marching with a large group of people. The conflict ramps things up, but damn is this a slow way to start the book. The speech doesn’t do it for me either. I get that we need to see how Napier is a true politician, but it wears out its welcome.
Is It Good?
Murphy is fleshing out quite a cool story that toys with interesting concepts that are logical and make sense. Batman probably shouldn’t exist, and Napier aka The Joker is telling us why. It’s adding a bit of reality to superhero comics and doing so in an exciting way with good twists and impeccable art.