SYNOPSIS: The tragic story of Straightman continues in “Crack-Up,” part two! The Joker’s not-so-funny sidekick is hell-bent on revenge and has arrived at the doorstep of the dastardly doctor who mangled his mind, Hugo Strange. Meanwhile, Batman tangles with a mysterious foe who has a strange and unexpected tie to Straightman.
Picking up from the cliffhanger last issue, The Dark Knight is falling to his death amidst a hail of bullets. Interestingly, thought boxes are used for Batman’s narration, a technique not carried through for the duration of this story.
Switching scenes, we find Harley celebrating a girls’ night with her squad until Amanda Waller crashes with the Suicide Squad. Burnett and Dini really captured the voices of Harley and Waller well, hinting at an association we are all too familiar with in other comics and movies. Waller’s ruthlessness is in full effect here, even varying her threats and ways of controlling those to bend to her will. It’s a nice blend of humor and menace.
Speaking of, Joker is pitch-perfect, as one would expect from writers so familiar with him. The callback to the episode, “The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne”, was a nice touch, recollecting Joker’s past experience with Professor Strange.
I appreciated seeing Tim, Alfred, and Barbara all assisting Batman. The dynamic felt very classic, with Robin cracking jokes, Alfred bandaging up Bruce, and Barb helping out with the tech side of things, feeling very much like Oracle.
Seeing Batman playing detective is always a good thing and Burnett and Dini make the journey interesting. The backstory he uncovers is tragic, disturbingly brought to life by the art. I’m not terribly impressed by the design of the Mystery Woman’s outfit, but the motivations Batman uncovers make up for it.
Templeton and Kubina once again are on art and colors. As one would expect, the issue looks great, totally in line with visuals befitting the series. Batman breaking out of one panel as he falls makes it feel like he is falling toward the reader. I love the insanity they depict The Joker with. He goes from wickedly playful to furious with anger between panels with ease. Kubina just brings everything to vivid life. Just check out the sunrise overlooking Wayne Manor. It could have been painted monochromatically, but Kubina gives us a bold, vibrant palette that makes the image pop. Kubina is vital to how this book’s imagery leaps off the page.
“Crack Up!, part two” unspools the mystery of Straight Man a little further, providing fun action, a chilling backstory, and great characterization. As far as Batman comics go, it’s not breaking new ground, but it is consistently entertaining and something I look forward to. The issue closes on a final panel of a deranged Joker, leaving the reader anxious for what is to come. – Javier E. Trujillo