SYNOPSIS: The horror goes on. In the first fight ever between Batman and his deadliest enemy, the Joker came out on top, giddily laughing in Batman’s swollen, bloody face. Now it’s time for round two. Bruce just learned never to underestimate the power of a man with nothing to lose-time for Joker to learn the same. The award-winning creators behind One Bad Day: Riddler continue their brutal epic! Also, Ed Brisson and Jorge Fornés bring an epic story to the pages of Batman Black & White!
After two months of waiting, King and Gerads are back, continuing their modern retelling of Batman’s first encounter with The Joker!
It was worth the wait.
Now, DC and Marvel have been filling comic shops with facsimile editions lately, reprinting key issues. One of the most recent of these was in fact, Batman #1. If you somehow haven’t read it digitally or in one of many various trades it’s been reprinted in over the years, now is your chance to see what inspired the creative team…and where they decided to expand the narrative and fill in some gaps, making The Batman’s case even more harrowing than originally intended!
The Joker’s murder spree continues across Gotham as The Dark Knight tries to recuperate. If you’ve read Batman/Catwoman (and if you haven’t, why not?), King repeats his trick from there, having a song peppered throughout the issue to add a musical motif to the proceedings. You’ll never think of this children’s song the same way again!
The body count goes way beyond the original story, somehow adding even more of a chill. With no Bat in the way, Joker is running amuck. King takes everyday events-going to the fair, driving home with your child-and makes them all part of some demonic punchline. It really lands home the point of how ineffective the GCPD can be, how out of their league they are with this class of criminal. Wait, was that King’s version of a Year One Officer Martinez?
One of the ways this story edges out its inspiration is the inclusion of Alfred. Here he really lives up to the title of faithful butler, surpassing his self-deprecating sobriquet of “elderly manservant”. King makes him vital, not just because he is unafraid to stand up to the Dark Knight, verbally or physically to Bruce’s chagrin, but because of the perspective and wisdom he brings. Batman’s interactions with him are my favorite part about the issue, though I do need to throw in a mention of an incredulous Gordon throwing an unconscious Caped Crusader into the Batmobile under Alfred’s direction via Bat-Belt Radio!
Gerads’ art just sings here! The colors, the varying panel layouts, and the film grain effect that adds both depth and grit to the visuals just immerses me into this world and refuses to let go! There is a particular splash page featuring a closeup of The Joker’s face that I do not recommend reading in the dark, lest you begin to worry that the Clown Prince of Crime will emerge from the blackness to claim you next!
When King brings us back to familiar territory he remains very faithful, yet still manages to find a new chill. There were aspects of the issue that reminded me of Ledger in The Dark Knight, which only goes to show you how he in turn was inspired by The Joker’s early appearances and how King is bringing it full circle. As the issue ends with its “To be concluded!” I felt the tension rise in the final scene, knowing that while Batman must prevail, King and Gerads are going to make it a hard-fought, harrowing victory.
“The Angel of Gotham” is the title of the Batman: Black & White entry, returning artist Jorge Fornés to the Bat Cave. His style, so reminiscent of David Mazzucchelli, is such a wonderful fit to the Black & White format, particularly in an issue where the main story takes place on the heels of Year One.
What I love about this story is how writer Ed Brisson concocts a simple mystery for Batman to do some detective work on. Nothing flashy, just a murder to be solved, a killer brought to justice. It highlights how awful and corrupt Gotham can be and gives us numerous examples of the different types of people who reside in the city. You get a good ground level view of Gotham and how the Dark Knight Detective operates accompanied by some stellar, noirish art.
So, this issue is another win for me, at least when it comes to the Batman stories. King and Gerads have proven time and time again what a dynamic duo they are and the Black & White story is a great gateway that anyone who wants to read a Batman tale can just jump into and enjoy! – Javier E. Trujillo