SYNOPSIS: Batman finally confronts The Joker in the brutal conclusion to “The Winning Card” by Tom King and Mitch Gerads! Eisner Award winner Bruno Redondo writes and illustrates a poignant tale of The Dark Knight!
It’s finally here!
The long-awaited conclusion to “The Winning Card”, Tom King’s spin on the first Joker story from the original Batman #1 has seen its fair share of delays, but was it worth the wait?
One hundred percent yes.
Departing from the original version, King fleshed out the horror even more and disposed of Robin, setting this iteration firmly in “Year One” and having his conclusion tie in thematically with The Killing Joke.
Batman is very much the determined, relentless creature of the night, at times viciously meting out justice in a city that provides little. King nails this aspect of the character, especially in his wounded pursuit of The Joker, ignoring the pleas and assistance from Alfred.
King has the playboy side of Bruce down, too, although it’s not in evidence too much with the conclusion. Gerads is instrumental in letting us see the real nature inside of Wayne leaving the reader to wonder how much of a monster he is. Or, is he only a monster to those he needs to be?
The Joker is at his most nightmarish. His actions have pushed Batman to the edge, leaving Gotham with a body count it hasn’t seen until now. His pitch-black eyes are punctured by small holes of light, stripping him of any humanity under Gerads’s brushstroke. I found his eyes to be reminiscent of the redesign as seen on The New Batman Adventures, but far more unsettling. In a decade with so many Joker stories already, this one really stands out based on how frightening the character looks.
Batman’s anger at the climax recalls a previous King story, The War of Jokes and Riddles, which also sees the Dark Knight wielding a knife against the nascent Clown Prince. However, I feel the parallels with the aforementioned The Killing Joke are stronger, providing an echo of not only that story’s conclusion, but it’s opening as well.
The ending is almost nihilistic, the first salvo in a war that will go on into eternity, as long as there are still stories being told. Obviously, King is drawing from eighty-four years of influence, but he managed to shock me here, making a familiar, well-worn story feel fresh and exciting.
I have to give equal credit to the art of Mitch Gerads. I don’t know what caused the numerous delays with this story and it doesn’t matter. This work as a whole will be timeless, in no small part to his interpretations of Batman and The Joker. With his colors bringing out the emotional core of his art, this is a work destined to be revisited again and again. Utilizing the nine-panel grid when necessary, not to mention the silent-movie-style speech cards, the narrative gets under your skin and leaves you feeling unsettled.
Switching gears, “Nor is The Batman”, this issue’s Batman: Black & White contribution by Bruno Redondo is the perfect palette cleanser. A lighthearted look at a man trying to maintain a veneer of deadly seriousness, it dovetails perfectly with “The Winning Card” and the monster Bruce Wayne wants The Batman to be. Redondo pulls off the perfect balancing act, mixing the ridiculousness of Batman’s disappearances, tea time, and Condiment King, with the seriousness of his injuries and what principles guide his mission. It’s a story both touching and funny. I wouldn’t be surprised if Redondo was inspired by Batman Begins either.
Once again, from a Batman standpoint, Batman: The Brave & The Bold is coming up aces. The writing is top-notch, with plenty of action and subtext. The art is a visual feast, with both stories utilizing the medium of comics in fun and interesting ways. This Batman fan is very happy! –Javier E. Trujillo