A Batman: The Wedding Review – Who Invited the Damn Joker?!?

TITLE: Batman, Vol. 8: The Wedding
AUTHOR: Tom King
PENCILLERS: Tony Daniel, Clay Mann, Mikel Janin
INKERS: John Livesay, Sandu Florea, Danny Miki
COLORISTS:
Tomeu Morey, June Chung
LETTERERS: Clayton Cowles
COLLECTS: Batman #4550, portion of DC Nation #0.
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE:
$16.99
RELEASED:
October 24, 2019

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Welp, this was a big one. A pivotal moment in Batman’s world. Or was it? I mean, it certainly could have been…

Either way, this book pissed a lot of people off. And not just with the pay-off (or lack there of) to a year’s worth of build-up. Tom King and the Batman crew had been cranking up the weirdness factor with the last several issues. And not necessarily weird in a good way. It was more weird in a, “Huh?” way. There’s a strong argument to be made that the weirdness reaches its apex here, in a three-issue story called “The Gift”…

1. What’s your refund policy?
Linkara actually did a masterful job of roasting “The Gift” in a recent episode of Atop the Fourth Wall. But I’ll touch on the broad strokes here.

In an ill-conceived attempt to give Batman a wedding gift, Booster Gold and Skeets travel back in time to stop the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne. The idea was to give Bruce an It’s A Wonderful Life moment, i.e. a chance to see what the world would be like without Batman. And indeed, the world is worse off for him being gone. Much worse. The nation of “Eurasia” is ruled by Ra’s al Ghul. The Penguin has become president of the United States. Selina Kyle is a serial killer who only speaks in meows. Gotham is infected by a “Joker” insanity plague. Meanwhile, Dick Grayson is a homicidal Batman whose costume is covered in firearms and explosives. When Booster finds himself trapped in this horrific reality he’s created, he has no choice but to try and…well, take back his gift.

Perhaps the most prominent theme, of Tom King’s Batman run has been the question of whether or not Bruce can actually be happy. It’s a hell of an idea to explore. I get the sense that’s what “The Gift” is trying to do. Would Bruce be happier if his parents hadn’t been killed? And considering how the world looks without Batman, is everyone better off with him being unhappy, yet serving a greater good?

However, in terms of plot holes, “The Gift” looks like friggin’ swiss cheese.

Let’s start with Booster Gold. Setting aside that King portrays him as a complete doofus, his plan makes no sense. By the classic Back to the Future, Part II logic, if you travel back in time and change something critical, reality will change around you. The world you return to may be drastically different than the one you left behind. So Booster goes back in time to stop the Wayne murders, thus preventing Bruce from becoming Batman. Once he does that, how does he expect to return to the present day and show Batman what he’s done? Batman doesn’t exist! That was the idea behind this whole cockamamie scheme in the first place!

What’s more, with this story King, like so many other writers, falls victim to Batman worship. Would the world be different without Batman? Or at least the Batman we know? Yes. But does the entire world fall into chaos without Batman? Remember, we’re still in the DC Universe. The Wayne murders had nothing to do with the origins of Superman or Wonder Woman. Hell, we even see Green Lantern in this story! (Albeit in a gratuitously violent manner.) You’re telling me no other heroes could have stopped Ra’s al Ghul from conquering half the planet?

Dick Grayson becoming Batman, much less a Batman who’s more like the Punisher, makes no sense either. How does Dick get the whole bat motif if he’s not taken in by Bruce? Did a rogue bat somehow fly into Haley’s Circus and snap those trapeze wires?

In addition to serving as an extremely bizarre look into an alt-universe Gotham City, “The Gift” essentially serves two purposes. First, like “Everyone Loves Ivy” in the last collection, it helps set the stage for Heroes in Crisis, in which Booster has a major role. Secondly, it gave them a reason to have Tony Daniel draw Catwoman in her Batman Returns costume. But Christ on a cracker, if they wanted to work that in, there had to be a better way than this. Just say it’s a failed prototype costume Selina made. You don’t have to alter the damn timeline…

2. Who Invited the Damn Joker?!?
Well, it was only a matter of time, wasn’t it? You can’t do a big story like this and not have the Joker around in some form.

Mikel Janin is back for the two-issue story, “The Best Man.” But before that, we get a little gem from DC Nation #0 drawn by Clay Mann. The Joker breaks into a random house, and holds a man hostage while he waits for the mail to come, inexplicably expecting an invitation to Batman’s wedding. By and large, I’m not necessarily in love with Clay Mann’s take on the Joker. But there are two shots he absolutely nails. The first is the opening splash page. The second is the panel at left.

Tom King writes a decent Joker. He’s good at working humor into the horror, one of the hallmarks of a great Joker writer. The Clay Mann story, “Your Big Day,” and the first several pages of Batman #48 are really good. But as the proceedings continue, he runs into a familiar problem: Joker, and later Catwoman, talk too much in attempts at banter. This is especially true in issue #49, which consists almost entirely of them talking about “the old days,” and Joker’s worry that a happily married Batman wouldn’t be funny, and might ultimately cease to exist.

The big problem I have with issue #49 isn’t so much about the banter attempts. It’s that the Joker, for lack of a better term, talks straight with Selina. He drops the act. He talks like a normal person, as if to an old friend. That’s the idea, I suppose. But I believe that on the rare occasions the Joker does that, it has to be brief yet impactful. It has to mean something.

Consider it this way: Tom King and Mikel Janin clearly have a fondness for The Killing Joke, the classic story by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland. At one point Joker even refers to the church they’re in as the “Moore Cathedral” on “Bolland Ave.” For those of you who’ve read it, think about that final scene where Batman extends that olive branch to the Joker, and the Joker simply and quietly responds. For just a few precious moments, he’s not a monster anymore. Then he goes into a joke, and brings himself back into character.

Now…what if he’d been like that for a huge chunk of the story? Or the entire story? Not in the flashback scenes, mind you. The ones in the present day. Takes a lotta the punch out of the story, doesn’t it?

3. The Moment of Truth
Artistically, Batman #50, the wedding issue, is a beautiful tribute to the dynamic these two characters have shared for nearly eight decades. There are splash pages, pin-ups essentially, by the likes of Neal Adams, Frank Miller, Tim Sale, Jim Lee, among numerous others. You can argue work like that is worth the $16.99 on its own. Meanwhile, we’ve got Janin back for the story proper.

While I think this Batman run has soured a lot of people’s perceptions of Tom King following his stellar run on Vision, he’s on his A-game for this issue. As he damn well should be. There’s an absolutely beautiful one-page scene between Bruce and Alfred. Depending on how invested you are in them and their surrogate father/son dynamic, it may even move you to tears.

The ending of this issue, i.e. the outcome of the wedding, had a lot of people crying foul. I’m not going to get into spoilers, but it’s been over a year since the issue was published. So I feel comfortable enough saying fans thought DC didn’t deliver on what they’d promised.

But let’s be honest: These are mainstream superhero comics, where marriages either get retconned out of existence, or are mystically evaporated via deals with Mephisto. At best, there was only a 50/50 chance they were going through with the wedding anyway. Plus, it’s not like they had the Joker, or God forbid Kite-Man, come in and break up the ceremony. They tied it into what had already been established in the 49 issues prior, and the big theme of Bruce and happiness. Was the final outcome predictable? Absolutely. Even a little bit of an eye-roller. But it works. Especially with the benefit of hindsight.

When discussing a potential marriage between Batwoman and Maggie Sawyer, DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio once famously said in 2013…

“Heroes shouldn’t have happy personal lives. … They are committed to being that person and committed to defending others at the sacrifice of their own personal interests. It’s wonderful that they try to establish personal lives, but it’s equally important that they set them aside. That is our mandate, that is our edict and that is our stand with our characters.”

DC would ultimately scale back on that philosophy. For instance, they re-established the marriage between Superman and Lois Lane. But I think fans who were in the know about DiDio’s remarks saw this ending as a step backward.

I think that’s an understandable sentiment, but perhaps a bit premature. As of this writing, Tom King has one issue of Batman left, which happens to be an extra-sized 48-pager. Then he’s got a 12-issue Batman/Catwoman maxi-series coming in 2020. So he’s clearly not done with them yet. I’m not saying I expect anything in particular to happen. I’m just keeping an open mind as we move ahead.

4. I Now Pronounce You…
Batman: The Wedding is a red letter moment in the history of two iconic characters. For that alone, it’s worth a read. And for all the blunders King has made during his Batman run, he got the wedding itself right. Mikel Janin’s art continues to amaze, standing tall on its own even with additions from iconic Batman artists. And hey, if train wrecks are your thing, you’ll definitely want to check out “The Gift.”

For more of Tom King’s run on Batman, check out I Am Gotham, I Am Suicide, I Am Bane, Batman/The Flash: The Button, The War of Jokes and Riddles, The Rules of Engagement, and Bride or Burglar?.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

Toy Chest Theater: Luke Skywalker and Marty McFly by Jax Navarro

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

This is the second time Jax Navarro has been in this space. In truth, he could be in this spot plenty more. There’s no shortage of quality shots over at Plastic Action.

But this one? This one deserves to be framed on a damn wall. I’m not even kidding.

I just love it. It’s so perfect. It’s a fantastic tribute to not only Back to the Future, but the now infamous Luke/Leia kiss from The Empire Strikes Back. We’ve even got hilarious contrast of Last Jedi Luke in Doc Brown’s costume!

Now if only Luke had a flying DeLorean on that damn island…

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com!

The Fanboy’s Closet: BB-8 and Back to the Future Socks

***In ”The Fanboy’s Closet,” I pull a geeky item of clothing from the closet, snap a pic, and then see what subjects it takes us into. Why? Why the hell not?!?***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

More socks this week. I’ve got a lot of socks, folks. You’re going to see a lot of them.

My sister-in-law got me a Loot Wear subscription this past Christmas. So I’ve been getting two pairs of geeky character socks in the mail once a month. Most of them are pretty cool one way or the other. But this photo is from the month they really landed in my wheelhouse. On the left you have the Hoverboard design from Back to the Future Part II. And of course, on the right you have BB-8 of Star Wars fame.

I spent the first few days of 2015 extremely annoyed at all the Back to the Future memes that were popping up. Most of them (at least the ones in my feeds) were pictures of the future sequence from Part II, with text that said something to the effect of, “It’s 2015. Why don’t things look this way???”

It’s one thing to hear an extremely obvious, low-hanging fruit of a joke. It’s another thing entirely to be bombarded with it over and over. If you want me to hate something, shove it down my throat over and over. Call it the John Cena/Roman Reigns effect.

Mrs. Primary Ignition bought me The Last Jedi on DVD a couple of weeks ago, and a few days ago we finally watched it together. While the movie has a fair share of problems (in case you hadn’t heard the legions who complained about it), a second viewing left me feeling a little warmer toward it. In contrast, my view of Rogue One hasn’t shifted at all. It remains the only Star Wars movie I knew I disliked as I was leaving the theater.

I’m cautiously optimistic about Solo: A Star Wars Story. Unlike Rogue One, at least I know that movie actually has characters in it. Characters I care about.

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.

A Back to the Future #4 Review – Questions and Answers

Back to the Future #4, Dan SchoeningTITLE: Back to the Future #4
AUTHORS: Bob Gale, John Barber, Erik Burnham
PENCILLERS: Ryan Browne, Erik Evensen. Cover by Dan Schoening.
PUBLISHER: IDW Publishing
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: January 13, 2016

***Check out where we started in Back to the Future #1.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

When you get right down to it, IDW’s Back to the Future series is about answering questions most people wouldn’t think to ask. For instance, in this issue we learn how Marty and Jennifer got together, and what Doc Brown did when he got to the year 2015. Still, if you’re a Back to the Future fan the answers are pretty cool.

Our first story, “Peer Pressure,” takes place about a year before the events of the first film. We see how Marty got involved with Jennifer, and how both Doc and Needles factored into their romance blossoming. Then, in “Emmett Brown Visits the Future,” we pick up with Doc after he travels to 2015 for the first time. To say the very least, Doc is in a strange new world. But how does he grow accustomed to the future? What does a time-traveling scientist from 1985 do for money in 2015? Chances are it’s not what you think it is.

Back to the Future #4, Ryan BrowneWhat this Back to the Future series has opened my eyes to more than anything is just how similar Marty and George McFly are. In the movies, particularly the original, Marty seemed like the black sheep of his bloodline. George was cowardly, and so was Marty Jr in Part II. While Marty did share George’s self consciousness about his creative outlet, he always seemed cool and confident. But as we see in “Peer Pressure,” before we met him in the first movie, he wasn’t so confident. He has a similar dynamic with Needles that his father had with Biff Tannen. But he has a father figure of sorts in Doc Brown, who helps him become the young man he is in 1985.

I’m wondering how new this concept is. Was it created for the comic, or did Bob Gale and Robert Zebecks have it in the back of their minds as they were making the movies? It’s pretty logical, if you think about it. As far as we know, George didn’t have many (if any) friends when he was Marty’s age. It makes sense that having Doc in his life would make Marty braver and more outgoing than his father was. And as such, he wins Jennifer over.

When I got to “Emmett Brown Visits the Future,” I wondered if this was actually an adaptation of the short film Doc Brown Saves the World from the series Blu-rays. Rather, it’s a simple look at what Doc did when he visited 2015 for the first time. This one has it’s tongue firmly planted in its cheek, but that’s fine. The resolution to Doc’s money problem is funny, but not necessarily worth the trip. It’s one of the few times this series has disappointed thus far.

Back to the Future #4, Doc BrownFrom an art standpoint, it’s pretty tough to beat Dan Schoening’s cover. His art is tailor made for a series like this. But I can only assume he’s busy with the upcoming Ghostbusters International, and I’d rather have him there. As for our artists here, they both have their strengths. Erik Evensen has a more of a sleek, clean style. But he also has less to work with in terms of character and story. Browne has most of the main characters, and Marty’s struggle is very relatable. So if we look at this as a competition, the edge goes to Browne by virtue of the subject matter.

IDW’s Back to the Future was originally supposed to be a four-issue miniseries, but is now an ongoing title. Given what we’ve seen so far, I’m okay with that. They’ve got enough fertile ground to keep this going for at least a little while longer. I’m still waiting for our introduction to Marty from the alternate 1985. And how did Biff end up working for the McFlys? For children of the ’80s and ’90s, these kind of questions make Back to the Future a worthy pick-up.

Image 1 from majorspoilers.com, Image 2 from bleedingcool.com.

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