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?.

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Panels of Awesomeness: Batman #51 by Lee Weeks

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

CREATORS: Tom King (Author), Lee Weeks (Artist), Elizabeth Breitweiser (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer)

THE SCENE: As he recovers from Selina Kyle leaving him before their wedding, Bruce Wayne’s emotions overcome him while he’s serving jury duty.

WHY IT’S AWESOME: I actually debated on whether to spotlight these pages for “Panels of Awesomeness.” But it’s been awhile since Batman #51 hit the stands, and I still find myself coming back to it. That moment where Bruce Wayne pulls the urinal off the wall and screams out at the reader is branded into my brain. Maybe it’s because of the sheer unusualness of a man ripping a urinal out of the wall.

But in talking about the awesomeness of that page, it’s important to factor in the previous one. Our hero is in full-on Bruce Wayne mode, when he feels this seemingly unprovoked emotional outburst coming on. More than versed in keeping secrets from the world at large, he maintains his calm, excuses himself, and lets loose.

For yours truly, this  “Cold Days” story has been one of the highlights of Tom King’s Batman run. It’s evocative of the Batman stories Greg Rucka or Ed Brubaker wrote in the early to mid 2000s. Think Gotham Central, Officer Down, etc. It’s got a police procedural/courtroom drama feel to it, along with that emotional undercurrent we see in Bruce. Furthermore, it’s got a heck of a finale. Even if you’re not into the whole Batman/Catwoman marriage thing, it’s worth checking out.

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Astonishing Art: Batman: The Animated Series by Rick Celis

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

If you’re a ’90s kid like I am, chances are you’ve got a soft spot for Batman: The Animated Series. For my generation, and even for a number of younger fans, it’s the definitive take on Batman and his world.

As such, artist Rick Celis and his many tributes to the series have hit me right in the nostalgic feels. Not only has Celis nailed down the look of the characters and the show, but he often uses it to pay tribute to more current works.

To illustrate, I’ve included some of my favorites below. You’ll see his send-ups to the Jim Lee variant for Batman #50, and the main cover for Batman #42. He’s also prone to giving nostalgic goodies like this tip of the hat to Runaway Bride (in the spirit of the recent Batman/Catwoman wedding, of course).

More of Celis’ work can be found on DeviantArt, Twitter, Instagram, and Patreon.

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

Micro-Reviews: Justice League, Batman, The Man of Steel

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Not a good week for publisher diversity at the Siebert house. Four from DC and one from BOOM! Studios. To be fair, funds were tight this week. Otherwise this list would have been at least twice as long. But minuscule as it looks compared to previous weeks, this is what’s in my stack.

Justice League #1
Notwithstanding my prior gripes with Scott Snyder’s stuff, I enjoyed Justice League #1. As he almost always does, Snyder goes big. That’s how it should be with the League. They’re going with the classic Justice League vs. Legion of Doom story, which is always a good draw.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Metal, but one thing I did enjoy was Snyder’s world-building. He continues that here. The way he uses the Hall of Justice and the Source Wall are fun. But I’m partial to the Psychic Conference Room myself.

Batman: Prelude to the Wedding – Nightwing vs. Hush #1
I was expecting a very personal, street-level fight from this one. We got that. But there was a cosmic element that I didn’t expect. Some interesting stuff. I just didn’t expect to see it here.

Also, there’s an exchange between Bruce and Dick in this issue that rubs me the wrong way. Dick tells Bruce that when he broke off on his own, he didn’t mean to distance himself personally. I call BS on that. The friction there was part of Dick’s development as a character.

This may sound odd, but I didn’t realize it was Batman and Catwoman that were getting married as opposed to Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle. From a secret identity standpoint, not having Bruce marry Selina makes sense. She’s a publicly known criminal. But then what’s the point? How is it even a wedding? Are Batman and Catwoman getting a marriage license? Is the state going to recognize them as married? How does that work?

Batman #48
Is it possible to make the Joker too Jokey? Or maybe to quippy? Tom King pushes it in that respect with Batman #48. The whole issue is basically a big, nonsensical talking scene. You can get away with that to an extent, because it’s the Joker. But it got to be grating. On the plus side, Mikel Janin’s art is great as always. The visual of someone as evil as the Joker in a church is disturbingly awesome. Or awesomely disturbing.

The Man of Steel #2
I’m worried that Bendis’ use of “Bendis Banter” will wear on me as his run progresses. But for now it’s charming. Superman and Green Lantern have a refreshing exchange in this issue that feels like a genuine conversation between friends. On the flip side, we see Perry White confide in Clark about the pressures of surviving in the journalism industry. As a former journalist, that’s really interesting to see.

The pencilling in this issue is split between Evan “Doc” Shaner and Steve Rude, with two pages also done by Jason Fabok. It’s all great. But Rude steals the issue as far as I’m concerned.

Go Go Power Rangers #10
The Megazord we see on the cover is called the Gravezord. It’s made from the remnants of destroyed zords, specifically the Thunderzords. Kind of like Typhonis in MMPR: Pink. Dan Mora’s awesome art aside, I can’t decide how I feel about it.

For yours truly, the highlight of this issue is Jason having to ask Zordon to do something very personal for him, and Zordon having to tell him why he can’t. Well done, Ryan Parrott.

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A Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle #2 Review – Hello, Goodbye

Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle #2TITLE: Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle #2
AUTHOR: Gail Simone
PENCILLER: Jan Duursema. Cover by Jill Thompson.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: May 6, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

When I reviewed Batman #40, a few people got on my case for my subtitle being “Dead Again.” It was, “Spoilers, man! Spoilers!”

Well, take a look at your primary cover for Nightwing/Oracle #2. Not much I can do about this one, kids. So don’t blame me!

Indeed, Gail Simone gives us a little bit of closure on pre-New 52 Nightwing and Oracle here. But not before a showdown with Flashpoint Hawkman and Hawkwoman. It may seem like Dick Grayson is fighting alone. But as always, Barbara Gordon has more than a few resources to call on, including one that longtime Simone fans will very much appreciate.

Naturally, much of what I said about the first issue still applies here. So lets hit our bullet points…

Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle #2, Jan Duursema– Nightwing’s costume is too overdone, much akin to what was done in Injustice: Gods Among Us. That said, it’s great to see him back in blue.

– Duursema nails the older version of Barbara. It’s awesome to see her back, and in the hands of the writer who arguably wrote her the best.

– Hawkman and Hawkwoman have a nice bird motif that’s very fitting for Gail Simone, but other than that, I’m not hugely invested in them as villains.

It’s interesting that the Chip Kidd-designed variant covers for both Nightwing/Oracle issues featured art by Don Kramer. Jan Duursema’s art definitely has a Don Kramer vibe to it at times. For whatever reason, I see it whenever a character it looking toward the camera with a determined look. Oracle, Nightwing, and our two Thanagarians all have moments like that. It brings back fond memories of Kramer’s runs on Nightwing and Detective Comics.

Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle #2, BarbaraThis issue has a surprise guest, and if you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m not going to tell you who it is (Spoilers, dude!). It’s a nice surprise, but there is once drawback to it. In order to conceal this person’s identity from the reader for a bit, Simone has them dressed in brown robes during a scene with Oracle. That struck me as an odd choice. Why the robes? Is there a risk of them being recognized by the Thanagarians? Even if there is, why keep the disguise on while you’re in a private setting with Oracle? That was a head-scratcher.

The wedding of any incarnation of Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon is obviously pretty cool to see. Sadly, we only see it for half a page. But it’s still pretty impactful to not only see our couple in a matrimonial setting, but some pretty notable guests in the foreground. One might argue this is a moment we should have gotten several years ago. Then again, DC’s recent track record with superhero marriages isn’t exactly stellar…

Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle #2My only nitpick with the wedding scene is Barbara’s dress. That’s a weird thing to pick at (especially considering I’m a guy), but it bothered me a bit. On the cover, Jill Thompson draws Barbara wearing a white dress with something of a computerized texture, which obviously wraps around and envelopes most of the image. In the issue, the lower portion of Barbara’s dress has the same texture. For yours truly, that ventured into hokey territory. It’s simply a matter of something working in the context of a cover, but not in the actual issue.

And with that…here they go, out of our lives again. DC brings them back, just to put them right back on the shelf. *sigh* It’s painful to see this happen to Oracle in particular. That character had so much depth to her, and on top of that, she was so damn cool. Obviously, a lot of good has come from DC giving Barbara her legs back and making her Batgirl again. The recent issues by Cameron Stewart, Brendan Fletcher, and Babs Tarr come to mind immediately. But many longtime fans like myself have never stopped missing Oracle.

What can I say? It still hurts, damn it. It still hurts.

Image 1 from bleedingcool.com. Image 2 from comixology.com. Image 3 from shadowneko003.tumblr.com.

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