Sunday, March 22, 2015

Batman #39 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Snyder takes a bit of a break here, so I don't really have too much to say.  OK, sure, Joker invades the Batcave, cuts off Alfred's hand, and steals trophies to use in a grim parade through Gotham celebrating its imminent destruction.  But, other than that, it's pretty slow.

It's not necessarily a bad thing.  Snyder has been rushing us headlong into a wall for the last few issues, so it was time to hit the brakes before we hit it.  Bruce gets the Court of Owls to admit that it used a corrupted version of dionesium to create the electrum that brings back Talons, but its leader says that the Joker has the "pure" version.  Bruce engages the older Talon, asking if the Joker was alive when he was first operating, but we don't see the answer to that question.  Instead, Bruce decides to take the fight to the Joker in order to get a sample of the dionesium from his spine.  Essentially, it's the opposite of "Batman Eternal:"  whereas he's skulked in the shadows for almost 50 issues in that series, in this one, Bruce just grabs the bull by the horns here and goes with his hunch that the Joker is the key to curing the virus infecting Gotham.

To accomplish this goal, he calls in his allies and his enemies.  I thought that this part was clever, if somewhat flawed.  First, Batman calls his enemies through an upside-down Bat-signal; it's apparently part of a secret pact that the super-villains made to commemorate Batman if one of them manages to kill him.  Second, it's essentially the same group of villains that we've seen in "Batman Eternal:"  Bane, Clayface, Killer Croc, Mr. Freeze, the Penguin, Poison Ivy, and Scarecrow.  It's the first time that we've really seen a connection to that series in this one, other than the appearance of Bluebird.  It's nice to know all that suffering paid some sort of dividend.  Finally, it addresses a certain truth, that even the villains don't stand to benefit if the Joker takes out Gotham entirely.

Of course, that said, I'm not sure if this assertion is true across the board.  Of the group, Croc and the Penguin are the ones most directly connected to Gotham, and I guess that Ivy would be upset if the plants died.  But, I do find it hard to believe that Bane, Clayface, Mr. Freeze, or Scarecrow feel like Gotham needs to survive for them to continue operating as super-villains.  In other words, I've never got a sense that they were necessarily Gotham-specific operators, and it's not like taking on the Joker doesn't involve some risk.  Snyder keeps treating this weird little group as a monolithic one, and it's not helping the stories that he's trying to tell.  We really could've used a few pages here to flesh out the motivations of this latter group.

In the end, though, this issue really just sets up the denouement, the final assault on the Joker.  We know that the Joker has something up his sleeve, and he seemingly expected Bats to go to his enemies.  Whatever it is, it can't be good.

*** (three of five stars)

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