It’s time for Part 1 of the Comics Rundown. Here I’ll be doing mini-reviews of certain series while also highlighting my favourite lines and awarding each issue a score out of ten. In this first part I’ll be focusing on Forever Evil #1, Batman #23.1: The Joker, Batman and Robin #23.1: Two-Face, Batman – The Dark Knight #23.1: The Ventriloquist, and Detective Comics #23.1: Poison Ivy. Also I should mention that there be SPOILERS in these reviews. You are warned!
Forever Evil #1
What better way to start off my Villains Month reviews than the title that kicks the whole thing off, the title that explains why the villains are running amuck in the first place. After the revelation of the Crime Syndicate breaking the dimensional barriers and getting ready to do battle with the Justice Leagues at the end of Trinity War, everyone was anticipating the eventual knockout brawl. Well, for everyone expecting that prepare to be disappointed. That whole battle took place off-panel and when we start this series the Justice league is proclaimed dead. What does follow is an excellent opening salvo with a ton of great moments such as the various villains mistakenly thinking the various Crime Syndicate members are the heroes they are familiar with, Monocle proclaiming they are really the Justice League in disguise until Ultraman silences that thought by killing him, the villains interacting with one another, a stunning four-page spread of all the bad guys, Ultraman blocking out the sun, and Lex Luthor wondering where the hell Superman is. Oh…and how can I forget to mention that part of Nightwing getting freaking unmasked in front of the world? So much happened here and David Finch backed up the quality storytelling with awesome art. I can’t await to see how this plays out in future issues as Luthor and the Rogues take a stand.
Lex Luthor: A lot of people fall off of these helicopters.
Thomas Kord: Excuse me?
Lex Luthor: Accidents happen, Thomas.
Lex Luthor’s Pilot: Accidents do happen, Mr. Luthor.
Thomas Kord: Are you actually threatening me?
Lex Luthor: No. No, Thomas. please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not threatening you. I’m threatening your entire family.
Ultraman: We have watched your world. It is a world very different from our own. A world that wastes its time protecting the weak. Your world fights against the most basic rule of evolution: natural selection. The progression of the human race has been halted by allowing those who offer society nothing to continue to consume, procreate and breathe. This place has allowed the inadequate, incompetent and ignorant to thrive. The destitute are winning. But the war is not over. You are the strongest there are. You were given yours powers for a reason. Join us and we will take this world together! Aeternus Malum. Forever evil.
Lex Luthor: This is a job for Superman. So where the hell is he?
Batman #23.1: The Joker
Those expecting a Joker story post Death of the Family are going to be in for a shocker. What we get is a flashback tale taking place several years ago that uses even more flashbacks inside of itself showing us a portion of the Joker’s upbringing as a kid. It’s some fittingly dark stuff including one moment where his Aunt cleans his face with bleach. Elsewhere, she throws out his favourite stuffed toy, Gaggy, which is a funny looking ape dressed in a clownish outfit and acts as the basis for Jackanapes’ design. What is really strange in this issue is the uncharacteristic portrayal of the Joker who is both reflective and sad while also wanting to save a Zoo. Seeing the Joker steal a baby ape and raise him as his son, teaching him everything he knows, only to watch Jackanapes plummet to his death in the water below, a single tear streaming down his cheek at how his life has turned out, is a different story than I was expecting. Joker, on the verge of breaking into tears himself at the loss of his son, reverts back to his old ways with a punch line about how those swimming lessons didn’t payoff, showing us a glimmer of the villain we know and love. Overall this issue turned into a Jackanapes origin story rather than a Joker-centric issue but despite the odd depiction of the Joker the art by Andy Clarke managed to earn it as high of a rating as it got.
Joker: I remember the time I tried to beat up a first grade girl’s fist with my face. My face lost.
Joker: I taught him how not to feel sorry. How not to get caught up in feelings. I taught him that with guilt comes weakness. And in our business, we can’t afford guilt. It’s too damn expensive! I taught him that all people are guilty…guilty of something. We’re simply providing a service to free them of this guilt. A fun job! But this service comes with a price. And for that reason alone, we are justified in what we do and what we believe in…but besides all of that hooey…dishing out pain and siffering…is a hell of a lot of fun!
Joker: Together, we could be the new Batman and Robin–only better looking!
Batman and Robin #23.1: Two-Face
Two-Face is always an interesting character. A man who constantly struggles with his two conflicting personalities, a struggle that can only be resolved by the flip of a coin. Seeing Gotham crumble around him with the absence of Batman, Two-Face decides to flip and see if he’ll save the city or make it bleed. Unfortunately for him, Scarecrow interrupts and comes to him with a new coin and the choice to pledge loyalty to the new power players in town, the Crime Syndicate. One flip later and he agrees albeit with the caveat that they cannot interfere with the decision of the coin. New coin in hand, the choice of saving Gotham prevails and Two-Face embarks on a one-man crusade against the criminals infesting his city. He then decides that these criminals need to have verdicts rendered after catching them and makes his way to familiar territory: the Gotham Courthouse. Upon arriving at the courthouse, we are treated with intersected moments, viewing Harvey’s past at this establishment while seeing the present day fate that has befallen it, a whole lot of dead bodies. Once inside his old office, Two-Face saves a group of former coworkers from various D-list Batman villains (like Boot-Face). He then acts like a Judge and passes judgment with the flip of his coin, the choices being life in prison or death. After killing Boot-Face (try to hold back the tears), another masked villain barges in saying this is all going against the Crime Syndicate’s wishes. Two-Face finds this unacceptable and subsequently kills the villain and places the Syndicate’s coin in his mouth. The issue ends with Two-Face flipping his old coin once again to determine Gotham’s fate, only this time it is time to make the city bleed. Thus concludes what was a wonderful look at Two-Face, witnessing his thought processes play out in conflicting caption boxes was great and it was backed with some superb art. Batman and Robin becomes Batman and Two-Face for the next five issues after Villains Month which, if this issues was any indication, should prove to be a highly entertaining and enjoyable read for sure.
Two-Face: I love this city. I hate this city. I hate hearing it laugh. I love hearing it cry. I’ve served it. I’ve made it suffer. The light’s been burning for hours–emergency generator kicked in when the power went out. He hasn’t answered the call. The city screams for him. The Batman’s gone. Leaving me two choices…heads, I save Gotham. Tails, I make it bleed.
Two-Face: You have the right to remain silent or scream. Your choice. Anything you say will most definitely be shoved down your throat in a court of law. You do not have the right to an attorney…not that it’d help one way or the other.
Two-Face: Half the time I’m gone. I don’t know where. Sometimes I don’t even know when. I flip a piece of silver ninety years old and it happens. Everything changes. The Justice League is dead. Batman is dead. My city is dark. Exposed. Vulnerable. It makes me want to cry, it makes me want to smile.
Batman – The Dark Knight #23.1: The Ventriloquist
In a perfect example of DC’s weird and nonsensical naming and numbering policy to this whole event, we get an issue by Gail Simone that is essentially an issue of Batgirl starring the female Ventriloquist and her puppet Ferdie. These two are already associated with the Batgirl series and this issue goes so far that at the conclusion it tells us to follow the story in the pages of Batgirl. So why was this title called Batman: The Dark Knight? Sure beats me…. As for the story itself, the first half has the Ventriloquist recounting her history, telling her story to a reporter that Ferdie killed by hanging her by her own microphone. I love the dichotomy of what she is saying by showing how her fantasy tale actually played out in real life. We knew she was a troubled child but this psychosis was routed in being ignored due to her twin brother taking all the attention away from her. This eventually led to her killing a young girl who was teasing her by pushing her into traffic with her mind and killing her brother by flinging him off a swing set and cracking his head open after learning he got a recoding contract. All the time as we are learning more of her history we have the secondary B-plot play out of a few citizens wandering into her theatre with the promise of electricity and food, a scarcity in Gotham since the Crime Syndicate took over. This subsequently also draws the attention of a gang of criminals that interrupt her crass puppet show she was putting on for her guests, a gang that Ferdie brutally kills. Before the last one is murdered he find some letters “written” by Ferdie professing his love for Batgirl proving once and for all that the Ventriloquist is completely off her rocker, as if that was ever in doubt. The issue ends with a chilling note as Ferdie compliments the Ventriloquist for protecting her guests until she lets out a giggle and reveals that all the food was poisoned, rendering them as her permanent lifeless audience. This dark and creepy exploration of the Ventriloquist was a real highlight of the week for me and left me eagerly anticipating her next “performance.”
The Ventriloquist: How do I make audiences laugh one moment, then weep openly the next? Well, not to be immodest here, but talent is an asset, don’t you find? It’s just that in these troubled times, these dark times…I feel that people need to laugh. I just want to entertain people.
The Ventriloquist: Ferdie, this is a clean show, and you’re talking dirty!
Ferdie: You think I’m dirty? Look where your right hand is! I got a proctologist knows me less well than you, sweetums!
Ferdie: A man tells his doctor he’s suicidal, and the doctor says…good news! You have a tumor! Bad news! It’s totally curable! Good news! I’m a terrible surgeon!
Detective Comics #23.1: Poison Ivy
Poison Ivy runs wild on Gotham, doing what she pleases, encountering various elements that remind her of her earlier years which allows us to dive deeper into her history. We witness how she became who she is today and are shown her loving mother who was being abused by her father, a father that buys her mother’s affections off with flowers after each attack. Her mother adds these flowers to her cherished sanctuary (her garden), a sanctuary that he eventually buries her in after murdering her. Poison Ivy pays him back many years later by giving him a kiss on the cheek while meeting him in prison, a lethal kiss that kills the man who took her mother away from her, a man who took her innocence and childhood from her. One of the new revelations that I really enjoyed seeing was how her origin is now tied to Wayne Enterprises. It turns out that she used to work for Bruce Wayne until she revealed her plan to increase the company’s wealth by using her research to adjust the public’s pheromone levels, essentially taking away their choice. Bruce fires her on the spot and claims that all her research is the property of Wayne Enterprises as per her signed contract, stopping her from selling this dangerous technique to another less honorable company. While trying to steal her research, a guard attempts to stop her and her chemicals are spilled all over herself creating Poison Ivy as we know her today. Going into this issue, I really wasn’t digging the New 52 version of Poison Ivy but with her new origins, her connection to Wayne, and the explanation of why she is so fixated on flowers, she took a definite step up in my opinion. Also, the art was another big positive for this issue especially the flashback scene in particular.
Poison Ivy: He always bought off her forgiveness. Ensuring the abuse would continue. And her garden would grow with his apologies. My father taught me that flowers could manipulate others.
Poison Ivy: The Gotham Botanical Gardens, once a green refuge, is now a blazing inferno. And those responsible revel in its destruction. A reminder that a beautiful surface…only hides the horrible truths beneath. In a fit of rage, my father killed my mother. Burying her in a garden of his making. And adding another lesson to be planted in my mind. In order to control those around me, I must never lose control of myself.
Poison Ivy: It’s easy, isn’t it? To attack something living. Something weaker than you. Something that won’t fight back. I know this because I feel the same way towards each of you. The damage you’ve done is temporary. This garden will grow and live again. However, you won’t. You will be buried…and forgotten.
And that is Part 1 complete. Agree/Disagree with my reviews? Comment below!