Batman: The Black Mirror (DC)
Written by Scott Snyder, drawn by Jock & Francesco Francavilla
Collects Detective Comics #871-881
After reading the first three volumes of Scott Snyder’s Batman, I’m firmly and solidly hooked. I can’t wait to see where that story goes as it makes its way to trade over time and even more slowly finds its way into my collection. But, while waiting, I figured it would make sense to go back and read the writer’s first attempt at playing in Gotham. Snyder wrote the main feature and back-ups of Detective Comics leading up to New 52. This story features Dick Grayson as Batman, but takes place after Bruce came back in The Return Of Bruce Wayne.
There’s a lot going on in this book which finds art chores split between Jock and Francavilla. You’ve got Dick investigating a long-running black market auction for evil objects held in places where terrible things happened as well as the ongoing mystery of exactly who or what Commissioner Gordon’s son James is. All of that is mixed with what’s considered more “comic booky” elements like massive sea animals and a car-filled deathtrap. The two artists have wildly different styles, but they both fit the story so well from Jock’s chaotic lines to Francavilla’s more solid, thick-lined take. Sometimes when artists change in a book like this it can be super distracting, but in each case, they seem perfectly suited for the twists and turns Snyder threw at them and us.
I absolutely loved going on this journey. For me, it’s got a lot of connections to Year One, which I read for the first time in years recently. The thing that struck me about Year One when I gave it a re-read was how much of a Jim Gordon story it is. He’s really the main character and I’d say that’s the case with the majority of these issues as well. I don’t know how he did it or if I’m just pre-disposed to get on Gordon’s side, but I was completely taken and absorbed with the story revolving around his son. I gasped while reading a few times and got uncomfortable at others. It took me several weeks to read this book the first time for various reasons, but I’m hoping the next time I crack it open, I’ll be able to take it in in a much shorter period of time because it really feels like a complete epic that utilizes the history of Batman while also blazing new trials in a similar way that Geoff Johns did with books like JSA, Flash and Green Lantern.
The Joker: The Clown Prince Of Crime (DC)
Written by Denis O’Neil, Elliot S! Maggin & Martin Pasko, drawn by Irv Novick, Dick Giordano, Jose Louis Garcia-Lopez, Ernie Chen, Vince Colletta, Tex Blaisdell & Frank McLaughlin
Collects Joker #1-9
I’d love to say that I chose to read this collection of the Joker’s solo comic from the 70s for deep thematic reasons like the fact that it’s another Bat-book that Bruce Wayne has nothing to do with, but in reality, I just wanted to give it a read. I appreciate that DC’s still reprinting these older tales even though they’re pretty much negated everything about them thanks to the New 52.
These issues debuted between 1975 and 1976 and feature the Clown Prince of Crime going on a variety of adventures that either feature his fellow Rogues Gallery members like Two-Face or Scarecrow or pit him against heroes like Creeper or Green Arrow. There are some attempts to connect these stories like the continued appearance of henchmen Tooth and Southpaw as well as repeated appearances by Benny and Marvin, a pair of former Arkham Guards who repeatedly run into Joker. But, for the most part, this is a monster/her/team-up/crime of the issue type of comic thanks to the mix of writers and artists on board each issue.
Tone-wise, this is an interesting book. When it was coming out you had the more realistic take on the Caped Crusader going on thanks to Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams and company. This book reflects some of that, especially in the art style,as we see Joker murdering a few people here and there, but also carries a comedic tone that presents itself in many ways. Heck, Joker gets out of Arkham with a giant balloon in the first issue and goes on to build a secret base under his cell in the asylum so he can commit crimes more easily. There’s a whole issue where Lex Luthor and Joker accidentally switch personalities and an incredibly complicated way of doing a modern-day Sherlock Holmes story that feels like the kind of longform joke Andy Kaufman would try to pull off, so there’s still plenty of humor.
I do have to say one thing that got under my skin while reading this book was the fact that they referred to Joker’s hideout as the Ha-Hacienda, which is a funny idea, but it should be the Ha-Ha-Hacienda, right? Aside from that, I had a lot of fun reading through this book. I don’t always go in for comics from this era because they’re not super well regarded or original, but this hit a lot of my buttons, including the huge Creeper one hiding in the depths of my comic-loving brain.