This isn’t just a fun comic book for kids and older comic fans that are young-at-heart, it’s a great way to see new stories featuring elements that were lost in the New 52.
- Sympathetic Mr. Freeze? Check.
- Barbara still in the chair and acting as Oracle? Check.
- Blue on the Nightwing suit? Check.
- Tim Drake actually hangs out with the rest of the batfamily? Check.
- Joker’s face is intact? Check.
- Damian is alive? Check.
The list goes on and on, really. It’s as if Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs have been given free rein to pick and choose what aspects of the Batman mythology the like best and create their own lighthearted world out of that and it’s a delight month after month. Li’l Gotham doesn’t take itself seriously and that’s why I love it. But frankly, this book would be nowhere without Nguyen’s water colors which (as always) are worth the $2.99 price alone. And the astounding thing is that he’s only getting better with each issue. Issue #5 is probably the most diverse yet with an incredibly deep roster of characters on display and unique environments that Nguyen brings to cartoony life with vibrant colors and the most adorable designs. Where is the merchandise at for this book already?
As always, this issue features not one but two stories so you get plenty of bang for your buck. The first is about Mr. Freeze getting a released from Arkham. He’s apprehensive at first about entering the real world again, but finds that Gotham is far more warm and welcoming than he ever remembered. His first day out of prison is so wonderful, however, that his psychotic nature creeps back in again and he decides that he needs to preserve this glorious day just as it is so his wife Nora can see it when he finally cures her and brings her back. Not a bad Mr. Freeze premise. It’s maybe a little crazier than the sympathetic Mr. Freeze used to be portrayed, but I’ll take it. The imagery of Mr. Freeze’s flying saucer was really great and I also liked the “A Christmas Story” like joke that involved Damian and his love of ice cream. But with it being only around 10 pages long I should probably stop there before I give the whole adventure away. Just know that I thought it was one of the strongest issues yet. My one complaint would be that the page or so spent with Poison Ivy felt out of place and ruined the story’s flow.
With the first story you can see how that could easily be tweaked enough to function as a more mature tale or at least an animated series episode. But with the following Cinco De Mayo themed adventure we get something way sillier. Damian, Katana, and Tim team up with Damian’s friend Collin to do a bit of street racing against Bane and then track down some of Bane’s stolen goods. This leads into a boxing match featuring luchador henchmen and tacos. Lots and lots of tacos. It’s pretty ridiculous, but the artwork on the opening page and some of the character interactions you’ll see are guaranteed to make you smile. How much would you like to see Dick and Barbara go out on a date again and have it be 100% drama-free? Well, here it is. There was some odd stuff with a hulking-out Collin and the story itself is totally erratic and nonsensical without the structure of Mr. Freeze’s story but… oh well. It’s packed to the brim with cute imagery, fan-service, and nostalgia and that’s exactly what Li’l Gotham is for.
I wouldn’t say that this is a must-buy for everyone. Let’s face it, comics are expensive and you want to pick up books that are going to give you a lot to discuss and plenty of re-read value and this is very, very light. But if you really like Batman and have an extra $3 bucks in your pocket after making all of your selections at the comic shop then you really can’t go wrong with adding Li’l Gotham #5 to your pile.
Two stories for the price of one and each is beautifully illustrated and filled with cute and humorous moments as well as a heaping helping of old DCU nostalgia. A must-read for kids and a delight for older Batman fans who just want to appreciate good art and have a laugh.