While Li’l Gotham is well-known for its holiday specials, this month’s issue doesn’t celebrate any festival, feast day, or birthday whatsoever. Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs try something different by giving Batman a vacation.
In the first of two stories collected in this comic, we see an exhausted Bruce return to the cave where he casually remarks that he’s “due for a vacation” before plopping down in front of the BatComputer. Alfred overhears this, takes the phrase literally, and schedules a holiday for the Dark Knight where he will set sail with the beautiful Selina Kyle on a relaxing weekend getaway. This is by far the high point of the issue. When Bruce describes his previous vacations and we see a series of panels paying homage to classic stories that weren’t typical vacations by any stretch of the imagination (hilariously so) we see Li’l Gotham at its very best. Lighthearted, funny, and a comic clearly made with a lot of love by fans for fans. However, after Selina discovers a bottle with a treasure map inside while taking a dip in the ocean the story goes absolutely haywire. It’s as if Nguyen and Fridolfs decided to throw everything possible into the story without any clear vision as to where they were going with it. We see pirates, the Joker, a Joker-esque pirate, a Batman Beyond-ish suit, and action that’s so fast paced and cluttered together that it’s unclear what exactly was going on or what the point of any of it was. Just to have something silly and fun I suppose. I did like the final page nod to Batman: The Animated Series, though.
Part two is directly connected to the first story and centers on the characters that were left behind—almost all of them. I’m not kidding, even Hawk & Dove make an appearance as Damian rallies together all the former sidekicks and bird-themed heroes of the DCU to go out and defend Gotham from the likes of Penguin, Deathstroke, Ventriloquist, Magpie… the list goes on and on. Things get crowded, nonsensical, and it all moves by incredibly fast. “Bird Watching,” as it is called, isn’t sequential storytelling, it’s just page after page of Dustin Nguyen drawing as many characters as possible in funny and cute ways, which has its benefits but it doesn’t make for a comic you’d re-read again and again.
Issue #8 is a lighthearted and colorful vacation from the doom and gloom of the other bat-titles, but it’s not on par with some of the great storytelling we’ve seen in preceding chapters.
- You’re shopping for your child or the child inside you
- You love Dustin Nguyen’s watercolors
- You prize copious cameos above storytelling
- You just want to take a break from the seriousness of other bat-titles
Not long after the fun of watching Alfred convince Bruce to take a vacation, the comic quickly goes off the rails and then the pirate-filled holiday is followed by what can only be described as character overload. The artwork is still as lovely as ever and there are some cute jokes as well, but both stories collected here are a mess, an entertaining mess but still a mess. Issue #8 is a fun read for the kids, but I don’t think it’s as rewarding for adults as previous installments have been.