In a week filled with stories involving complete world subjugation and city wide annihilation, I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to have a down to earth story tell a simple tale of gang violence that simultaneously displays genuine character development. Even without the comparisons at hand, I’d still be touting this story arc as a fully worthwhile read for any connoisseur of pragmatic storytelling.
In this issue, the Jokerz spree of uncontested violence is on the rise. Meanwhile, the former “Robins” are relegated to simply living out their lives. And while that might seem like a downgrade from their days of high adventure, it’s where the real story is.
The first thing that really struck me was the relationship that Duke now has with his parents. While no one can say that they have had to deal with parents who have had their minds reduced to shells of their former selves as a result of a Joker chemical attack, I still think Duke’s problem is far more relatable than the surface details might have one originally realizing. I’d liken it to Alzheimer’s and senility. While I’m not old enough to have experienced it first hand with my own parents, I did see how it effected my family when my great grandmother was afflicted and had to be placed in a nursing home. I’m not sure if it was Bermejo’s intention to tackle this subject, but I’m sure that anyone who has experienced it would be hard pressed not to recognize the similarities at hand and be able to empathize with the situation.
I wonder if she walked up hill both ways to get to those 3 jobs?
While not as emotionally jarring as Duke’s dilemma, I think Izzy’s is the next most relatable. Maybe the severity of her situation is beyond what some of us ever had to deal with, but I think it is safe to say we have all been there at one point or another: working, going to school, and getting no sleep in the process. It’s kind of like an endurance test, and if you pass, you get to move on to the next level in life. As I said, it’s the severity of her situation that really makes her story pop for me. Since I came from a safe and stable environment, I’m not sure that a lack of education would have negatively impacted me in the same way that it is bound to effect Izzy. She lives in a place where she could literally die if she doesn’t make it out, and education is that ticket. I can’t even begin to imagine the kind of pressure and stress she must be under with so many factors working against her.
Next up is Dre. For comic aficionados, his story adheres the most to what we’ve come to expect from the genre. He’s the anchor that continues to ground this story in the super hero action category as opposed to straight up drama. While the least realistic of the bunch, it’s still emblematic as to why we all read these kinds of stories: the lone wolf, prowling the night and saving innocents.
Bringing up the rear is Dax and Riko. Dax really has the short end of the stick. He simply has no real story to speak of at this point. And while Riko does have a story, it’s about unrequited love. While I genuinely feel bad for her, I know her current predicament doesn’t hold a candle to the rest of the cast (Dax excluded). I know it feels like the end of the world when you are young and in love and it’s not mutual, but that’s just because she doesn’t have enough life experience to realize it’s really not the greatest catastrophe she will ever face.
Lastly, we have Smiley. He ends up delivering a very impassioned speech to rally his troops. While his agenda is completely insane and his conclusions are the ravings of a madman, he actually postulates several concepts that hold a lot of merit. It made for a very unusual speech; while I did agree with some of the things he was saying, I would never consider using them as a basis for the argument he makes.
Aside from the richness of the characters and the realistic tone of the world being portrayed, it’s also the buildup that this story presents that had me reading at a steady clip. One of the things I didn’t like about this series in the very beginning was that it threw us and the characters into the deep end of the pool with no regard for our lack of investment in them and no interest in presenting a plausible scenario for them to work through. There was also no progression that showed them becoming who they needed to be, they just were. Now it actually feels like we are going someplace. The characters are evolving and stepping up to a challenge instead of being forced into it. It just has a better feeling all around to me now.
Art for this issue is handled by series regular Jorge Corona. I like his stuff. It’s definitely stylized, which might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I’ve always felt that his work is pretty solid. Since I have spoken at length about his work in the past, I’d like to just focus on the image above for this review. I’m not sure what the real purpose is behind it. Visually, it looks perfectly fine. My criticism isn’t with what we are being shown so much as why we are being shown. It’s basically an establishing shot, but it’s an entire page. Why does it need to be an entire page? My initial thought was that the comic was 22 pages, and that they ran out of story to tell, so Corona just threw together a montage to fill up space. I could extrapolate that it was done to show the normalcy that was about to be invaded lunacy, or that the creative team wanted to impress upon us the severely high number of casualties that would result from a Jokerz attack. If that were the intention, I almost think it would have worked better if it had transpired right before the Jokerz busted in. Picture it as a silent slow motion scene in a move. Where your focus is on the people. A kid flashing a sideways grin at a friend. Faces of joy and laughter. Maybe even love. Then things snap into normal time as the Jokerz burst through the door, and the audio kicks into high gear as they cackle and release a hail of automatic gun fire. Like I said, it could be lots of things. I guess it just bugs me that I can’t figure out the creative team’s intentions with it.
- You like stories with engaging characters, evolution, and a sense of purpose.
- You like when scenarios make you reflect on your own life.
- You like stories that lean more towards reality than fantasy.
Bermejo excels at examining real world problems through a slight filter of heightened reality. If you’re sick of over the top epics and would like to read a more down to earth story featuring realistic concerns that also includes genuine character development, then this is a story for you.
SCORE: 8.5 / 10