Two weeks ago, in the pages of Batman, Ivy took over the entire world in order to make it a better place….and I found the opening act to “Everyone Loves Ivy” absolutely intoxicating.
Ivy is one of my favorite Bat-villains, so bonus points are already awarded just for using her. But that doesn’t mean I give a writer a free pass just because they use her. Far from it. As a super Ivy fan, I expect things to be perfect, and if they aren’t, you can guarantee I’m not going to be quiet about it. So if anything, I’m going to be grading this arc even harder than I usually would.
Even though I loved it, the opening chapter wasn’t perfect. As my colleague Casper already pointed out in his review for part one, Ivy is showing power levels that are off the charts, and unprecedented for a character such as she. While this bugged me a little, I decided to reserve picking on this till after I see whether or not King has an explanation as to how she was able to pull this off. If King doesn’t bother to fully answer this, as is typical of him to leave the finer details unanswered, then I’ll get huffy. But for now, I’ll reserve judgement till I have the bigger picture. (It is partially explained, but I’ll still need a little more to believe she could control so many.)
The only other thing that bothered me from the first part was that Ivy now knows that Bruce is Batman. You know, there was a time in Batman’s career when you could count the number of people that knew he was Batman on one hand. Now it’s like between 50 and 100 people that know….and that’s just not cool with me. I loved the idea that Batman’s secret identity was one of the most closely guarded secrets on the planet. Now it’s like everybody and his brother knows. Whatever…
Aside from all the Ivy stuff that I just loved, I also loved how Bruce was trapped in a familiar place that should have been his safe space but turned out to be against him. The best way I can describe what I am trying to say is by giving you an example I’m sure we’ve all experienced at one time or another:
It’s late at night. You’re home alone. You hear a noise. A noise you’re positive could have only been made by another person. You’re on edge because something just doesn’t feel right to you. You carefully explore the entire house, assuming something just fell over or something. But as you make your way to the final room and find nothing out of place, you aren’t left with a feeling of relief, but one of unexplainable dread as you come up empty handed with an explanation as to why the hairs on the back of your neck are standing at more attention now than they ever have before.
That’s the feeling that the Bruce section from last issue gave me. Couple that with all the Ivy stuff, and I was like, “Bring on part two!!!!” And then I read it….
I seriously don’t understand why it is that I can’t get through a single Tom King arc without finding major flaws within some part of it. I’m not exaggerating for dramatic effect either. He literally hasn’t put out a multi-part story so far that I’ve unanimously given every section an all thumbs up to. There are great chapters, and there are bad chapters, but it’s never been consistently good all the way through. Which, in the long run, means that there are no King arcs I would actually feel comfortable recommending to anyone to read. And that’s just sad to think that the man has written this much and doesn’t have a proportionate amount of excellence to show for it. That’s not to say there aren’t a few gems among his work. I think it’s safe to say that he shines the most at one-and-dones. The Elmer Fudd Special, “Good Boy“, and Batman #38 are all perfect examples of King killing it when it comes to single issue stories.
In my opinion, King needs to stick to sprinting and leave the marathon running to someone else. He just can’t keep it together for more than that.
So, what’s my beef with Batman #42? Let’s have a look see, shall we?
As with any King story, at least the idea/theme behind it is strong. To me, it feels like this issue is exploring the notion of liberty. And by that, I mean the amount of freedom and ability we all have to live the life we want underneath a governing body that puts restrictions upon us. Some of these restrictions are for our own good and other restrictions seem to be hampering our ability to live. But the question is, does the governing body know what’s better for us than we do, and are we willing to give up certain liberties in order to feel safe and secure? Or, are we in fact, willing to give up all our liberties for infallible security? And, at what point do restrictions become so oppressive that they actually feel worse than the very evils the restrictions are trying to protect us from? All very interesting questions, not that King gives any kind of definitive answer in regards to these queries, but they’re still fascinating to ponder upon nonetheless.
Batman, however, obviously feels strongly that what Ivy is doing is unacceptable. I guess Batman wants people to do the right thing, not because they are being forced to do it, but because they know it’s the right thing to do. However, Batman is the kind of guy that forces people to do the right thing through intimidation, fear, and coercion all the time. So, I guess threatening to beat the crap out of someone is an ok way in his book to make somebody do the right thing, while mind control is a no no. I hadn’t realized it when I started down this train of thought, but it would be really difficult to argue for or against either of their methods. It’s a pretty slippery slope I guess.
Ivy has decided not to remove Batman from the playing field, after all, what the heck can he do to stop her? At the same time, she’s nobody’s fool. If anyone even has the remotest chance of stopping her, it’s going to be Batman. So, she has Superman follow them wherever they go and simply watch them from a distance. Catwoman makes light of the entire situation, and it’s genuinely funny, but where do our heroes decide to go with the limited freedom they’ve been allowed?
Seriously?!? Do we really need to reprise this place again? I hated it the first time it showed up, ignored it the second time, but now it’s really getting on my nerves. I just really don’t care that much for the idea that Batman merchandise and paraphernalia is something people want within the DC Universe. With a character like Superman, it makes sense to see citizens wearing Superman shirts, because Superman is a very public figure. A figure people are aware of on a world wide scale. But Batman isn’t on the same stage as a guy like Superman. Heck, I’m still under the impression that some Gothamites think he’s propaganda to get them to behave, or simply an urban legend. We want to go to Batman themed restaurants and buy little Batman figures to display on our shelves, but do the people of Gotham? Far too often I find that King blurs the lines between what we as readers think of Batman and what people within the comic world of Batman think of Batman. I mean, King has gone so far as to have Bruce make fun of himself for wearing a Batsuit. Look, you can’t have Batman questioning the reality of his world. To him, it makes total sense to be dressed as a Bat. If I’m going to buy into the reality of this fictitious world, I at least need to see that the characters who inhabit it believe in it.
Aside from the fact that I hate this place, the world is in danger, and Batman and Catwoman decide to stop for burgers!!!!!!!!!!! I’m so annoyed right now…. And what happened to the whole, Bruce eats a burger with a knife and fork thing that King established? Or is Bruce consciously picking it up with his hands so that nobody makes the connection that both Batman and Bruce are the same person after witnessing both eat a burger with a fork and knife? Whatever…
Then, once their little grumbly tummies are full, they decide to finally go do something useful. (There’s also evidence within the story that Ivy being in control has been going on for 3 weeks. 3 WEEKS!!! Way to be decisive there, Bats…) Once they arrive at their destination, Catwoman defeats 3 Flashes!!!!! 3 FLASHES!!!!!!! Ok. Let’s think about this for a minute. I had no problem with Batman punching out The Flash last issue because he wasn’t actually trying to hit The Flash. He was trying to hit Alfred and Ivy made The Flash jump in the way and take the blow. Also, with Superman, it makes sense that Ivy couldn’t use Superman’s powers properly since she doesn’t have any practice using them.
I’ll admit, it’s pretty comical to see Superman plummeting in the background like that, completely impotent. But at the same time, it’s also kind of disrespectful. I know technically that’s Batman making Ivy look bad, but it still kind of makes Superman look bad too. And while I’m thinking of it, what exactly is the tone of this story supposed to be? Serious? Funny? It’s got both elements, and they really sort of clash with one another.
One of the things I was actually glad to see is that Batman is finally shown having some kind of limits. When it comes to Batman fighting the entire Justice League, it’s shown far too often that he can take them all out. And while under certain circumstances I completely believe that he can and should be able to do just that, it’s nice to finally see Batman getting captured. Granted, he is only captured because he was up against 2 Green Lanterns, Superman, Wonder Woman, Gorilla Grodd, and an army of Gorillas. But hey, I guess it had to be excessive or people wouldn’t believe it because it’s Batman.
I’m going to drop the rest of this behind a spoiler since I’m about to ruin the “shocking moment” from this issue.
And what is she saying here? Did it take a little of all of that to bring him back to life since his face was so caved in? Then again, if she had access to magic users that could bring him back to life, why didn’t they just heal his wounds too? There are always so many unanswered questions when reading a Tom King story.
Does it sound to anyone else like this is exactly what Batman wanted to have happen?
- You don’t mind a story that plays fast and loose with the rules as long as it gives you something to think about.
What did I just read? While I appreciated the driving thought behind the issue, I was completely unthrilled with the execution. On top of that, the tone of the issue seems to bounce back and forth faster than a ping pong ball at the World Championships. As with almost everything that King writes, you’re either going to love it or hate it. This time around, I’m unfortunately the later. The only thing that really saved this issue for me was the art.
SCORE: 5 / 10