Joshua Williamson’s “Price” arc continues toward it’s book-jumping crossover conclusion with a chapter titled “The Price of Vengeance” in which payment for Gotham Girl starts coming due.

I’m just going to leap right in here and say there’s an incredibly disconcerting contradiction in this story and it needs calling out. Flash and Batman are under siege from a platoon of people who have been chemically altered by an experiment (the same means, it appears, by which Gotham Girl has resurrected her brother). Batman’s plan: make them use their powers so that they will burn out and self-immolate. He even piggybacks onto Flash and tells him to run so that they will chase him until they explode.

Let’s just pass over the silly piggybacking thing for a moment and think about it: Batman’s plan is basically to let these people (degraded as they are) suicide. His plan is to make them kill themselves by overexerting their powers.

Okay, maybe it’s not even such a bad plan. These people are basically “dead” already, right?

So then maybe someone can explain to me why he and Flash fight so desperately to keep Gotham from using his powers. There’s a huge leap in which both Barry and Bats believe that Gotham is somehow less dead then the copycats? Are the copycats somehow less worthy of trying to save than he is? Seems to me the height of narcissism that Batman’s only concern is for the siblings he aided–and therefore feels responsible for. The rest of those folks? Who cares, they’re expendable.

Welcome to Gotham Girl’s fantasia on heroism

Williamson brings a wallup of action to this comic, but it suffers from a lot of awkward screeching dialogue as the Flash and Batman still can’t put their personal problems aside and just deal with the immediate threat. It’s like watching two divas trying to out-alto each other while the orchestra plays on in muddled confusion. And it isn’t helped much by the fact that Williamson is trying to juggle the cross-over effect, where he’s expositionally filling gaps in the narrative from The Flash no. 64. The way Flash explains to Batman what he already knows is some of the clunkiest over-explanation on display. He might have said: “You saw what she did at the Flash museum–we have to stop Gotham Girl before she reaches Central City!” or “We have to stop Gotham Girl from attacking Central City and find out who’s behind this!”, but no, we get: “Someone used Gotham Girl to destroy the Flash museum and now she’s headed to Central City!”

It doesn’t get much better from there.

Where Williamson shines is in the mindset of Gotham Girl herself. The opening scene in which she takes out her parents’ assailant as a child is a nice bit of fantasy, and she later compounds this in a soliloquy about her heroic aspirations. Make no mistake, she’s a slice of cheese short of a whole sandwich, but Williamson does provide her with enough psychotic motivation to push her forward in spite of the lunacy of her plans. It’s sufficient to show she’s incapable of rational decision-making.

I think we know what killed them, Flash. Batman’s plan.

I continue to have mixed feelings about Guillem March’s art. There’s one panel in particular when Barry comes to save Iris that sort of exemplifies both the good and the bad: It’s just a panel in which we see Gotham Girl from behind, watching as Barry quickly snatches Iris and several other civilians out of danger. What’s great about the panel is how it conveys a ton of action very simply: the replication of Flash as he assists different people while carrying on his conversation with Gotham Girl really works: we get Flash’s speed and we get that his priority is to save lives as he empathizes with Gotham Girl’s rage. Unfortunately we’re doing it while we stare at the excruciatingly defined butt of poor Gotham Girl as if her skirt was made of saran wrap.  It’s distracting and unnecessary, really.

The same is true, again, of Gotham’s veiny thighs and the flayed model effect of striation on Flash’s arms. And then, where this sort of ultra-definition might be used to full advantage, March’s climactic moment with Gotham is mostly rendered with a lot of contrast and shadows and liquid obfuscation.

Overall, I think the art is good–it really pushes the story and makes some chatty bits more impactful. But I’m still not a fan of the overemphasized anatomical style, and I fear the final effect is that it takes Williamson’s most melodramatic moments and escalates them into full-blown histrionics. The stretched skin of their faces, the contortion of their bodies goes from potentially epic to grotesque, and renders big events (like what happens to Gotham Girl herself), somewhat less effective for its lack of comparable exaggeration. Which is ironic, because I really like how the final pages play out. March’s restraint there is what I wish we got more of in the book overall.

Recommended If…

  • You like comics that are just over-the-top in terms of fight conversations and action stances: the more speech balloons per second the better!
  • You want something different than just Gotham on resurrection venom.

Overall

Joshua Williamson protracts the Batman/Flash squabbling over another issue alongside a huge serving of action and a new development with regard to the ill-fated Gotham siblings. It’s more of the same, if you’ve been following along so far, with a promise of something new to come in the next issue, so it does its job of stringing the reader along with enough incentive to keep going forward. Some dialogue and some art moments are a marriage of awkwardness, but overall the book has undeniable energy and a desire to be bigger than the sidekick sidestory it’s so far shaping up to be.

SCORE: 6/10

 

Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.