I am still not a fan of the “Joker War” event. The main Batman title isn’t very enjoyable for me, and as I’ve explained in previous reviews, the way that it has blatantly interrupted an arc in Detective Comics is rather annoying, to say the least. On the bright side, Tomasi and Rocafort are the creative team for this issue, and while the last one left much to be desired, I am still hoping that they do something cool with the material. So, without further ado, let’s have a look.
The art throughout this issue is good. Especially during the opening pages, Rocafort finds great shots, angles and perspectives to create an intriguing visual tone for the story. Some of these panels zoom in on faces and objects, leaving out other details, which creates a solid buildup to the eventual reveal of Batman and the start of a mystery. The way that this opening scene is constructed also reminds me of the concept of slasher movies; here, for example, we see Croc’s claws grabbing the faces of two security officers, which is followed by a panel of a third security officer standing over the manhole in which his colleagues and Croc just disappeared. This opening sequence is a great start to the comic.
What’s more, I like how Rocafort draws Gotham. Even though backgrounds are left out in some panels, the art is still immersive in the sense that it gives me the feeling that I am in Gotham. I find that a lot of Gotham art these days doesn’t quite manage to give the city a distinct look and atmosphere. Even when artists include the blimps or render Gothic-inspired buildings, what is often missing is the sense that this is an actual lived-in city. Not only does Rocafort draw fantastic cityscapes, street corners, and architecture, but he also includes unique-looking citizens in the background that react to Batman, his actions, and the situation as a whole, in believable ways. For example, Batman lands in the middle of the street, seemingly out of nowhere, and people are shocked to see him and try to give him a wider berth, but at the same time tell him what they saw to help him out. It’s a subtle way to inform the reader how Batman can be either mysterious, intimidating or heroic, or a combination of those, in the eyes of the citizens. One thing that I’m missing, though, is that the city doesn’t look like a warzone at all. Joker’s war is mentioned and referenced, but definitely not shown.
However, after a successful setup, the comic starts to drag. The sense of mystery immediately disappears once Batman enters the sewers to track down Croc, and doesn’t get any more interesting further along, either. The basic premise is that Croc has gone down into the sewers so that he can stay away from Joker’s shenanigans. He isn’t alone as a group of mutated people has joined him and acknowledges him as their leader after he saved each of their lives. What’s particularly jarring is that Croc drops a massive exposition dump on Batman when he explains what happened to him and his followers. The flashback and exposition is long and boring, and the fact that we know next to nothing about each individual follower makes me wonder why I should even care about any of this. At best, these characters merely linger in the background and don’t add anything at all to the narrative other than appearing as victims that need to be saved by Croc and, later, Batman.
After the flashback and exposition a fight between Batman, Croc and Croc’s followers begins. In but a handful of panels Batman incapacitates the followers with a few batarangs, which doesn’t help to make those characters the least bit more interesting. The fight between Batman and Croc is also incredibly lackluster. I always admire Rocafort’s ability to create flowing sequential art, but the fight here is just a montage of snapshots rather than an actual fight scene, and it only lasts for a single page.
When all is said and done, there are absolutely no stakes in this book. The barely visible innocent people that Croc kidnapped are saved; Croc and his followers are captured; and at no point in the story does it feel like Batman is up against a real challenge, and the attempt at creating the illusion of danger completely falls flat. This comic wants its readers to think that the sewer water is toxic and can cause one to mutate and/or die if one stays in it too long, but, aside from Croc’s followers, we never see Batman suffering in any way while he’s in the water. If a hero can deal with his enemies and problems and save peoples’ lives without breaking a sweat, then what’s the point of showing any of these events?
- You are a fan of Killer Croc.
- Even if the story is lackluster, Rocafort’s art is still worth it.
- You are a fan of “Joker War.”
Overall: This comic starts off strong with excellent art and well-written lines, but once Batman enters the sewers to hunt down Croc, the comic turns into a boring superhero fight that gets resolved much too easily. There are no stakes, there is no challenge for Batman, and the ending is too abrupt. I recommend skipping this one and just waiting until Detective Comics starts delivering solid, full-circle stories again.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.