The main feature of last month’s Joker was a flashback, providing a little more insight into the history between Joker and Jim and really highlighted Jim’s own growing obsession with him. This month, the story returns to the present and we finally get to see where Jim is now.
I am not shy about my general dislike of Joker as a character –at least how he’s been written in comics for a few years now– so it took me a while to actually sit down and read this title. In fact it took me covering for Corbin to get me to sit down and actually catch myself up completely on it. That said, I can happily say this series has surprised me, and I’ll probably keep picking it up until it’s conclusion just to see how everything plays out. But those are general thoughts and you’re here for a review covering issue #6 specifically, so let’s take a look at what Jim Gordon gets up to this issue.
The story opens with a flashback to fifty years prior in Texas at the Sampson’s home and treats readers to a flashback showing who they were prior to the story starting. It’s a quick couple pages featuring how they made their money, and the incident that ultimately landed Billy in Arkham. March gives us a series of legitimately creepy and unsettling pages as the Sampson brothers chase one of their victims, while Tynion’s script tells readers everything they need to know about the family’s early activities and how they discovered the oil that would make them rich. I like having this background, and I think it works well as a good opener to the story.
After that Tynion gives us a brief look at how Buddy Sampson is doing, before diving back into Jim’s story. It’s a few weeks after his encounter with Joker, Lady Bane, and the Sampson family. He’s in Paris, running up against another dead end. Out of leads, and increasingly frustrated by his situation, Jim’s just trying to sort out all the pieces of this puzzle. The bulk of the rest of the issue is devoted to illustrating what Jim’s been up to and the steps he’s taking to expand his investigation beyond just Joker, but onto the Sampsons, Bane, and anything else that could potentially reveal the truth.
Tynion focuses on two main ideas in this issue: one the growing investigation, and further exploring Jim’s mind. The aspect I enjoyed the most was the investigation. I am most attracted to the mystery The Joker is building. There are so many moving pieces, and honestly I’m delighted to be reading a mystery tale that has some layers to it. I’m also really glad to see Jim not just barreling forward after Joker, but also starting to look at the other players on the table too. Sure Joker is the big fish, but I’m also pretty excited to see that the Sampsons are finally on Jim’s radar, since this whole book opens up with a tale about them. I’m less invested in Bane or the Court, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to see how everything shakes out in the end, and I have a feeling that when we see everything finally come together it’ll be through Jim’s eyes.
I’m less excited about Jim’s internal dialogue. While in Paris he’s decided to actually book a fancy hotel and treat himself to good food and nice lodgings, however his every thought about the place revolves around how uncomfortable he is there. And while I do think he would feel a bit like a fish out of water in a fancy hotel, I also don’t really understand why he’s staying there if it isn’t helping him. He was told to spend money that made him comfortable and it’s very obvious he’s not comfortable there. It just feels like suffering for the sake of suffering, and beyond “Barbara convinced me” he doesn’t have much of a reason for sticking around in a place he doesn’t feel welcome in. Maybe it’s an attempt to tie it into Jim’s opening story about wanting to visit Paris on his honeymoon, but it’s not really ever made clear so the connection is a bit lost and makes for a bit of frustrating reading.
My only other gripe with this issue is that it does feel a bit slow. There hasn’t been a ton of action, but it does feel like things have slowed down considerably. Following an issue that was a full flashback I was kind of hoping for a little more. I don’t want a ton of bombastic action, but issue #4 did really make things pick up a bit, and I’m disappointed to see the series pulling way back on that tension and movement we got previously. I am excited to see things moving back on track, and Jim diving into a new mystery, but I also want a little more oomph from the story, especially this far in.
I mentioned Guillem March earlier, and his excellent work on the story’s opening but I wanted to jump back to him again. He does a solid job this issue showcasing where each party is, what they’re doing, and how they’ve moved forward from the fight with Joker and I really enjoyed that. I’ve had a few problems with Tynion relying a little too heavily on telling instead of showing through this series, and here we get to really see the art shine and tell the story, like the shot we see of Lady Bane recovering, no one has to type out words about that. March’s pencils do all the work for the story and that’s all I need.
There was also one absolutely delightful series of panels early on I wanted to point out for no reason beyond it making me smile. Jim’s portion opens with a mime putting on a show, and over the course of three panels the mime is doing a “trapped in a box” routine, only instead of a box he finds the edge of the panel and slides it over. It’s clever, fun, and a great use of mimes in art.
While this issue does feel a little bit like a catch up issue, with not a ton of action, I think it does a great job getting readers and Jim back on track after the brief break last month. With the way it ends, I’m definitely interested to see where things go from here.
This month’s Punchline backup is mostly okay and kind of frustrating. Harper has disguised herself and infiltrated Blackgate as a prisoner, all in an attempt to get one of Punchline’s old friends out. Which would be fine, if she didn’t immediately throw all of that out of the water to go sit with Punchline and chat at lunch. One thing leads to another and they’re staring each other down and fighting. Only, she didn’t have to sit with her, Harper’s whole internal dialogue is about trying to stay low, worrying that Punchline will recognize her, and what that means for her plan. The story gives us no real reason for her to blow everything by joining her at the table, she could have brushed off the invitation and gone somewhere else. It’s just frustrating. And I think it highlights a limitation of these back ups, everything happens in a very condensed time frame, so if you have a “goal” for a back up, narratively things have to happen fast, which can often lead to a reader being frustrated by decisions being made that could have been avoided.
As for the art, I’m not sure I like the color scheme. While consistent, it’s very pink and blue and purple and feels almost orchestrated to yell “this is a story about girls, for girls”. That is not a vibe I see fitting the story of a vigilante going undercover in prison to bust a murderer. That said, Sweeny Boo’s pencils are good, particularly with everyone’s expressions. Harper’s panic and worry is evident, as is Punchline’s false openness and then devious change of mood.
Generally I’m not a fan of this backup, the story feels like it’s moving at a snails pace and there’s just a lot of questionable decisions being made because of the page count constraint. I feel like this particular tale would do a lot better if given some time to breathe. For now it’s not really something I want to come back to.
- You’re ready for the story to get back into the good stuff aka the mystery
- Learning more about the Sampson’s past has been on your list of needs
- Jim Gordon feeling very awkward in a fancy hotel is relatable
I’m happy to see the story getting back on track after last month’s pause to reflect on the past. Tynion does a good job catching readers up on where the majority of the key players in this story are at, and in starting him down the path of investigating the greater mystery at play. The art is steady and strong, and had a few moments that made me grin, like with the mime. I’m excited to see where the rest of this book goes.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.