Last month we learned a little more about the attack that caused Jim to be taken into custody by Interpol. The story also took a close look at Julia Pennyworth and her own investigation into Bane and Santa Prisca. Oh, and Oracle and the Batgirls were attacked by a Talon. This month, we’re promised even more action in the form of a confrontation between Lady Bane, Jim, and Isabella Hallows.
So far I’ve enjoyed this series a lot more than I was expecting. The mystery is intriguing, the characters seem to be fairly focused on a set –if growing– group, and even some of the more bombastic action has been quite fun. That said, this issue falters in a number of areas that left me a little more frustrated than anything.
The very first one of those falters happens within the book’s opening pages as Lady Bane quite literally tears off Isabella’s arm and kidnaps Jim Gordon. Within the context of this story, this might be a situation that makes perfect sense. However, once we learn her reasoning for the kidnapping I can’t help but ask “but why”? One explanation is to highlight the fact that Lady Bane is a violent, violent woman. Except, that is a fact that both Jim Gordan and we as readers already are well aware of. Her explanation is simply that Isabella was “in her way” but again, I have to question the extreme violence of it all.
See, it’s her reasoning for kidnapping Jim that makes this set piece of a scene feel so out of place. Her whole goal was to win him over to her side, to take his passion and make it her own, and offer her services as his personal Joker killer. No, really. That’s her reason for busting in, quite literally ripping off a woman’s arm and fighting her way past Interpol and other law enforcement to take him away. As Jim says at one point: “That’s a lot”. In fact, for me, it’s a little too much action and violence. Especially when that person is trying to convince a person who is seen as a good guy to join their side.
The story is, of course, more nuanced than my summary and has more details but looking at it’s essential pieces is important to me because in that sense we have a character who wants to partner with another character who has gone about it in a terrible way. All Lady Bane has done here is make herself an enemy of Interpol, and seed further distrust in Jim. If I were him I wouldn’t want to team up with her, no matter who she was promising to kill for me or what my revenge agenda was. There have got to be better ways to get someone on your side than attacking their companion and kidnapping them.
Beyond the kidnapping, the majority of this issue is focused on Lady Bane’s backstory. The book is centered around that, explaining why Lady Bane was even born, and telling us just why she’s decided to break off and join Jim. It’s quite a bit of exposition. Some of it I think we did need like the elements of just what happened with the scientists. I also appreciate getting her backstory, even if I’m not totally clear on just why or how Santa Prisca was able to make her. This information is important to the story being told as she’s one of the major players and it’s about time we learned her history.
However, it’s a lot of exposition and I still feel a little lost regarding elements. I’m specifically bothered by why exactly she breaks away from the people who raised her. She was raised as a vengeance machine, addicted to venom from birth, given all the information she needs from these people–and then because the soldiers she’s with burn a lab she decides to investigate deeper? The jump there just doesn’t feel fleshed out enough. Especially for such a heel turn. We have her backstory, but not a ton of information about her personality or how she as a person thinks. All we’ve really gotten is information on her programming, what she was told to think. I really would have liked it better if we’d seen a tiny bit more insight into her here.
I can’t help but be a bit frustrated by this issue because there are a ton of interesting elements in this series and I want more than what it’s giving me. Tynion’s got some solid ideas, like putting Lady Bane and Jim together over a shared goal. Or having her break away from her handlers. But too often I feel like the story gives us wild, out of left field set pieces happening in order to get us from point A to C. Some of it fits, but other times it’s quite simply too extreme like the opening pages to this very issue. We didn’t need seven pages dedicated to kidnapping Jim Gordon. It’s all smoke and mirrors designed to hide the fact that maybe Tynion couldn’t quite figure out the right way to transition the story over to the next point. While I do appreciate the occasional bombastic moment, I would also appreciate a little more time spent focusing on how that might or might not play into the narrative going on.
Alright, enough about the story let’s look at the art. There’s quite a bit of violence in this issue from Jim’s abduction to Lady Bane’s description of just how she’d kill the Joker if she could and it is all illustrated really well by Guilliam March. He shows us just enough of the blood and violence without actually putting some of the more gory details on the page that would have me turning away. And still, you get the feeling of what just happened even without seeing it. It’s really great.
Arif Prianto’s colors are also really lovely here. The whole pallet is very consistent through the story showcasing a series of dark colors that highlight the night setting. It also makes moments of brighter colors, like reds and greens really stand out. Either in a beautiful way as in the scene where we see Lady Bane being grown in a tank, or in a way that really highlights the action, like the explosions littering the opening pages of the book.
The wrap up of the issue isn’t a huge cliffhanger or action piece, but it does hint at some real progression with the story next month–as long as the narrative doesn’t jump to a different character and their story that is. I don’t mind the focus shifting but I am interested in seeing where Jim and Lady Bane go from here and I’d like the story to take us to that point next.
I haven’t been impressed with the Punchline backup at all and this installment is no exception. It starts out sensibly, with a focus on getting Harper and Kelly out of the prison with Orca’s help. Harper’s plan isn’t bad, create some confusion and slip out. It should work. I would have liked the tale a lot better if it was allowed to play out that way. Instead the story ignores what could have been an intense sneaking out scene and gives us a prison riot instead.
Apparently Punchline’s been watching the whole time, and instead of taking the solid advice of her allies from last issue to not escape or say, take over the prison, she takes over the prison, starts a riot, and dukes it out with Harper and Kelly. It makes no sense. The story tells us in one moment that she needs to keep up appearances, and in the next gives her ultimate power over the prison.
And I think that’s my biggest problem with this back up. At every turn the story wants to make Punchline into this unbeatable figure who knows all and can get away with everything. In a narrative where Harper is trying to find a way to stop her, it makes it very hard to believe she’ll ever win or that the story even wants that to happen. Though, maybe Harper losing and Punchline coming out on top is what this story is going for. Punchline is the title after all. But I’m not really invested in reading the story of a villain who seems to have everything handed to her on a silver plate–especially when her plot armor is so strong she can get away with anything. She shouldn’t be perfect at everything, because that doesn’t make for a very interesting character. It would be a far better read to see some give and take between her and Harper that created real stakes and tension.
- Big action pieces are your kind of thing
- Violence. Lots of Violence in this one
- You’ve been curious to learn a little more about Lady Bane
This issue mostly focuses on Lady Bane, her backstory, motivations, and highlighting just how she’d kill Joker if given the chance. It is both something the story needed–as she’s a major player– and something that could have been done with a little less bombastic action. Yes, the character is one prone to action and impulse but when she’s trying to recruit an ally I think even Lady Bane probably should have done things a little differently. That said, even as frustrated as I was with this issue I’m still interested to see where things go from here. A team up between her and Jim has a lot of potential, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to know what came of it.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.