Last month Task Force Z’s mission more or less failed and Jason was about to get eaten by Arkham Knight—it was one hell of a first issue. The series is off to a strong start, but can the creative team keep this up? Let’s have a look.
This book’s strength is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. There aren’t many actual jokes in here, but there’s definitely a strong sense of humor. Sometimes it doesn’t quite work for me, because the comedy relies a lot on repetition and it can feel a little bit cheap in these moments. But, on the whole, there being plenty of comic relief seems like the right way to go. It’s easy to make a book about zombies as dark and gritty as possible, but with so many Batman related comics being way too dark for my tastes these days, it’s nice to be able to read something that certainly has stakes and poignancy, but which is also just a great deal of fun.
The book is also very over-the-top. The action is bombastic, the dialogue is intentionally campy, and people die in horrific ways. A book like this needs something to ground it so that it doesn’t lose itself in the insanity of it all. In this case, it’s Jason himself who grounds the story. While everything around him is just pure craziness, he’s the only reasonable character. He’s frustrated with the whole situation, sometimes worried, and this makes him a relatable point-of-view protagonist. It’s solid character work.
But I do question some of the narrative choices in this book. First of all, Man-Bat and Bane were both beheaded in the first issue. This month, when we see them again, they’re almost completely regenerated, which seems incredibly fast because this scene is supposed to take place right after the mission from #1. If it’s this easy to revive the zombie squad, then that does diminish the sense of danger in the long run. I think this book would be much cooler and exciting if some of the team members were unable to come back.
Second, when the zombies get their meds in order to regenerate, they also regain their personalities and look much more like themselves rather than undead killers. Now they can talk and think normally. This creates the opportunity for some character moments, which this book does need at a certain point to ensure that it doesn’t just remain a mindless zombie book. I think Rosenberg made the right choice to have these meds last only a short while, before they start to fade and the characters all start behaving like zombies again. However, I think it would’ve worked better if the duration of the medicine’s effect was even shorter, because now some of the team members are still acting normally on the battlefield. To me, the appeal of this book is the idea that Jason needs to keep an out-of-control zombie squad under control, so I much prefer seeing them all rip and tear and eat people without even being able to talk. The moment that they act normally outside of specific character moments, the magic of this zombie squad concept starts to dissipate.
Third, Sundowner is introduced in this issue. Someone joins Jason on the new mission and it turns out that when this character is completely in darkness, they’ll transform into a terrifying monster that can murder all opposition in the room in sheer seconds. This is pretty epic. My question is, why doesn’t Jason know about this character’s power? I see no reason why he wouldn’t be told beforehand. This becomes even more questionable when you realize that each of the squad members does have this knowledge. As it stands, it seems like the only reason why Jason doesn’t know is so that there can be an epic reveal for Sundowner for the readers, but that makes the whole thing too fabricated, especially when there’s no good in-story reason—as far as I can see—why Jason doesn’t know about this character’s abilities.
That said, the pacing is great. This is an easy and highly entertaining read which ends on another fun cliffhanger that puts Jason in immediate danger, like last time. I’m looking forward to next month’s continuation!
Barrows, Ferreira and Lucas once more put out strong art. The transitions from scene to scene, the jagged page layouts, the chaotic action sequences and the fantastic group shots of the whole team make for a very dynamic book. We see Bane throwing opponents across the room. We see Arkham Knight cutting down foes with her sword. Jason slams his electrified crowbars into a pool of blood to take down a whole bunch of enemies. Sundowner absolutely destroys all hostiles. The action is easy to follow from panel to panel, even when there’s a lot going on, with lots of background details. The character designs are a lot of fun too: the characters differ in size and some aren’t even human, which makes them look like an interesting ragtag bunch. Lucas’ colors are as strong as ever, giving the book visual depth and a lot of energy. This art team has established a nice little corner in the Batman universe, a unique aesthetic that sets this book apart from the others. It’s well worth a gander for the art, which plays off of the writing very well.
- You like #1 and want to see what happens next.
- You want to know what’s up with Sundowner.
- You are in the mood for a kind of grindhouse/zombie horror comic starring the coolest Gotham rogues.
Overall: It’s another solid issue. It has good art, an interesting story with twists and turns, and a very cool cast of characters. But what really makes me recommend this book is the fact that it’s just so damn fun. We need more fun in comics, especially in a time when many superhero books are really depressing. We can only hope that this series will continue to be consistent, but right now it’s entertaining as hell!
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.