I have to admit, in the back of my mind, I was expecting this series to crash and burn. It’s hard enough to write a good comic to begin with, but telling a Batman/Joker story gets more difficult with every passing year. This is just by virtue of their popularity. So many stories have been told about them that it has become difficult to avoid being repetitive. Many writers choose to do something unexpected and wildly different with the characters to avoid the repetition but often that only results in a bad reinterpretation that misses the point of the characters. Marc Silvestri isn’t exactly a writer by trade either, with only a handful of credits under his belt. All that is to say, the odds were stacked against this book but despite that, it has yet to let me down.
We pick up immediately after the great cliffhanger that ended issue #2 with Dick and Alfred trying to figure out what happened to the tooth. The plot is still very engaging. It remains to be seen whether all the threads will tie together successfully but the continued mystery is compelling and I particularly like the fact that the villain has maintained a mystique. Laying everything bare too early could kill the momentum of a story like this. For now, I’m just enjoying this journey with Batman. I don’t feel the need to pour over every detail of the plot beyond that. This is a book that should just be experienced. Suffice it to say, I don’t have any complaints about the direction of the story yet.
Batman & The Joker isn’t a character-defining masterpiece but that isn’t surprising. It is very well written though. What strikes me the most is that the comic has a well-defined identity and a balanced tone. It is certainly a dark story. Gritty and grim is the name of the game. However, Silvestri still takes the time to inject fun. Despite the horror of this world, it never feels like a misery fest. Stories that can’t balance that often feel disingenuous because it is impossible to believe that anyone would continue fighting for a world with no redeemable qualities. I’m really glad that isn’t the case here.
You know what else is really satisfying? A Batman who is smart and capable but is still challenged by his foe. Batgod sucks. So does the bumbling Batman who needs a million other characters’ help to get anything done. Too often in modern Batman, the character is either portrayed as too powerful or dislikable and useless. There are no stakes in any of that. This Batman occupies that perfect middle ground that used to be the norm. It’s nice.
Batman isn’t perfect in this story. We see this in his interactions with the Joker and even Alfred but it’s never taken so far that he steps out of character or becomes dislikable. That’s an element of the character that isn’t always handled well. We all know Batman isn’t a perfect person. That’s part of what makes him interesting but some people mistake imperfect for vindictive obsessive maniac. I realize I’m kind of harping on the characterization of Batman, but I think it’s worth the words. We need more Batman in this mold.
What else is there to say about the art? Every month it’s gorgeous.
It’s a shame Silvestri never was a part of a run on the character before this. I think it’s fair to say not enough DC readers are familiar with his work. It’s a sad fact that many people read DC and Marvel comics exclusively and given the fact that Silvestri has been primarily at Image since he co-founded it back in ’92, his name is being increasingly undervalued in discussions about the greatest comic artists of all time. I can only hope this story will give him some of that recognition he justly deserves. His work here proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is in the very upper echelons.
- You’re not going to find a better-looking Bat-book this year
- A well-written Batman deserves support
- You aren’t tired of the Joker
This is a great comic. I don’t believe Silvestri has any intention of writing something that will make some sort of huge splash. He just wants to tell a good story. I’m totally happy with that and I respect it as well. I think we’re all tired of stories that talk themselves up and then fail to deliver. That’s not what this is. We were only promised a well-written, well-drawn, entertaining story. Silvestri already delivered on that and is now busy exceeding my expectations. This is the kind of story that makes new readers. I strongly recommend it.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.