Graphic Novel Reviews: Detective Comics 014-018

The Story
Batman confronts Poison Ivy, and discovers that she enthralled Clayface into doing her bidding. After dealing with this threat Batman is able to deal with the fallout of Joker’s presence on the mentally ill of Gotham and the criminal. He confronts the League of Smiles and their leader the Merrymaker. Meanwhile, in the background, Ogilvy is using the chaos to make his move and take over the Penguin’s empire, establishing himself as the Emperor Penguin.

The Review
While I think Emperor Penguin is a surprising level of camp for the much more serious tone that Batman books have taken in the past several decades, I have to confess that I am really invested in his story. The way it is woven through the entire book, taking advantage of the events of Death of the Family works really well.

I really like the Merrymaker and the League of Smiles. I think looking at the effect that Joker has on the mentally ill and the opportunistic of Gotham is fascinating. I like the idea that Joker is so much more than a man, he’s the expression of the sickness festering in the minds of all of Gotham. I think that the mystery of Merrymaker, while predictable, was handled really well. I like that storyline in general.

What I don’t like is the fact that Batman is in this book.

Now don’t get me wrong, I obviously love Batman, and would not suggest he be absent from one of his flagship series unless I had a really good reason. And that reason is that his presence just doesn’t work chronologically. In Batman it’s pretty clear he doesn’t have much breathing space, Batman is going after the Joker, and I’m pretty sure the detour he takes to deal with the events in this book just don’t fit into the timeline.

I would have much rather seen these past few issues replace Batman with Gordon or Harvey as the protagonists. They’ve both been mainstays of the franchise, and I think they’re strong enough to hold a book over the course of at least a few issues. While Batman is off dealing with the Joker, they could be left behind to deal with the street level fallout of the Joker’s chaos. After all, that is their job, so why shouldn’t we see them do it? The story could have progressed as normal even without the presence of Batman. And the story is so good, that having that one fairly major flaw in the story only distracts me from what should otherwise be a great story.

The Dark Knight manages to escape this problem by not setting itself during the events of Death of the Family. We already have a series focusing on Batman during this story, having a second one for him just doesn’t work. And yet, I really liked these past few issues, so I am willing to overlook the impractical tie in with Death of the Family. Personally I would have been willing to take the chance on focusing on a secondary character, but that’s probably why I’m not involved in this field professionally.

The Grade

4/5

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