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BATMAN #45 & #46

[ BATTLING BARGAINS
What did the thief say to the clock when he pointed his gun at its face? He said, ‘Hands up’, and if you didn’t laugh at that joke, which you most probably shouldn’t, then I’m sure you’d enjoy reading the following adventure created by Tom King, Tony Daniel, and published by DC Comics in May, 2018.

TO QUOTE John Lennon: 'Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time'.

THE REVIEW:
Try to imagine a world similar to our own yet vastly different. Go on, do it, and tell me what you see! Do you see a grinning Hal Jordan committing suicide with the use of his own power ring? Or perhaps you’d see an army of manic Jokers terrorizing everyone living in Gotham City? Better yet, maybe you’d see a mundane Tim Drake, a grandstanding Jason Todd, or a hyper-violent Dick Grayson, each being themselves, yet not, despite everything around them slowly falling apart?

Go on, picture these strange scenarios, picture them now, and then try to add another element to the mix: Namely, Michael Jon Carter, otherwise known as the jovial superhero, Booster Gold, who alongside his robotic sidekick, Skeets, have f#cked up the entire planet by going back in time in order to get Bruce Wayne a wedding gift: A wedding gift that involved them saving the lives of his previously deceased parents.

Yes, I know this all sounds rather weird (too weird if truth be told), but honest to God, they genuinely thought it would be a good idea to save Martha and Thomas before a gunman’s bullet would end their lives. But no. It wasn’t a good idea. Not a good idea at all. And I say this because, unintentionally, this chivalrous act quickly warped reality and altered everything that happened from that moment onwards. Batman has become a maniac, Gotham is dying in a sea of lunacy, and to make matters even worse — yes, I said worse — when Booster Gold confronts Bruce Wayne about what he’s done, Bruce gets angry, very angry, and he smashes Skeets to smithereens so no more time travelling can ever occur. 

After a while, though, Booster decides to brush himself down and recruit Catwoman so they can jointly confront Bruce and get him to see the error of his ways. But unfortunately for Mister Gold, no, he didn’t realize how crazy Selina actually was, Dark Knight crazy, and if you want to know more, please pick up issues 45 and 46 of Batman today! In the meantime though, here, check this out…

Part One) GOT THE TIME:   I’m sure there are some of you out there who aren’t too keen on reading stories about time-travel. Which I can understand, up to a point, because sometimes they can be structurally obtuse and slightly sterile in terms of plot development and depicting characters personalities. They can also be fairly complex, in part, and on occasion fail to connect with an audience due to the way they meander, back and forth, back and forth, without trying to conform to any of the standards set-in-stone by current continuity. 

But as far as I’m concerned? Ha! I couldn't give a toss. After all, a time-travel story is only a time-travel story, and generally, they’re very malleable at best, bordering on the disposable. So what does it matter if the pieces don’t fit, nothing makes sense, and the basic through-line possesses a loose spirit not akin to previous issues? At the end of the day, it’s only a story, a story about time, that plays with concepts, characters, and ideas, just like a child would play with Lego, sand, and plasticine! 

From my point of view, this genre of adventure can only be taken seriously if it’s placed within the confines of an ongoing series, just like Booster Gold’s previous title, so none of these factors usually matter in a more ‘conventional’ sense, like this one, for instance. Not all the time, anyway, and I say this speaking from experience. Generally, I just try to go with the flow, so to speak, and do my best to enjoy whatever I’ve been presented with, rather than trying to figure out what’s going to happen next, or why x doesn’t equal y but z. Know what I mean?

Now I’m happy to say that a great example of a good, solid, time-travel story can be seen within these two episodes of Batman, otherwise known as ‘The Gift’, as it’s the type of story that doesn’t take itself too seriously, even though it does possess a fairly sardonic edge. I mean, just take a look at the way it begins (see the third picture provided), and you can plainly see that we shouldn’t take anything presented at face value!

Well, let’s face it! Seeing Hal Jordan shooting himself in the head just to impress Booster Gold isn’t a plausible or a believable scenario, especially not in a Bat-book! And even though this opening sequence was somewhat strange, fairly alarming, and tonally perverse, at the same time it still managed to exhume a jovial spirit that was consistently conveyed throughout the entire adventure. 

Part Two) LESS IS MORE:   Now some of the other jovial sequences I found ‘enjoyably alarming’ would include:
  1. That scene where Jason Todd was trying to sell electrified tires via a TV commercial -- which was basically a spoof on his own origins.
  2. The one-page interlude where Timothy Drake was typing on a computer while his teacher moaned about the world around him -- I thought that was a fairly satirical section, more or less, and set up the Joker scenario quite nicely.
  3. All of the comic book references mentioned -- ranging from Harvey Dent, Ted Kord, the Justice League, et cetera, as each and every one of them gave this story a little touch of historical validity.
  4. Everything that happened between Booster Gold and Catwoman -- meow, need I say more?
  5. My personal favorite -- The carefree and comical chemistry shared between Booster and his robot, Skeets.
Seriously, these two characters were genuinely funny and I was very impressed by how well Tom King was able to write them. So much so, in fact, that I would like to urge Tom to leave this series and start thinking about creating a more upbeat and humorous title, like Justice League International, because I think he’s wasting his comical talents on a book that’s usually dark, mysterious, and full of manic villains, intense plots, and, you know, that sort of thing. 

That said, however, I’m afraid to say that on occasion his brand of over the top lunacy was a little bit too much to take in. Even though to some extent I can understand that this type of adventure can be perceived as being disposable, loose, and somewhat exploratory in nature, especially when it comes down to scrutinising the motivations, themes, or ideals' associated with certain characters and events, in the same breath, too much is too much and I can’t condone play for plays sake. Heck, some of these scenarios were so weird and disjointed that I was honestly confused if I should like them or hate them. 

Case in point, at the end of issue 46, we were presented with a rather gruesome sequence where a number of characters either got shot or beaten to a pulp (Sorry. No spoilers here, folks). In fact, this sequence was so gruesome, so shocking, yet so exciting to follow, one part of me gleefully cheered at every panel on display while another part knew deep down inside that none of this would ever, truly, stick, not in story terms at least.

Well, at the end of the day a modicum of balance is always required when creating a time-travel story. Too much can be too much while too little can be too little, so the trick is to find the right amount of balance between both ends of the spectrum so you can make the end result feel more real and less disposable.

Part Three) TONY TIMES TWO:   He’s back. Tony Daniel is back, back on a bat-book no less, and this time I’m happy to say that he’s drawing it instead of writing it (no offense, mate). 

Well, it goes without saying that Tony is a well-respected artist and over the years he’s produced some great work for DC Comics. This includes his stints on such series as Teen Titans, Justice League, Deathstroke, The Flash, Superman / Wonder Woman, and of course, the previous iteration of this series as well as Detective Comics. He’s also worked for a number of other publishers too, most notably Marvel (X-Force), Image (The Tenth), and Dark Horse (Silke), and he’s probably best known for depicting dark and gritty characters who fight, scowl, and become imbued with the spirit of adventure.

From my point of view, Tony is the type of artist who always works at the top of his game when his characters have something to do in a storyline that has something to aim for. Otherwise, his work can seem fairly flat and unfocused, despite maintaining a certain amount of his usual charm. Again, take a look at some of the images provided, like that image of Booster Gold casually cleaning his goggles, for instance, and you can clearly see that he composes each frame so it’s intent, it’s focus, and it’s general tone, is as clear as the art he’s producing.

I also appreciated the way Tony paced each scene so they could flow in accordance to their emotional purpose. Now a good example of this can be seen during that exchange between Booster and Catwoman: Where visually your main focus is drawn towards her impassivity while he sets up most of the plot. Gradually this evenly balanced sequence builds and builds and builds until an emotional truth occurs, then, Bang, we are ready to see what happens next. To some degree, I can also say exactly the same thing about the final confrontation between these two and the Wayne’s. Although, in this instance, the flow of each frame was more erratic in nature so they could coincide with the erratic temperament of the scene itself. Either way, good job all across the board and I can’t wait to see what happens next month.

THE MUSIC:
I feel compelled to musically match-up these two episodes to The Beatles song, ‘Across the Universe’, due to their surrealist and expansive nature.




THE COMPARISON:
In 1985, the British creative team behind 'Watchmen', Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, developed a wonderful adventure for that particular year's installment of the 'Superman Annual', issue number 11. Since then this story has gone on to become a notable piece of work because, One: It was amazing; Two: It featured the Trinity accompanied by Robin, Mongul, and an evil plant; Three: It was made into an episode of the hit cartoon series, Justice League Unlimited; and Four: Booster Gold references it in issue 45, thus justifying this months comparison. Amen.

THE CONCLUSION:
At the end of issue 46, Bruce Wayne kneels down in a pool of blood and screams out one solitary word. So, out of the following eight words, let’s see if you can guess what he says? Could it be…

  • Yahtzee.
  • Yes.
  • No.
  • Maybe.
  • Breakfast.
  • Bingo.
  • Shazam.
  • F@ck.
 Nuff said.

BATMAN #45 & #46 BATMAN #45 & #46 Reviewed by David Lee Andrews on May 17, 2018 Rating: 5

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