This week the Joker gets his head straight, his ex and her ladyfriend take a holiday to Riverdale, reality TV brings nostalgia to the mutant masses and Kate Bishop has some surprisingly non-sapphic catharsis coming her way.
Batman: White Knight #1
This looks like its going to be an interesting take. I mean, I'm a little iffy about the (apparent) intention to have Joker and Harley as a happy domestic couple down the line (and on the cover) but given some of the plot points introduced here there's a tiny chance it could work. More likely it won't and that'll be problematic but since Harley hasn't appeared yet aside from a flashback cameo, I'll give Sean Murphy time to get there.
So, we have the big idea pitch: Batman is steadily going off the rails with his brutality and the hero/villain dynamic between him and the Joker gets flipped. Its interesting that what Murphy has Batman do in this issue to show how crazy brutal Batman has become is actually not anywhere near as extreme as what some recent movie versions have him do as an ostensible good guy. I'm one of those people who bangs on about how Batman of the comics is a very different, very much more human character than the mainstream version (and, no, the comics are no longer the version mainstream, blame the direct market) and this just throws that into sharp relief. In fact, the story doesn't even portray Bruce in an entirely negative light for the things he does giving his breakdown some sympathetic motivation.
So we have the beginnings of a heroic version of the Joker which even riffs on The LEGO Batman Movie of all things as its starting point. Murphy draws the hell out of every panel, not least of which the big confrontation between Batman and the Joker. What little we see of “Mister Napier” in the first few pages of the issue before we flash back to his origins suggests more of a gentleman consultant to the GCPD which, if true, would be a nice rebuke to Bruce's approach in putting forward the idea that he might have been able to do more as Bruce Wayne (again, more of a criticism of the way the character is in film than how he's been portrayed in comics for decades now).
Anyway, a really promising start but I do worry that the Joker being “cured” is just going to be used as an excuse not to address his past treatment of Harley before they settle into unquestioned domestic bliss.
Harley and Ivy meet Betty and Veronica #1
You know what really cheesed my onions last week? The Suicide Squad issue of Gotham Resistance. They had Stjepan Sejic, a man known for his acclaimed wlw romance series Sunstone, drawing an issue with Harley and Ivy in it somehow written by the only writer on the payroll who still thinks those two girls are straight. That is a wasted opportunity right there.
So now we have a crossover where Harley and Ivy meet another two female characters whose straightness has famously been up for debate. If nothing else, it can't be worse than the time the Punisher turned up in Riverdale.
So the set-up is simple: Mister Lodge has purchased an area of local wetland to develop into “Lodge University” (at least the guys at Archie are getting some useful mileage out of the Trump administration) and Ivy is not happy so she and Harley come out of hiding to try and “persuade” Hiram Lodge not to go through with it. Meanwhile, the Riverdale kids are preparing for a Heroes & Villains costume party Lodge is hosting and that they've been conscripted to help out at.
Betty and Veronica are in full on enemies mode at this stage, by the way, whilst Harley and Ivy are in one of those domestic “we're hiding from the law, that's why there's only one bed” arrangements they fall into from time to time. Its actually nice to see both sides of the crossover being as slice of life as each other, albeit with one side more comfortable with murder. Oh, and Kevin Keller and Sabrina Spellman are besties which is either new or something I didn't know before but I hope they continue to appear in the series.
X-Men Gold #13
I bloody love Mojo as a villain. I love the idea of an interdimensional dictator who is also a reality TV producer who provokes fights with the X-Men for ratings. I love how bizarre it is. I love how it allows the X-books to go in a different political direction from the usual race and sexuality based commentary (which are both good angles but variety is the spice of life and all that). It's always nice to see the awful, capitalistic little scrote and now he's the focus of this era of X-books' first crossover.
This is the X-books' Legacy storyline and, as such, there are references to a bunch of old storylines, “the greatest hits” as Mojo describes them. Funnily enough, on the same page, Logan describes it as trying to kill the X-Men with nostalgia, which... oh dear.
Now, on the one hand there's nothing here that actually annoys me other than the fact we get the briefest Xaviers' baseball game ever. Seriously, guys, those are remembered as the series iconic character piece scenes because they tend to actually feature character work. Here we have the Gold team not even reacting to the fact the Blues turn up with a vampire version of Storm. Aside from that its all good: villain I like, nice set up, even a good bit of progress for Rachel's character arc.
And at no point did it need big visual callbacks to Inferno, Days of Futures Past and The Asgardian Wars. That's just fan service for the sake of fan service or so it seems right now. Hopefully as we get further into this story the choices for callbacks will have some relevance to the characters but for the moment its just a bunch of alternate costumes for longtime fans to get a brief feeling of satisfaction for recognising and nothing else.
Kelly Thompson's version of Kate and Madame Masque is a lot less... sapphic than Fraction and Aja's was. I mean, its still there if you want to look at it and there's even a rare occasion here of a “we're not so dissimilar, you and I” conversation that isn't complete bollocks in this issue that sort of feeds into that but its a lot more of a straight forward hero/villain relationship now.
This issue actually felt like a rather low key conclusion to the storyline that been running, in the background at least, since the first issue if it actually is the end. The business with Kate's father rather suggests we're moving into a new phase of the story as Kate's family issue and family history come to the fore. That said, as quick as Madame Masque#s part in the plot is dispatched it does leave room for some good character progression with Kate and her friends. There's a lot of catharsis for Kate, not just in things she says to her friends and her father but in a couple of good, dynamic fistfights she gets into and there are few characters in comics who need catharsis more than Kate right now.
Plus, next issue there's an All-New Wolverine appearance before we move on to the triumphant return of Hawkguy! So there's that to look forward to.