Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Batman #142 Review


Written by: Chip Zdarsky
Art by: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Andrea Sorrentino, Stefano Nesi
Colors by: Alejandro Sánchez, Dave Stewart
Letters by: Clayton Cowles
Cover art by: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Stefano Nesi, Tomeu Morey
Cover price: $4.99
Release date: February 6, 2024

Batman #142 begins the Joker: Year One arc wherein the Joker recalls how he came to terms with his life after escaping a fateful swim in a vat of acid. Meanwhile, Batman tracks the Joker for their final showdown decades later.
Is Batman #142 Good?

Chip Zdarsky delves deep into the mind of the Joker in Batman #142 to give readers a peek into how it started before it all ends. To read this issue, you don't need to know anything about Frank Miller's Batman: Year One or Geoff Johns's Three Jokers, but it helps.

Chip Zdarsky's script splits between two timelines. First, we see Joker grappling with his new look and status as "deceased" after his transformation. Remnants of the Red Hood Gang have either retired, split into new gangs, or hop from one random robbery to the next, so the Joker tries to get his old crew back together while his broken mind tries to make sense of his new status quo. Second, we follow an older Batman as he tracks an older Joker who escaped from Arkham and unleashed a Joker virus on the city.

In terms of tone, style, and atmosphere, Zdarsky is doing his best Frank Miller impression in stark contrast to any previous arc in Zdarsky's tenure. Most of the story is told through narration boxes split between Batman and Joker as they see the world each confronts in their respective timelines. The tempo of the issue isn't slow, but it's measured and methodical.

Watch Our Batman #142 Video Review

"Whoa! Wait a minute! What happened to Failsafe/Zur-En-Arrh and the cliffhanger to issue #141?" you would rightly ask. Consistency? Continuity? Flow? Bah! These are foreign concepts to DC editorial. The Joker: Year One arc starts out of nowhere and pretends that whatever is happening with Failsafe is occurring in a different era than either of the timelines in this issue. DC is writing for the trades, Baby!

In short, DC simply decided to stop in the middle of a cliffhanger and tell a completely different story. If you're feeling charitable, please mail all your excess Ritalin to DC Headquarters, Burbank, CA, c/o DC Batman Editors.

What's great about Batman #142? Zdarsky significantly shifts the tone and timbre of his title (say that 5 times fast) for a grim, intentionally chaotic take on the Joker's first year as the Clown Prince of Crime in a reasonable impersonation of Frank Miller's style.

What's not so great about Batman #142? There's a fine line between seeing the world through the eyes of a confused character and a comic that's confusing to read. Sometimes Zdarsky trips over that line. There are references to the Red Hood Gang, Three Jokers, and other Batman storylines that don't connect in a way that makes sense in all panels, so the beginning is tough to get into.

Plus, Frank Miller may be the master of moody noir, but he still knew enough to carry a scene through to completion with a point. Here, Zdarsky gets the moodiness but frequently falls short on the point or the completion, so you feel like you're reading a comic with snippets of scenes that assume you know the background of the references.

For example, the Joker pays a late-night visit to a woman to let her know he's going to make things right. If you have no background on the Joker, you'll have no idea what the scene means, why it's important, or what relevance it has to the issue. There are several such occurrences in this issue.

Lastly, there's no strong hook in this issue to tell you why it matters. The novelty of following the Joker just after his acid bath is just that - a novelty - but Zdarsky doesn't present a wow moment or big surprise to tell you why this story is worth reading other than for mild curiosity.

How's the art? As you can see from the credits, there are several artists on tap to bring Batman #142 to life. Consistent with the overarching theme of doing impressions, the artists for Joker's first year deliver a clean, hyper-detailed, precise set of visuals that feels a lot like Frank Quitely's work. In the future timeline where Batman hunts Joker for the "last time," the second art team presents a narrative reminiscent of a mix between Liam Sharp and Bill Sienkiewicz. Visually, it's an intriguing comic.

About The Reviewer: Gabriel Hernandez is the Publisher & EIC of ComicalOpinions.com, a comics review site dedicated to indie, small, and mid-sized publishers.

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Bits and Pieces:

Batman #141 puts Failsafe and Zur-En-Arrh on the backburner (again) to begin a completely unrelated story detailing the Joker's first year after his transformation juxtaposed with a tale in the future where old man Batman hunts the Joker after unleashing a deadly plague on Gotham. Zdarsky tries to do his best Frank Miller impersonation and mostly succeeds but falls short in the clarity department. Likewise, the art team does their best impressions of Frank Quitely, Liam Sharp, and Bill Sienkiewicz to present a visually appealing comic.


1 comment:

  1. Failsafe is Cody Rhodes, he keeps getting shunted to the side in the middle of his story!