BATMAN #41 / Writer: Tom King / Artist: Mikel Janin / Colorist: June Chung / Letterer: Clayton Cowles / Cover: Mikel Janin / DC Comics / February 21st, 2018
Working for this site is like having the keys to all the best series. I am a big fan of Tom King, ever since The Omega Men put him on my radar. King’s work on Batman is full of highs and lows, but it is always a positive when DC pairs him up with his Grayson artist, Mikel Janin. Batman #41 sees the pair (along with colorist June Chung and letterer Clayton Cowles) tackle a new story-line centered around Poison Ivy taking over… well everyone. This opening salvo is a very brief read but an immensely enjoyable one as Bruce is caught off guard and struggles to save himself and Selina first and foremost. The reader is along for the ride with Bruce, experiencing both the initial distortion and then slow realization of what Ivy has managed to pull off.
Tom King’s love of narration is on full display here, presenting the seductive dialogue of the dream Ivy uses to enthrall the world. Deciphering the narrator of King’s work is not always as easy as it is this issue, but that is not a bad thing. King’s characterization is often the highlight of each issue and his Ivy is no exception. She is seductive, witty, and displays a sort of unbridled egotism as she manages to get the upper hand on not just Batman, but humanity. This take on Ivy cuts an impressive figure and overshadows both Bat and Cat.
Mikel Janin is one of my favorite sequential artists in the game right now. While most artists would use establishing shots to reveal location, Janin focuses on characters first. This allows us a unique intimacy with characters, watching them navigate and create their own reality around them. And his character work is superb, especially the way he can makes such minor tweaks in facial expressions and body posture say so much. For Janin, an attack is as intimate as a dance.
Janin is also a master of the splash page, whether they unfold vertically or horizontally. In this issue he delivers two particularly powerful vertical splash page of Ivy’s figure alone; the first opens the issue and the second closes out the dream sequence. Later in the issue, he draws a horizontal splash of Ivy on her throne, but more emphasis is placed on the detail around her. A sequence of panels leading up to this splash show Ivy surrounded by sparsity that is slowly warped into detail by Ivy’s power; like I said earlier, we watch Janin’s figures shape their realities. My favorite of the splash pages is a horizontal one that shows Ivy’s effect on humans across the globe. This story is about inter-connectivity and Janin uses a lot of plant imagery to infuse this theme into the art itself.
Clayton Cowles does a lot in this issue without moving outside the norms of comic book lettering. His Ivy dialogue uses the two colors most associated with Ivy and makes simple but eye catching caption boxes. He has a neat little trick when Ivy talks out of other characters, which is simply changing the color of the font. And he uses a lot of classical style sound effects, which is a perfect fit for Batman given his early television history.
As much as I love the other members of the creative team, it is June Chung who blows me away this issue. Her colors elevate this series to another level. The issue primarily follows two separate characters, Bruce and Ivy. The Ivy scenes are serene, filled with so many shades of green and soft warm colors. The lighting in these scenes is natural and practically dances on Ivy’s skin. In the Bruce scenes, there is a lot more shadows with a much darker color palette. The lighting is technological and illuminates Bruce’s figure with harsh glares. Several times, an Ivy page is contrasted against a Bruce one. This allows the blue of Bruce’s eyes to stand out, even in the dark, because it pops so drastically against Ivy’s greens. Batman #41 is a celebration of June Chung’s coloring mastery as much as it is a celebration of Poison Ivy.
Batman #41 is a creative team firing on all cylinders. Batman has primarily been about two things: his relationship with Selina Kyle and seeing Bruce interact with all the various aspects of the DC Universe. Poison Ivy makes a compelling villain in this issue and I hope to see other members of the Green show up before the arc’s end, especially given Bruce’s strained relationship with arguably the most notable member of the Green. My biggest fear right now is that this is just a shared dream between Selina and Bruce, because there is a few things that could hint towards that.
Verdict: 4.5 out of 5 Bruce Wayne One-Punches