REVIEW: Batman #42- “Everyone Hates Bruce”

BATMAN #42 / Writer: Tom King / Artist: Mikel Janin / Colorist: June Chung / Letterer: Clayton Cowles / Cover: Mikel Janin / DC Comics / March 7th, 2018 

Right now I am reviewing so many non-Big Two titles, that I limit myself to a single superhero story-line and honestly, I cannot imagine a better title than Tom King’s Batman. Last issue I heaped praise at June Chung’s colors and while they still get a decent chunk of attention here, I am going into Tom King fanboy mode here.

King’s Batman has been polarizing amongst the comic book community. We have seen a suicidal Bruce Wayne that has recently given way to a more romantic Bruce Wayne, as his wedding with Selina Kyle looms ever closer. Suicidal and romantic are not terms I would associate with the man so obsessed with justice he pushes everyone away and plans to make himself immortal at times. Despite this, Tom King is killing it with this exploration of Bruce Wayne, creating a character that does not feel like any Bruce that came before but also never feels out of character for me. In Batman #42, Bruce constantly comes off as being one step ahead of both Ivy and the reader. He allows Selina to be a vocal sounding board for a variety of problems, soaking it all in and playing sparse with his own words. Every word Bruce uses feels intentional; last issue I theorized that this could all be a dream and while it is never explicitly stated in the issue, I feel Bruce tests this theory to a rather extreme result.

In nearly every arc of Batman, King plays with ideas so normalized when it comes to Batman that we do not necessarily even think about them. In a previous issue, King used Clark Kent to explore the idea that Bruce idolizes his father without ever truly knowing him; the origin of Batman is so well known and yet so little material delves into the idea of parental idolization in the same way King does. In Batman #42, King uses Selina to make fun of the idea of Bruce using the Bat to inspire fear in his enemies. The central concept of Bruce’s superhero moniker, reduced to a joke by the woman he loves; it just works so well.

The current story-line around Ivy controlling the majority of the world is playing out beautifully as well. It moves at a brisk pace, fore-going action scenes in favor of punchlines that allow the issue to avoid getting weighed down. There is a payoff to the Super-Friends arc that is hilarious and it also works to explain away how strange it is seeing Selina Kyle take down not one but two Flashes with ease. Ivy herself is not as physically present in the story as last issue, but we do get to learn about the sacrifice she is making to control humanity and save the planet. A scene between Ivy and Selina makes a couple nods to the fantastic Gotham City Sirens and hints there may be even more going on to Ivy’s plan, while Bruce works to dismantle it. Cat and Bat make such a good team.

Speaking of teams, Mikel Janin leads the stellar artistic team on this book. This arc is not about bombastic action, but character work and camera framing. Janin does an amazing job with scale in this issue. He constantly uses Superman for perspective in his establishing shots, having him follow Bruce from the skies. Janin knows how to create these cinematic shots but also knows when and where to focus the camera in on more intimate details, such as an ear or a set of lips. His character work here is strong, conveying Selina’s flippancy and Bruce’s absentmindedness through body posture alone. While most of his characters have a strong presence on the panel, his Ivy is given softer features that allow her to blend with her environment.

Last issue, June Chung redefined what the color green could look like and in this issue, she does a lot of work with the color blue. Her skies are a spectrum of blue shades, constantly changing from influences like clouds and sunlight. I keep coming back to the idea of what this means thematically and I really think it is meant to emphasize how much cleaner the world feels with Ivy in charge. There is no heavy lights or smog, just pristine skylines. Interestingly, a lot of her blues do fade towards an aqua-green color during longer scenes, which I believe emphasizes Ivy’s role in this purifying of the Earth.

Chung also uses visual symmetry in a few scenes. The scene with Cat and Ivy sees Ivy growing orange plants, similar in shade to the eye pieces in Cat’s mask. When fighting the Flashes, their is an emphasis on the color yellow, which is the color used to portray the Speed-Force. Usually colorists work with contrast, similar to how Clayton Cowles’ bold letters contrast against serene blues, but Chung does some really incredible work with visual symmetry.

Batman #42 addresses not only my concerns about where the story-line is heading but also draws me deeper in. Batman has some of the best jokes in comic books right now and it continues to explore Bruce Wayne and the world around him in creative ways. With just an issue left in this story-line, I have faith that King will bring us to a satisfactory conclusion but the journey alone is worth admission.

Verdict: 5 Out Of 5 Flower Girls 

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Shaun Martineau is a young Canadian father and undergraduate with a BA in Cultural Theory and Creative Writing. He has reviewed Marvel titles for nine years but broke away in 2017 to focus more on smaller publishers like Aftershock, Black Mask, and Action Lab.

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