REVIEW: Batman #43 “Ivy Loves Harley”

BATMAN #43 / Writer: Tom King / Artists: Mikel Janín (P #1-12, 15-17, 19) & Hugo Petrus (13, 14, 18, 20) / Colorist: June Chung / Letterer: Clayton Cowles / Cover: Mikel Janin / Publisher: DC Comics / March 21st, 2018

Batman #43 reaffirms what I feel is one of the known but unspoken laws of comics in 2018: Tom King is a brilliant bastard.

From Omega Men to The Vision to Mister Miracle, King delivers some of the best stories around. They have sympathetic characters, engaging critical concepts, and surprises that will keep a smile on your face. There is a simplistic brilliance to so much of what he does. He allows the average reader to engage with an entertaining story on the surface level, but he then leaves so much more depth to be mined below if you so choose. King wisely chooses to root the conclusion to Ivy’s conflict in her history, both the one King recently wrote for her (The War of Jokes and Riddles) and what came before the new 52 (Gotham City Sirens, featuring her relationship with Harley). This story is about Ivy dealing with PTSD in the fallout of the war between the Joker and the Riddler, and it’s not at all what I thought this arc would be about.

In Batman #43 King uses Bruce, Selina, and Ivy herself to ask questions about what wars are worth fighting for and how we should fight them. King also ties this to his long-running storyline around Selina taking the blame for the death of multiple lives to protect someone she loves. Love is the solution here, and it is the best way I think this story could have wrapped.

As I mentioned about the last issue, King loves to joke about things we take for granted when it comes to Batman. In this issue the jokes are about how fast he can change into his suit. It’s a great comedic beat in a very solemn issue that allows a breathing moment before the final emotional scene. Unfortunately, the final scene with Ivy has a revelation that I find strips a lot of the complexity out of the storyline. It also makes this storyline play out too much like the Catwoman murder storyline. It’s a rare bad call amongst sixty pages of great ones.

I wish I had as much praise for Mikel Janín issue this time around, but he is the weak link in Batman #43. His figures seem off, his characters don’t interact with environments properly, and his facial features seem unfinished. I am hundred percent convinced the problems lie with the inking. Catwoman is probably his best rendered character; this makes a lot of sense since she is given a lot of heavy black lines because of her outfit. Once Bruce suits up, his figure also leaves a better impression on the page. But even on off issues, Janín is still a power house. His backgrounds, especially those based in nature, are spectacular to behold. He also has a great sequence where an insect flies through the page, spending a couple of panels at the forefront before circling back around in the background of the panels. This kind of depth of field work is the kind of stuff I love from Janín.

The stress of deadlines on Janín’s art can also be seen with the fact that Hugo Petras is brought in to do four pages. Petras is given the most dynamic action sequence in the issue and he absolutely kills it. His work is also less detailed that Janín’s line-art, but this actually works in Petras’ favor to give his characters a more defined look. Despite cleaner figures, his artwork shares a lot in common with Janín’s. He ends up doing the final page of the flashback sequences, and it is hard to note much difference between his flashback pages and Janín’s. He also does the final page. If it was not for a few subtle differences between their Selinas, I would have thought Janín did this as well. Hugo Petras is an excellent choice of backup artist for Batman #43.

This issue is not quite the color-filled masterpiece that the rest of the storyline was, but it is still a great issue for colors. June Chung uses a lot of lighter backgrounds in this issue, in particular the white hospital room that Bruce Wayne wakes up in after Superman ‘killed’ him in the last issue. This allows her to fill them with color, like soft greens and blues from the night sky. I appreciate the subtle changes in skin tone between characters like Clark Kent, Harley Quinn, and Kong Kenan. She also color-coordinates certain types of motions as well: yellow is impact, while blue is speed and red is violence. In the flashback sequences, most of the color is washed out save for an earthy brown and muted tones of red. This simple palette not only helps to distinguish the flashbacks but also creates a mood.

Most of this issue is a three-way conversation between Selina, Bruce, and Ivy. This conversation uses many bodies over a large amount of distance. Thankfully, Clayton Cowles is more than up to the job of lettering this complicated exchange and never leaves the reader wondering who is talking. Unfortunately, there is a lack of clarity of speaker in the flashback sequences, but that fault lies more with King’s script than Cowles’ lettering. There are only four sound effects in the entire issue, but each one is distinct and manages to make the sequence pop off the page.

Batman #43 is a solid end to a great storyline. Over three issues, Tom King, Mikel Janín, June Chung, and Clayton Cowles take the reader on quite a journey through a world where Poison Ivy is victorious in her goals to save the planet. The story does not demonize her at any step of the way. Instead it explores the emotional damage that has led Ivy to the path she has chosen. Hugo Petras joins the creative team for a final issue, helping elevate a weaker artistic issue. We’ve got a couple of storylines between this arc and the wedding, but I sure hope I’ll be back in the reviewer chair when that comes around. I am sure King will deliver an emotional masterpiece.

Verdict: 3.5 Out Of 5 Types Of Crazy 

 

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.

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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