W: Sean Murphy
A: Sean Murphy
DC Comics Black Label
One of the best things about What Ifs? and Elseworld titles was the ability to tell some out there stories. What if you hear about a story where the Joker went straight? This is the book for you.
In this Black Label series (think current day Elseworlds), you get just that. The Joker pushes Batman to the brink and forces the Joker to take a cure for his mental illness. As a result, you get a Jack Napier that wants the best for Gotham.
The story from Murphy hits all the right notes: a clean Joker and Harley, an explanation about the rather sudden in-continuity Harley costume change, and Batman losing it because he doesn’t believe the Joker. I’ve been out of Batman books since the beginning of Rebirth, so I really didn’t have an idea of what Black Label was. This story has gotten me back into Bat-books.
Jack Napier and Harley Quinn are a driving factor in cleaning up Gotham. While everything isn’t exactly what it seems, it does lead to reform within the Gotham PD, the Bat-family questioning it’s lead, and the public turning on the Bat. I felt like it was a real world (a la Christopher Nolan’s) view of Batman, especially when his leading villain turns a new leaf. It’s also very believable to me; after enjoying the destruction we see in the Marvel movies, it’s refreshing to see the common people get upset about the collateral damage. And that’s what happens here.
I liked that the Bat-Allies weren’t always there for him. In this story, Jason Todd was the first Robin, but still killed by the Joker. Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon didn’t always agree with Batman’s methods and became more loyal to Jim Gordon and the Gotham PD. Batman is a dick (which I feel like he can be in the regular Batman stories) and this story shows the effects of it.
You also get many of the Batman rogues; Murphy calls on almost all of the villains that Batman has faced. And none of them outshines the Joker as a good guy. Murphy also adds more depth to Harley; she doesn’t come off as a female Deadpool clone, like I’ve felt she’s trying to be in both Rebirth and the DCEU. You also get a new villain: the Neo Joker, who proves the perfect foil for the story.
On top of the great story, Murphy kills the art. His style comes off as simplistic while getting across the details. It reminds me of Bill Sienkiewicz’s work. I’m not a huge art guy (I love good stories), but Murphy’s art is almost more impressive than the story at times.
If the other Black Label titles are like this one, I’m in.
Rating: 5 out of 5