January 21, 2009

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Trebro Tees Off: Batman Lovers & Madmen

Written by Michael Green
Illustrated by Denys Cowan and John Floyd
DC Comics

Hey boys and girls! It's time for Trebro Tees Off! This is where I find a comic I hated SO MUCH, I can't find anything at all good to say about it. It's where I get to vent my snark.

And oh man, is there a lot here to vent about.

Let's start with the idea that we need yet another revamp of the Joker's origin. I realize that part of the fun with the Joker is that no one really knows how he got started (Alan Moore gave us some hints, but consider the narrator). But do you really think we needed one that claims to be the definitive origin?

And if we did, for God's sake, could you at least find someone who knows who Batman is?

I mean, that's the only way this story makes any sense at all. Michael Green clearly has never read a Batman comic in his life. It's the only possible explanation for the absolutely insane things he has Batman do.

For instance:

With enough time to use a Batarang against the Man-who-will-be-Joker, he throws it just well enough to scar the edges of his face, when two issues earlier, we see him use *the same Batarangs* to pin someone to a wall.

"I give him something to let him know...we're not done."

Neither am I. As if that's not bad enough, to solve his burgeoning Joker problem, Batman turns to someone he can trust...Jonathan Crane! Yes, a pre-Scarecrow Crane is trying to (wait for it) build Arkham Asylum! You know--the place he's supposed to be in as an inmate, but that would require actually reading a Batman comic.

Now, anyone who reads Batman on a regular basis and somehow managed to miss this one is probably cringing, but it's time to make it worse.

A few pages later...Batman calls in a hit.

I am not kidding you. As they like to say--Not a hoax! Not an imaginary story!

Real-life, Dan Dido-backed DC canon has Batman calling in a hit on another human being.

Somewhere, Bob Haney is crying.

So yeah, Bats asks to have the proto-Joker wiped out because he killed a woman he slept with once.

This of course goes all wrong, and while Bats angsts about intentionally taking a life, the Joker gets his insanity on, beats the thugs trying to kill him, and ends up a whiter shade of pale. Bats gets there just in time to see what his IN-CANON hit has wrought: The worst killer in all of the DC Universe.

That's right folks--according to DC, Batman created the Joker, going full circle from the days when it was implied the Joker created Batman.

I am so glad we live in an age where comics are all dark and realistic, don't you?

(Oh, and the girl lives, too. So it was pointless revenge.)

The last part of the story is a fairly typical Joker plot with lots of death and mindless rambling. But the problem is the punchline: Batman refuses to let the Joker die.

Now, in old Bat-chronology, this made a bit of sense. Bats doesn't kill humans. So, no matter how bad the villain, he won't cross that line.

However, since the whole point of this story is that he *did*, going back and not killing now makes no sense and ends up making Batman a cruel monster who won't save lives by taking one life, even if he was willing to take one life for a woman he barely knew.

Like I said, this is clearly written by a person with no idea who Batman is or what he stands for. Many a time, Batman's been faced with an ultimate choice, as has Spider-Man, and many other heroes with a no-killing credo.

Their reason is universal: "If I do it once, there's no reason not to do it twice," or something similar. Now DC has gone and upset the apple cart, and everytime Bats goes after a killer, it just doesn't make sense for him not to cap them and be done with it.

This is the problem I have with a lot of modern comics. Yes, the story may be more realistic, but once you start down the road to realism, the whole thing falls apart. Let's face it--in the real world, Bats is in Gitmo and I defy Peter's Spider-Sense to work against a tactical nuke.

Lovers & Madmen features just about everything I hate about "edgy revisions" of characters. Done right, you get Brubaker's Doom or, with a few qualms, Captain America. Done wrong, you get a mess of mistakes and things so far out of character they look like the reports Colin Powell read to the United Nations.

Oh, and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that the "edgy, evocative" art means drawing people with angles instead of curves, a woman's leg coming out of Bruce's hips--backwards--during sex, and faces with more wrinkles than a Dick Tracy villain. I am not sure why DC seems insistent on giving Batman books the worst artists in their stable, but they succeed every time.

In short, you'd have to be a likely candidate for Arkham yourself to think this was a good comic. The copy I got from the library to do my review was ripped and torn. Clearly, the prior patron liked it about as much as I did. Avoid this one like the plague, folks. I'm a professional reviewer--don't try reading this one at home.