Batman Inc. eerily begins its Joker Era, as The Joker recruits his own team of international clowns. Following an unexpected attack on Man-Of-Bats, consecutive threats around the world further prove that Joker may be one step ahead.
Secret Identity Crisis
One of the main themes in play in this arc is the concept of life outside the cowl. For instance, each of the members of Batman Inc. reveal issues and desires tied to their dual identities. Beryl (The Knight) believes that she deserves a life outside of work and wants to try dating Anzor (Gray Wolf). If not to at least enjoy candlelit dinners while off-duty. In contrast, Willis Todd (Wingman) eats and sleeps in his cowl while privately living with the Dark Ranger. Even though everyone can figure out his identity, his decision to hide his identity speaks to his paranoia and shallow attempt to distance himself from others. On the other hand, The Batman Of China truly believes that the cowl is an honor you strive to earn.
In addition, the attack on Raven Red’s father symbolizes the vulnerability of their personal lives. Coincidentally, Charles (Raven Red) questions the consequences of moving closer or away from his family. Grey Wolf also wonders if joining Batman Incorporated has unintentionally endangered his hometown. Whether true or not, none of them want to sacrifice their personal relationships for the big picture. In comparison, Ghost-Maker is a sociopath with no second thoughts about giving himself to the larger mission. In this move, Ed Brisson exposes potential weaknesses in the team that a “big picture villain” is more than happy to exploit.
In Batman #118 (#900), Chip Zdarsky reexplores the concept that “every Batman needs a Joker.” Ed Brisson takes it a step further and allows the Joker to actively run his own international club of Joker-like villains. This includes a rodeo clown named Dusty Bronco, a French circus clown named Charles De Ghoul, an Argentinian named Tap Dance, Corvus Cawl from Australia, the Welsh ex-con Dai Laffin, and the Batman-Of-China’s misguided sibling Alpaca. Together, these unsubtle Joker knock-offs manage to pull off simultaneous hostage situations in the Batmen’s hometowns. Including the non-active Batman Inc. members that Ghost-Maker benches. Worst of all, Joker reveals that he is dispatching his disciples at the whim of a random roulette wheel!
Unsurprisingly, Ghost-Maker has been desperately waiting to prove that he can deal with the Joker better than Bruce. Unfortunately, this comes after word reaches Joker that Ghost-Maker adopts Batman’s famous “no-kill” rule. Not to mention Ghost-Maker’s frustration with the rule when confronting Professor Pyg. Thus far, The Joker has had no problem outsmarting Ghost-Maker and his team several times before the battle even starts. Considering the theme of the arc, Joker may just force Minhkoa to put aside his pride and call Batman for help.
Say, What’s The Big Idea?
I don’t mind the look of John Timms’ angular stylized artwork, but I’m not quite fond of his designs. Firstly, the new clowns look like thrift shoppers. Apart from the monochromatic Pagliacci look of Charles De Ghoul, none of the clowns have strong uniting elements in their costumes. Dusty Bronco wears baggy chaps over a pair of overalls like an overdressed rodeo clown, but I couldn’t tell you what the rest are going for. Outside of his costume, Gray Wolf is a “man’s man” with a stylized physique that rivals Street Fighter’s Zangeif. Lastly, while I like Anzor’s hardened look outside of his armor, Timms weirdly draws Clownhunter’s mohawk on his actual head instead of his “X” parted hair.
Furthermore, Brisson writes in some dull ideas that don’t quite land. Nothing Ghost-Maker or Joker do this issue makes strategic sense. For instance, Joker’s roulette board plan is as ridiculous as throwing a sword at it attempting to stop it. Whether intentional or not, Ghost-Maker mocks Batman-Of-China with the “so, so, sorry” racist caricature once apart of infamous Looney Tunes propaganda. It’s an especially uncomfortable mistake to make during AAPI heritage month. An idea that does work, involves the obscure reintroduction of Dai Laffin in Basement 101. The criminal and prison was first mentioned in Batman & Robin #7 (2009) as England’s answer to Joker and Arkham Asylum. Brisson and Timms also reintroduce Alpaca as well, despite Jiali’s edgy new Donnie Darko looking design.
- You’re an international Joker fan.
- You genuinely like Batman Inc.
- Ghost-Maker doesn’t bother you at a genetic level.
I have always wanted Batman Inc. to face a challenge from an opposing collective. Nevertheless, I never wanted it to have anything to do with the Joker. Despite my apprehension, there is endless potential for character development in facing Batman’s most intimate foe. Which some may hope includes taking the wind out of Ghost-Maker’s sails. Ed Brisson sets up a compelling jeopardy for the team to overcome analyzing identity and the bigger picture. Despite Joker Inc. populating its roster with nobodies, the home team finally receives the narrative attention they deserve. If executed properly, Joker may actually set Batman Incorporated in a positive direction.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purposes of this review.