Batman #48 (DC Comics)
Runners Up: The Immortal Hulk #1 (Marvel Comics), Justice League #1 (DC Comics)
Without a doubt, Tom King has been featured more than any creator on this site. Between Batman‘s bi-monthly schedule and his intriguing run on Mister Miracle, it is going to be hard for anyone to catch up with him. Because of Batman #48, he makes an appearance this week as well, but this time I’m going to give most of the credit to Mikel Janin. Janin has been one of the go-to artists on the book, perhaps most notably during the War of Jokes and Riddles arc. It was there that we saw Janin’s touch with The Joker, bringing something special to the Clown Prince of Crime. In this issue, he takes that even further. Janin has taken a blunt and brutal script from King, and transformed it into a masterpiece of tone and pacing. Most comics run about the same amount of pages, but here the action seems to be delivered at a lightning pace due to Janin’s manipulation of panels. It is not a happy tale and feels as quick and devastating as a drive-by shooting. Janin’s Joker is a creeping presence, one that feels like a specter moving through the panels. You know he’s really there, but you don’t want to believe it. One thought has stayed in my mind since reading this issue, and it is kind of a feeling more than anything else, I’ll try to explain it. When I read this issue, and as my brain constructed the cinematic motion from panel to panel, there were points where it felt like the soundtrack dropped out. Things got too grim for superhero score and there was only the audience, the victim and The Joker. I credit this feeling to Janin.
Al Ewing and Joe Bennett bring us the newly branded The Immortal Hulk. To be blunt, I think Marvel has often hurt themselves with these sort of conceptual reinventions of their most popular characters. Obviously, there are aspects of each that drove interest in the first place and you can really risk losing readers if you lose the essence of the character. However, Ewing has become one of the my favorite writers at The House of Ideas, and after an exciting re-introduction in Avengers, I was ready to give this one a shot. Here, The Hulk shifts back from superheroics to a more Horror based concept. This isn’t the first time this has been done, Bruce Jones’ run comes to mind, but it is a difficult view to maintain for long. For this issue, it works just fine. Not unlike this week’s Batman, there is a distinct brutality to the whole affair. Yes, it is thematically addressed too, but considering the book’s “T+” rating, I was surprised to see just how violent it got. While this issue has stuck in my mind, Ewing and Bennett have a tough task ahead of them. This is not a traditional Hulk, and to truly pay off, they’re going to have to stick to their guns.
Last up is the latest Justice League relaunch, brought to us by Scott Snyder, Jim Cheung and Mark Morales. Though he did carry Batman through one of the most tumultuous eras in DC Comics’ history, I wasn’t quite sure that Snyder was the writer for the job here. Metal was fun, No Justice was cool but I really wasn’t convinced. I was even a little miffed that they were renumbering after Priest’s excellent work in the last few issues.
I am convinced now.
Snyder and crew finally bring the Justice League closer to the lauded Justice League Unlimited series. I don’t just say that because we get John Stewart and Hawkgirl here either. Other creators have flirted with this, but Snyder’s premise and even dialogue feel like the best the show had to offer. I’m not saying that replicating the show was necessary for any writer, but I honestly felt like it provided blueprint for the Justice League’s future that was never fully exploited. It results in arguably the best single issue of Justice League since Rebirth. Here, Snyder may take us into the narrative future of the team.