THIS WEEK: The DC Round-Up team — Cori McCreery, Cy Beltran, Joe Grunenwald, and Zack Quaintance — agrees for a roundtable discussion about Batman #142’s Joker: Year One story, and more.
Note: the reviews below contain spoilers. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bolded recommendations without our discussion for our final verdicts.
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Pencillers: Giuseppe Camuncoli & Andrea Sorrentino
Inkers: Stefano Nesi & Andrea Sorrentino
Colorists: Alejandro Sanchez & Dave Stewart
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
ZACK QUAINTANCE: Hey team, welcome to our regular DC Roundtable chat. Today we’re going to start things off by discussing Batman #142which kicks off the new Joker: Year One story arc…so, what did we think of this issue?
CORI MCCREERY: It was… fine? It was fine for what it’s setting out to do, but I’m kind of completely over the Joker right now, and don’t really feel like Joker: Year One was ever a thing that was really necessary to begin with.
CY BELTRAN: I’m right there too. It’s kind of interesting, just to see what Zdarsky is doing with this story, but I don’t especially care about who the Joker was before being… the Joker.
JOE GRUNENWALD: Agreed all around. At this point I’m not sure what we’re doing here with this story. What blanks really need to be filled in in The Joker’s history? I also think it’s a very bold choice to crib an iconic panel from The Killing Joke and then show what happens two seconds later. The Joker’s little side-eye in that panel made me laugh, but I don’t think it was intended to.
CORI: Wow Joe, the Joker has killed people for saying he’s not funny before. Bold move, sir.
CY: It looks like tries to knock himself off here too, because it looked like there were Three Jokers™ here? Which completely undercuts the whole Killing Joke reference.
Joe: there are three Jokers here, and then I guess that plotline gets resolved immediately? It felt like that would be a bigger deal than it ended up being.
CORI: I drink to forget the Three Jokers, Joe, and now they’re back and in mainline continuity. God save my soul.
ZACK: Moving forward, did this first part get you excited for anything to come in this story? And if not, what do you think this story could do differently to be more exciting for you?
CY: I’m not too hopeful for whatever’s to come. I wish the issue would just focus on one thing instead of jumping between two different parts. The parts of the issue told in the past were somewhat interesting, and I enjoy Camuncoli’s art, but I have no idea what the point of the future story is. Sorrentino just doesn’t work for me in the hyperrealistic scenes, and it doesn’t seem like any of this connects back to whatever’s happening in the past?
Joe: I’m curious about what’s coming, but I wouldn’t say I’m excited about it. The Joker, to me, has always worked best when he just appears and is, and seeing how he became The Joker removes some of the mystique of the character. And now it looks like Zdarsky is saying he trained somehow? I’m very skeptical, but open to where the story wants to go at this point.
CORI: I’m really not even that curious. I actually prefer the Joker to be a big mystery. The more light shed on him the less interesting he is to me.
ZACK: Okay, well, one last question then — what do you all think about how this story arc seems to fit into the larger ongoing run?
Joe: It feels very disconnected, even from what Zdarsky has done up until this point. I do think it’s interesting that it seems almost like a sequel to Zero Year, a storyline I never expected would ever come up again, so that was a surprise as far as where it sits in Batman continuity. But as far as the rest of the current run, I’m waiting to see how it fits at this point.
CY: Yeah, I’m not sure how to place this. I’m assuming that this is going to play some major role in whatever’s coming up, just based off of the numbering getting close to 150, but this doesn’t show off the bruised and battered Bruce we’ve been following like this far, so I’m fairly confused as to what we’re even doing here. I’m hoping that’s cleared up in the next two weeks.
CORI: I mean, I’ll be honest here, I’m months behind on Batman, but uh, this didn’t feel like it was part of an ongoing narrative to me, which is both good and bad. Good if you’re looking to hook new readers, bad if it was meant to feel like part of Chip’s bigger story.
ZACK: Let’s go to verdicts on this one…
Joe: I hate to write it off completely since it is just the first part of a three-part story, but oof. WEAK BROWSE for me.
CORI: I’m just gonna go a tad meaner. It’s a rare SKIP from me.
CY: I’m gonna go the opposite way and give it to BROWSE. It’s disjointed, but I think I need to read it in full context before I figure out how skippable it is.
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Leonardo Romero
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
ZACK: OK! Up next we have Birds of Prey #6the finale for the first story arc of a book we’ve collectively praised quite a bit in the past…now that the first story arc is wrapped up, what do we all think?
CORI: First and foremost, thank god Leonardo Romero was back. I don’t know what happened with issue five, but boy did that art style not fit the book at all.
CY: I second that 100%. This book has been phenomenal, but without Romero, it lost a step for sure. I also thought this was a solid conclusion, that wrapped everything up neatly, but with enough wiggle room to come back to whatever’s going on with Sin and Megaera in a future arc. Plus, there’s some great setup for whatever’s next.
Joe: The Sin story is definitely just beginning, and I’m curious to see that explored more fully in the future, even if it’s not right away. I whole-heartedly agree that Romero’s artwork was sorely missed last issue. His and Bellaire’s work is so stylish and interesting, and meshes really nicely with the tone of Thompson’s script.
ZACK: It seemed like the team might be getting a shake-up. If that’s really the case, are there any specific characters you’d like to see involved in the next story arc?
CORI: ZINDA. GIMME BACK LADY BLACKHAWK, KAY THANKS BYE.
Joe: I never thought I would enjoy Zealot as much as I did here, so I pretty much trust Thompson to bring in any random characters and make them compelling. How about a time-traveling Ma Hunkel Red Tornado?
CY: I do not have as funny an answer as everyone else but I would be excited to see Power Girl show up here. I’m really enjoying everything Leah Williams is doing with her de ella and Omen, and I think it’d be fun to see her interact with this team.
CORI: Oh wait, no I take back Zinda. Kara Zor-El doesn’t currently have her own book (WHY DC, WHY), put her on the Birds in the meantime.
ZACK: Well, we’re all apparently still enjoying this one and excited for more…plus we still have one more book tonight…so let’s go right to verdicts now, what do you all think?
CORI: Absolutely a BUY from me. The whole series was lots of fun so far, even with the art misstep in issue five.
Joe: Yeah, this is still an easy BUY for me as well. It’s tons of fun and it looks great. What more could you want?
CY: For sure a BUY. It’s just a blast and I can’t get over how cool the coloring is. I hope it never ends.
Writer: Joanee Starer
Artist: Natacha Bustos
Colorist: Tamra Bonvillain
Letterer: Ariana Maher
ZACK: Last up tonight, we have Fire & Ice: Welcome to Smallville #6, a mostly different sort of book than the other two. What did you all think of this one?
CORI: Gonna get my grumbling out of the way. It absolutely felt like queerbaiting to me. You set up this relationship throughout six issues, you even have a new lady supporting character fall hard for Ice, only to have it all just fall back to the status quo “We’re just gals who are pals” at the end of the story? Felt like it led me on.
CY: I’d definitely agree with that, especially because the issue felt like it just kind of ended? There was so much build up throughout the series that made it seem like there was gonna be a reconciliation and maybe a little more between Bea and Tora and then it hits a wall on the second to last page. What do you give?
Joe: The build-up is what gets me, too. It definitely felt like there was going to be some sort of big revelation or change to the relationship between the two leads, and in the end it just seemed like more of the same. These two have been friends for how long, and they’re just now realizing that hey, we actually balance each other out a little bit? It felt disingenuous.
Other than that, lots of fun!
CORI: Disingenuous was the word I was going to use and then decided not to grumble that hard, so thanks, Joe. But this book was set up to be a RomCom, throughout the six issues, it always felt like a RomCom, but at the end of the day, we got “Haha no the only queers in this book are the newly created supporting cast, back to the subtext mines for the leads!” And despite how fun all six issues were, that really does dampen my enjoyment of the book.
CY: And that’s the biggest disappointment, because I was loving every issue of this until we got here. It’s gotta be a symptom of these six issue minis, but the fact that this fleshed out relationship (platonic and romantic) is getting relegated to probably-forgotten is going to ruin any reread of this book, at least for me. If there was somewhere else we were gonna see them after this, I’d understand it a little more, but I’m not too optimistic :/. At least it’s a pretty book though.
Joe: Yes, Natacha Bustos’s artwork is fantastic throughout. It feels light and cartoony, almost Archie-like, which befits a RomCom story. It’s perfect on this book.
ZACK: Okay, well, we’re basically at time here…so let’s go to final verdicts. What do you all have?
CORI: If this had delivered what issue one hinted at, it would be an instant BUY from me, but because of how it ended, I’m a BROWSE for this one too. The story’s fun, but in the end I felt insulted.
CY: I’m gonna go with a STRONG BROWSE. The rushed and frustrating conclusion is not at all what I would’ve hoped for, but was mostly fun and great to look at until the very end.
Joe: I’m really torn on this one. Item was a lot of fun, even well into this issue, and the art was great throughout, but there are things set up in the storytelling earlier in the series that don’t pan out by the end of the book. In that way it felt like a huge disappointment. I guess I’m a BROWSEbut oof the ending really made me think about suggesting skipping this series altogether.
ZACK: That’ll do it for this month’s roundtable chat…thanks everyone for reading!
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