Sean Murphy’s Batman alternate reality story comes to an end this week after eight issues and some tremendous plotting. The funny thing is it’s the type of story that sneaks up on you, only revealing what it was all about once all the pieces are put together. This is largely a love story — not just between Harley Quinn and Joker, but Batman and Joker too.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
In the extra-sized finale of Sean Murphy’s top-selling miniseries, Jack Napier’s suspicious seduction of Gotham City comes to its twisted conclusion! With the city on the verge of becoming an icy tomb for the GTO, Batgirl makes a crucial assist and Gordon is forced to reevaluate his judgment of Batman to secure the greater good. As the true Joker’s return becomes imminent, Harley seeks vengeance and reckons with the bleak future that looms for her loved ones.
Why does this matter?
This story wraps everything up including what will happen to Joker/Napier, how the GCPD and Joker can stop Neo-Joker, and it even has some revelatory moments for our main characters. The art doesn’t let up in the slightest and looks as good as issue #1 even though Sean Murphy had more lead time to work on it!
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This issue is surprisingly emotional, and not just between Harley and Joker. A few different characters reveal themselves in private, sometimes cutting, and deeply serious ways. That helps give this final chapter the extra oomph it needs to hammer home the events in this affected change. Most of these moments come at the end of the comic which serves as an epilogue to the series as a whole, but also the acts of this issue.
Speaking of those acts, this issue is high octane action at its finest. Opening with Joker and Batman riding together, the heroes storm Neo-Joker’s giant freeze ray lair in a variety of Batmobiles. It’s good Murphy’s art is so damn detailed because it allows him to capture a lot of moments on a single page in fine detail for clarity’s sake, but also to pack a wallop in the big moments. Take for instance a scene where the Tumbler Batmobile makes a huge leap to take out Neo-Joker. The detail allows Murphy to prepare us in one panel for what is about to happen, deliver a reaction shot from heroes on the ground, see it jettison out, then in another panel come barreling in, and then the impact. All of this takes place over the second half of one page and the first half of another. It’s quite economical.
It can’t be perfect can it?
I can’t stress enough how crammed the last few pages are with dialogue. It reads like an epilogue because the story ends, but the characters go on reflecting and talking about things like what Batman means and why the conflict was kicked off at all. It makes for a rather slow last few pages and a wonky pace overall. Collecting this as one big collection will prevent this since the issue won’t be as pronounced, but it’s still a bit heavy handed.
Some of the action is a bit nonsensical, like crashing a Batmobile into the giant ice laser. What if it malfunctioned, or blew up killing everyone on it? It’s reminiscent of some other reckless choices in previous issues.
Is it good?
This is a fitting end to a surprising love story. This series has put into perspective a lot of what makes Batman tick, the good and the bad, and has been a great alternative look at the characters. Murphy has created a self-contained story that can be enjoyed by anyone but will be loved by those who like to probe characters in new ways.
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