In their days on the 1999 Wildstorm comic The Authority, Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch famously began a trend of “widescreen” superhero comics in pursuit of capturing the awe and bombast of the action film language of the time. It was superheroes meets Independence Day, favoring big panels and expansive action sequences that took up loads and loads of pages without overwhelming the reader.
These days, in The Batman’s Grave, Ellis and Hitch are clearly still unafraid of taking up a lot of space, as in this week’s issue in which they use five pages of a 22-page book on a gag about the Batmobile blowing up and Batman having to walk down a street in broad daylight, call Alfred for a ride, and wait in an alley to get picked up.
What else is happening in the pages of our favorite comics? We’ll tell you. Welcome to Polygon’s weekly list of the books that our comics editor enjoyed this past week. It’s part society pages of superhero lives, part reading recommendations, part “look at this cool art.” There may be some spoilers. There may not be enough context. If you missed the last one, read this.
The Batman’s Grave #7
Put this page in the Smithsonian.
Bitter Root #8
Last week I recommended Far Sector as a current comic from Black creators that is using science fiction to address issues of police brutality and systemic racism. This week, let me call attention to Bitter Root, co-created by David F. Walker, Chuck Brown, and Sanford Greene, about a Jazz Age world where bigotry literally turns people into monsters. A family of monster hunters who struggles to defend Black communities in America must confront a new horror, when they discover that their own community is turning into monsters of despair and grief.
Harley Quinn #73
Harley Quinn has introduced the idea of the DC Universe having an alternate zodiac system where many of the signs are clear analogs for modern superheroes, like the Amazon, or the Detective. The Superman sign, however, is the Farmer, and I just think that’s really nice.
New Mutants #10
There’s saying “the New Mutants explore the dangerous dreamscape of a young mutant who just awakened into their reality warping powers,” and then there’s how Flaviano draws it, which is top notch.
The Joker’s 80th anniversary special most prominently featured the origin story of his new second in command, Punchline, but I think my favorite story in it was “Birthday Bugs.” The Joker shows up at a henchman’s house to enact some punishment, only to find his weird kid on the doorstep torturing insects. In a fit of solidarity with the kid, he forces everyone to come to his birthday party at gunpoint and spares the dad’s life... mostly. Also: Look at that Eduardo Risso Joker, it’s like the best of Cesar Romano and Heath Ledger in one character design.
Do I feel like I know what’s going on in Decorum, Jonathan Hickman’s creator-owned high-concept science fiction series with Mike Huddleston? No. But I do know that the art is doing absolutely everything, switching between multiple linework and coloring styles several times an issue, and I can’t look away.
I admit I wasn’t expecting much from Batman: Secret Files #3, another of DC’s anthology books out this week. Maybe a hint at the plot of Joker War. But the artist/writer teams are all doing great work, especially this story framed around Gunsmith. He’s an assassin who can make “anything” into a gun, and Dan Watters and John Paul Leon show us what happens when he turns a kid “into a gun” to use against Batman, leading them to explore American gun culture and police militarization.
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