When I got to the page of Batman #135, in which Michael Keaton’s Batman from the 1989 movie pops up, I thought to myself, “Ah, they’re doing one of those.” You know, one of those multiverse sizzle reels.
It seems like they’re everywhere in superhero adaptations these days, from the CW’s Crisis on Infinite Earths to HBO Max’s Titans, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness to Spider-Man: No Way Home. Let’s be honest: Expect at least one in this summer’s multiverse-shattering The Flash. They might not literally be sizzle reels, but they have that effect — a view of an infinite multiverse that is really just there for the cool factor. Reactions range from “Look at all the actors they rehired!” to “Those guys look like guys I remember but different! Wow!” We’re not going to spend any real time with these characters, they’re just here to tickle the nostalgia of a clued-in audience. The multiverse as hype.
The first multiverse montages felt new and surprising, but like any trend, it’s devolved a bit into a rote brand exercise. But in Chip Zdarsky, Mike Hawthorne, Jorge Jimenez, and Mikel Janín’s Batman #135, the world-breaking actually tells the story. The book’s multiverse sizzle reel tickles your nostalgia and makes your pulse race. Then it also fortifies a battered and bent Batman in the climax of a story arc and underscores that, deep down, the Batman of every universe is here to help.
And then it does something that only a comic book montage of Batman film, video game, and Elseworlds stories can do: interrogate the reason why so many damn Batman adaptations kill the Joker.
What else is happening in the pages of our favorite comics? We’ll tell you. Welcome to Monday Funnies, 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. But there will be great comics. (And if you missed the last edition, read this.)
When we pick up with Batman #135, Batman is zipping through the multiverse chasing a man named Halliday who discovered that in other timelines he became a fearless, untouchable killer called the Joker. Naturally, he went mad with frustrated ambition, did some Comic Book Science, and now he’s falling through world after world as his presence supercharges the Joker of that universe, or — if the Joker is dead there — revives him into sinister life.
I won’t spoil all of the Batmans who appear in Batman #135, but suffice to say, it really feels like the creative team is working to take advantage of everything that only works in comics. In comics, you can transition between the visual mediums of art, live action, video game renderings, and animation with a seamlessness unavailable to those other formats. And artists Hawthorne, Jimenez, and Janín do just that, with poster-worthy art that’s instantly identifiable as specific video games, TV shows, films, animated works, and a wealth of the great Batman epics of comics history.
Zdarsky holds it all down with his choices of which Batmans to focus on; which Batmans do the most to help Our Batman and the most to voice the themes of the issue. His choices feel pitched precisely to three generations of Batman readers: People at the right age to see a father figure in the Bruce Wayne of Batman Beyond, of The Dark Knight Returns, and of Adam West’s Batman. It’s these Batmans who look at Our Batman and immediately reach out to help him.
The Old Bruces advise him on how crime didn’t come to an end on their worlds when their Jokers died. And when Batman finally corners Halliday in a fragment of existence created by his obsessed mind (a floating chunk of Gotham City slowly being devoured by skyscraper-sized, red-lipped sharks) it’s Adam West’s Batman’s loaned utility belt, complete with that hokey old can of shark repellent, that saves the day.
It’s a perfect Batman comic.
Be still my beating heart. Are we finally going to get a real name to call Billy Batson when he’s in his superhero form?
X-Men: Before the Fall — Sons of X #1
X-Men books aren’t wasting any time swinging out of the Sins of Sinister even and into the Fall of X event. I could maybe use a breather. But I will say that I very much like Mother Righteous, a mysterious villain only recently revealed to be a clone variant of Mister Sinister, hellbent on beating him at his own game... but with magic instead of science.
And I’m not mad at all that it took me until now to realize that her name itself is a play on his.
Peacemaker Tries Hard #1
I had a very hard time picking just one joke from Peacemaker Tries Hard! #1, as this book gave me a good old gut laugh at least three times. It’s extremely good, please read it. (Also is it just me or is Steve Pugh drawing this parole officer to look just like Taika Waititi?)