SPOILER FREE Review
Batman & The Joker: The Deadly Duo doesn’t seem like the greatest name for a comic and actually feels a little hokey. That said, don’t judge the book by the title until after reading the first issue. After doing so, the title becomes more appropriate(and humorous) than just a “here’s a Batman and Joker team-up book with a cute name”.
This first issue of the series, written and drawn by longtime comics creator Marc Silvestri has been long-awaited partly because he knows what he’s doing and partly because it’s one of the most famous protagonists seemingly teaming up with his arch-nemesis. The idea of the book instantly spurs images of The Dark Knight and Batman and Joker’s strangely intertwined relationship. Don’t worry; there are plenty of Batman tropes and just the right amount of homage paid to The Dark Knight, even in this first issue.
The book came out at the beginning of the month under DC Comics Black Label. While the book contains mature content like other Black Label books, it’s a standard book rather than the usual Prestige format in which the imprints’ books are released. As the guidelines of DC Black Label state, this is likely because it is a seven-issue series instead of three. Regardless, the book is a reason for Bat and Joker lovers alike to be excited simply from the premise and cover art released.
On that same topic, fans of Harley Quinn should also be excited as she appears in this book on the very first page and seems like she will play an important role. As a Bat-fan, I don’t necessarily need the Joker or Harley to enjoy a Bat story. Sometimes it’s better when they are not involved due to their high profiles and overwhelming personalities. Joker and Batman team-ups also don’t always work well for me, or maybe in general, as the characters are so different. In The Last Knight on Earth, Batman and a very talkative Joker travel across an apocalyptic future together, but it was more distraction than enlightening to have the two constantly bantering back and forth in their own ways.
The draw to having the Joker in this book is that someone has audaciously targeted The Clown Prince of Crime and “taken what belongs to me,” as he tells Batman. In turn, Joker does what he needs to get Batman to feel the need to team-up and solve his problem. The team-up serves to both stop a mystery killer and prevent Joker from using his leverage to force Batman’s cooperation. What is it that someone took from the Joker, though?
While the taking is referenced in the book, there isn’t a clear answer to the question, which begs the reader to return next month for issue two. Yes, there are likely two possible answers based on the events in the book, but it also seems likely that the Joker may know more than he’s letting on. Lucky for us, we get to follow along with the World’s Greatest Detective as he solves the compounded case. Right away, the book starts down the correct path by having Batman do some detective work with an admirable assist from Harvey Bullock. This version of Harvey is competent, honest, and a fair enough stand-in for an on-vacation Jim Gordon.
As we discover clues and investigate alongside Batman, the answer and culprit seem straightforward. Still, there seems to be a more supernatural twist which makes for some of the best Batman mythology. We get a real sense that something dark and evil is lurking around Gotham, possibly worse than the Joker, and definitely something we need Batman’s protection from.
The characterization of Batman here is the classic hardened-edge vigilante/detective with a neat arsenal of useful toys. This version feels like something familiar but at the same time, a new amalgamation of previous Batmen.
The art is perfect for this story as it’s dark and exacting. Silvestri’s understanding and appreciation for Batman and the world of Gotham shines in the shadows on the page. The beautiful line work brings detail to every image, and the grim countenances and shadows cast on them set the ominous tone that prepares you to dive into a story that’s going to get darker. There are a couple of wonderful two-page spreads, including one that displays a very classic yet serious Bat Cave.
As for the mature content, there hasn’t been too much out of the ordinary yet, but the mystery foes seem to be grotesque and prone to gore-resulting murder. The situation is dire enough that Batman is teaming up with Joker, so the mature content fits and works well without going overboard.
The story has mystery, action, detective work, seamlessly deployed and explained gadgets, and Batman and Joker acting the way you’d expect. Pretty much everything a Batman fan typically responds to when reading Batman comics. On top of that, there are almost too many nods to other Batman material and tropes, even in this book alone. While these familiar scenes, actions, and interactions feel right in place in this Batman book, they also stir up memories of exactly where you’ve seen them in Bat content before.
Overall the comic is better than I could have hoped. It has what classic Batman fans may be missing in some of the longer-running titles that create their mythology, ongoing storylines, and require a bringing up to speed. The Deadly Duo is a book for any Batman fan(old enough for mature content), even those who don’t read comics, as it makes its own way by relying on the things every Batman fan knows and loves. I hope this series continues to be a winding mystery with hints of the film Seven because it has that feel. I’m not really looking forward to Joker’s participation at all, but everything else presented here is so good that it’s worth at least giving issue #2 a read. Plus, I am interested to see the “What’s in the box?” moment, as it feels pretty clear that one is still coming. I give Batman & The Joker: The Deadly Duo #1 4.5 out of 5 Bat drones.