MONTHLY PUNCH-UP #14 (February 2007)
JOKER versus ROBIN
Where: Detective Comics #826 When: February 2007
Why: Paul Dini How: Don Kramer
Well, I'm posting this on the sixth, so I'm pleased to say I'm nearly caught up completely! More on that when you scroll down to the Hammer, but for now...
Another exciting debut for Secret Wars on Infinite Earths this time in the form of the clown prince of crime - The Joker! Which is kinda strange, when you think about the guys who have been featured. [Looking at you, Dr. Dorcas...]
I kinda had to check this issue out, because I've been a bit sour on the turn in direction for Batman, and this single issue was hyped beyond compare. So, it's a good thing there was some action in there, otherwise I couldn't tell you all what I thought.
I'm going to start with a negative to soften you up, and that negative is the artwork. That first Dini issue with JH Williams promised a great deal, and pointed toward something familiar but different enough to be interesting.
Unfortunately this issue does not feature that kind of treatment, with fairly plain pencils from Kramer and a heavy (but erratic) ink from Wayne Faucher. Colourist John Kalisz does not fade his colours far enough to fall into an eighties homage along the lines of Killing Joke, but it is certainly heading in that direction.
A direction that I'm really not very fond of. [See; Detective Comics #817]
One of the things I had come to enjoy in Detective Comics was the visual style that danced between something along the lines of the Dini-involved animated series, if not in style, in colour palette, drawing largely on greys and urban tones.
Dini's writing actually steers closer to that enjoyable period on the title, with more street orientated stories about the Dark Knight. Granted this issue features Robin, it still maintains a level of reality that distances itself from the caped crusading of the flagship book.
The issue itself probably got more fan-press than it really deserved.
Putting Dini and Joker in the same sentence pretty much guarantees premature fanboy e-reaction, but that considered, it probably wasn't as misproportionate as it could've been.
Dini tells a comptent and interesting done-in-one story that features the Joker nabbing Robin from peril, and taking him on a lethal hell ride across a Christmas decorated Gotham. Some people seem to have over extended this as some sort of revolutionary take on the character, but this is no great character analysis. It's just a fun, single, floppy read.
Our fix begins toward the end of the issue, where Robin has managed to free himself of his shackles by removing his glove, and is baiting Joker with reference to Three Stooges movies.
He riles the Joker by deliberately confusing a line from one film with another, which distracts Joker enough for Robin to throw on damned hard punch.
He then wrenches the rearview mirror from it's place and uses it quick and hard to attack the Joker. Robin willingly acknowledges that he needs to hit hard and fast, wasting no energy on quips and gags.
Robin dives into the back seat, using one of Joker's victims as a shield against a wirey arm that throws a stiff fist. The gawking grin produced by his own toxin leaves Joker with cut knuckles from the move.
As the Joker grimaces, Robin drives the back of his head into the car ceiling and finds the lump of a gas deploying weapon. He blasts it directly into the clown's face, forcing him out of the car onto the highway.
Gasping for breath, he doesn't notice the oncoming truck until it's too late.
In what is usually a good Joker moment, he remarks on his certain doom with a light heart, and laughs hysterically as his limp body is thrown into the air by the velocity of the impact.
Batman ultimately arrives on the scene, but the Joker's body is nowhere to be found. What he does find is pride for how Robin handled the situation, despite many fatalities and a bungled job involving rival gangs.
This one really could've gone either way in terms of being cartoonishly hilarious, or brutally threatening, and to the credit of the art team, they really do sustain the menace of the situation. The decision to play it serious is probably more interesting, although, with the minimalist style seen in the cartoons, this easily could've been one of the more light hearted Joker episodes.
Who am I really critical of? I guess the purveyors of the medium, who have perhaps misplaced previous adoration when promoting or reviewing this book.
It is by any take a very good and enjoyable read, but not the ultimate Joker story.
The Fix: 4 The Issue: 5
The Top Five...
I have to admit, it feels really wrong leaving behind the top five of 2006. A lot of those characters spent most of the year with us, so discarding them in favour of a new year is very strange. Especially with some of the choices I made for this month's entries. Anyway...:
#1 Moon Knight (new) (new) (Marvel)
Class: [Champion] Last Opponent: [Taskmaster]
Win Percentage: [100%] Features: 
You ever have a friend who dumped his girlfriend and then started going out with a girl who looked and acted just like her?
That's kinda what this feels like. We've traded Batman at the top spot for what is essentially a Batman analogue, and it just doesn't feel right... Despite being a hot property right now, I couldn't expect Moon Knight to stick around here for long.
If you look at the beginning of the first year of the site, you can see this organic approach is fairly different to the name loaded first month that produced a fairly worthy first ever top five.
Consider this one an abberation folks. Apologies to the Mooney fans.
#2 Spider-man (-) (6) (Marvel)
Class: [Meta] Last Opponent: [Tombstone]
Win Percentage: [87.5%] Features: 
Well, a new year for the top five and Spider-man still can't quite get to the top spot. I might not be pushing Batman anymore, but apparently I'm still happy to hold the Spider-MAN down.
Jokes aside, it's bound to be a big year for Spider-man. As the new mugshot [featuring art by Casey Jones] might suggest, the Black Costume's coming back in '07, and that's thanks in no small part to a third feature film.
I've been pretty silly for Spidey villains lately, too. Heck, even the X-Men are featured fighting The Lizard, who's being rumored for a fourth Spider-man movie.
So, I guess that's indicative of Spider-man's staying power at Secret Earths.
#3 Red Hood (+26) (new) (DC)
Class: [Meta] Last Opponent: [Brick]
Win Percentage: [100%] Features: 
Another abberation, one would have to imagine.
As much as I've enjoyed the larger aspects of Jason Todd's return, you just couldn't say he's top five material. Not when we've come used to seeing the likes of Batman, Spider-man and Superman.
His story gained momentum in the pages of Judd Winick's Batman, so it's little wonder a recent turn in Green Arrow has salvaged what was otherwise a fading career for the reborn vigilante.
His story is not one of grand motivations and ideas, but rather the active reentry of an old character in a new way. It would be a real shame if Red Hood were to fall victim to the shift in priorities of the core Batman books, because this has been a surprisingly positive return!
#4 The Punisher (new) (new) (Marvel)
Class: [Champion] Last Opponent: [Rhino]
Win Percentage: [100%] Features: 
Another debutant on the top five, and at fourth, slightly less disappointing than the top spot Moon Knight.
Punisher's return to the Marvel Universe has made him a much more likely candidate for feature here. As much as I love the MAX book, there just aren't enough fisticuffs to get it on a site dedicated to superhero fights.
With Civil War and War Journal thrusting him back into the superhero domain, he becomes a much more accessible character for a website like this.
My appreciation for Punisher has grown over the last few years. As a kid he was never really a character I could get behind. I probably disliked him second only to Nick Fury, who was another gun-toting guy I never really got.
#5 Beast (+50) (new) (Marvel)
Class: [Meta] Last Opponent: [The Lizard]
Win Percentage: [50%] Features: 
Rounding out the list is another less likely top-fiver, but a goody no less. For some of the movie-going audience joining us, you'll no doubt have been riveted to learn Beast was not always a blue fuzzball!
The X-Men have only arrived on the site here in the last few months, but I have to say they've been a welcome addition. Things seem pretty quiet around the X-universe, so I wouldn't expect to see the blog taken over by mutants, but interest in diversity might keep a Beast floating around the top.
1. Batman (-) (DC)
2. Spider-man (-) (M)
7. Superman (-) (DC)
15. Red Hood (+14) (DC)
18. Beast (+37) (M)
19. Sub-mariner (-2) (M)
23. Silver Surfer (-2) (M)
24. Robin (-2) (DC)
51. Doppelganger (-) (M)
52. Moon Knight (new) (M)
53. The Punisher (new) (M)
56. Professor X (-) (M)
66. Tombstone (-16) (M)
67. Angel (+120) (M)
68. Iceman (+120) (M)
69. She-Hulk (-4) (M)
193. Taskmaster (new) (M)
194. Space Phantom (new) (M)
195. Rhino (new) (M)
196. The Lizard (new) (M)
200. Toad (-5) (M)
201. Magneto (-5) (M)
202. Brick (-8) (DC)
And so, there goes another big month of Secret Wars on Infinite Earths!
Finally looking like we might be caught up and running smoothly, despite persisting computer gremlins! With a lot of hits coming in lately, hopefully we'll be able to continue to sustain your readership!
Speaking of hits, gotta throw a shoutout to Rokk's Comic Book Revolution!
A great review blog I came across recently who've been kind enough to be among the select few super-sites to link to Secret Earths! Clearly a genius blog, indeed.
In other business, as much as it gives me diahorrea to do so, I've got make an amendment to a previous post. In the December Punch-Up we featured a fight between Venom and Spider-man in Beyond! #1.
I've since been informed that this character was not Spider-man, but rather the Space Phantom masquerading as the hero. So, as you may have noticed in the top five, Spidey's win percentage is readjusted and the Space Phantom joins the Secret Earths super stock race! Apologies to any perturbed by this misinformation, particularly those of you pregnant with Skrull babies.
You'll have noticed a distinct slant toward 2007 in the most recent posts.
This is in part due to the fact that I got a whopping big stack of comics for a late Christmas, but also because all the cool blogs either review new comics.
The interest of diversity will kick in, and no doubt you'll see more [not so-] classic comics thrown back into the mix, but for the time being, enjoy being contemporary!
Since we're trying to be a bit more free flowing these days I can't tell you what's coming up, but I've been looking at a lot of fun reads lately, so I imagine we might have some Deadpool and maybe some more Beyond in our future.
Even though I've actually been reading some great DC [like Checkmate], it looks like it's still going to be tilting toward Marvel for a while. Sorry about that guys, but hopefully for you DC fans, I'll have some especially strong reviews there. Possibly a look back at a classic we featured around this time last year.
I should make a point of referring to my own comics work. My pencilling collaborator Pedro, and I, are inching ever closer to printing the first issue of the series Kirby Martin Inquest. Don't visit Nite Lite Theatre just yet, because I have a lot of updating to get to, but I'll be directing all my fellow comics fans there as soon as possible.
Pedro and I have also been discussing some other possible projects, that is, if Grant Morrison can stop stealing my ideas for more than a day.
Also, I should put an end to rumors that I'm involved with any upcoming movies starring The Shadow. Actually, that isn't a rumor, but I'm hoping maybe I can get that out there...
As always, please feel encouraged to drop a comment or a question or a request or something. We're supposed to be one of the more friendly blogs around, even if I scare most of you away with excessively long posts filled with aliterations.
Thanks for sticking with Secret Earths, and stay tuned folks!
January Hit Count: 3947* (+567)
* Hit count was recorded February 1. Hits for January posts may be reflected in the February count.