Story: Mark Russell
Art: Viktor Bogdanovic, Jonathan Glapion
Colors: Ivan Plascencia
Letterer: Tom Napolitano
What They Say:
The Joker has the perfect plan to cause mass chaos in Gotham City, one so simple—and legal—not even Batman can stop it!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Mark Russell has had some sharp observations in a number of his books across a range of ages. So it’s no surprise that the fertile ground of Gotham offers up a way to talk about crippling medical and student debt that just makes the whole thing even more horrifying when you get down to it and ending on a depressing note. With this story we get Viktor Bogdanovic and Jonathan Glapion on the art duties and it has a really strong and distinctive look, particularly for the Joker, but for Gotham and its residents in general. It’s the kind of story that wants to bring out the desperate and show just how much more desperate they can become in order to claw back an inch or two of their lives, making it clear that dignity can be dropped to achieve it.
Batman’s taken a different approach in Gotham for a bit now, focusing less on the heads of the criminal empire and more on the street criminal element that are their fingers. He’s cleaned it up well and the city feels safer and better than before, especially as the bigwigs are keeping their heads down for the moment. While the city is in this phase where a stolen lawnmower gets media attention, we discover that the Joker is just like us. He likes to do good things with all of that ill-gotten wealth, such as having a spiffy mower delivered to the guy or a few other odds and ends. That’s now lead him to his next brilliant idea where he wants people to submit videos to him pleading their case to have their medical bills paid off, a bit of his altruism as he hints. But he also says to make a video that’ll really catch his eye. It’s no surprise that it takes a bit to really happen but desperate people with nothing to lose begin to put together some really problematic videos in order to get out of their debt.
That, naturally, raises some huge flags for Batman just on the surface but as people start to try and use this, they come up with crazy ideas and dangerous ideas to gain attention. And before you know it, the calm streets of Gotham are now this bizarre circus-like place with people coming up with strange stunts in order to be recognized by Joker when he looks at the video and is entertained enough. To be fair, Joker is paying out and pretty well for a lot of this and even Batman realizes when he finally does catch him that he wasn’t doing anything illegal and was basically a giant Gofundme machine. Of course, he’s using stolen money so there’s that and a lengthy criminal record, but as it plays out and we see how the wealthy of the city are avoiding making any changes and casting more people into despair, it’s a vicious cycle that’s continuing.
The social commentary here is pretty blunt and the situation goes into some dangerous and degrading directions quickly, which is the kind of entertainment that the Joker wanted. Batman’s attempts at cleaning up the city aren’t exactly wrong but he’s taking the wrong approach when it comes to how and who he’s going after when the reality is that a host of other factors must be addressed. It’s one thing when it comes to the top-tier name characters and their agendas, but focusing on the reality of low-level crime and why it happens is what was needed instead of just him causing overcrowded prisons and expanding the prison complex. Russell accomplishes a lot here and we get some great artwork with it but it’s just way too depressing of an issue.
Age Rating: 12+
Released By: DC Comics via ComiXology and Amazon Kindle
Release Date: May 26th, 2020