In 1988, Will Payton is blasted by cosmic energy from the skies. Gaining powers, he becomes the hero Starman.
He should have a great future. Then…
Today, the Justice League members are hearing his story – how he was experimented on by Lex Luthor, tormented for the secrets of his powers. He’s connected to the Totality, the cosmic energy linking all existence. Can Will regain the knowledge Luthor stole, then erased, from his mind, and help the League best Luthor’s Legion of Doom and avert the predicted imminent end of the universe?
At the Legion of Doom’s secret headquarters, Luthor is on another quest for knowledge – and the being he’s consulting unnerves even fellow villains Grodd, Sinestro and the Joker.
In Newfoundland, Doomsters Cheetah and Black Manta seek to destroy a god.
And The Batman Who Laughs teases Luthor with a secret.
The Batman Who Laughs? The Batman Who Talks, more like. Talks and talks and talks in dialogue balloons it’s impossible to read without going panel-view large on a tablet. Even then, I’m reaching for another kind of tablet, because scratchy red font against a black background is seriously migraine inducing. And I don’t blame letterer Tom Napolitano, it’s a design choice that goes back to the Metal event. Writer James Tynion IV is one of DC’s wordier writers – which can be a good thing, his Detective Comics run was a great value, entertaining read – but TBWL gives him a free pass to get even chattier with a character who simply irritates.
Because TBWL is one of those annoying Phantom Stranger types who Knows Stuff but never, ever gets to the point, because if he doesn’t know more than you, he has nothing. I’ll buy that Perpetua – the ‘Her’ he was hinting at – is some mysterious figure he’s learned of during his multiversal travels, but how, exactly, does a creature from some upside down Else-Earth know so much about Luthor’s recent time as a member of the Justice League? He’s obviously never going to tell Luthor everything that could benefit him because Luthor would kill him the moment he outlives his usefulness – he can’t not know how annoying he is.
What’s a little weird is that while spoken of in the few pages featuring the JLA, Will Payton isn’t seen… or is his presence too subtle for my aged eyes? And why is no one talking about Will’s insistence last time that three Leaguers must die if he’s to give them the answers they need?
I’m intrigued by Will’s origin being pinned to 1988, the year of his comics debut. This appearance tweaks his origin by linking it to Lionel Luthor and the Totality, and, I think, messes up his minor involvement in the later Starman series starring Jack Knight (whose logo he was mistakenly assigned last issue). It’s probably too picky to point out that Will didn’t have a beard when he was hit by energy from space, he grew it while unconscious for several weeks afterwards.
I do like that in the narration Will is referred to as a ‘grassroots hero’, a nod towards the title of his first issue.
Eight issues in and I’m already tired of the Legion of Doom, and they’re apparently set to hang around for a couple of years, with every few issues a focus on them. This seems a waste of the League’s fantastic roster of villains, but I suppose people with an abiding affection for old Super Friends cartoons might be more engaged.
I wonder how many potential buyers are skipping the issues not written by regular author Scott Snyder; I do like Tynion, but he’s not the big draw Snyder is. And if these issues are designed to be less than necessary to the Snyder issues, why bother with them at all? Does Justice League really need to be a fortnightly book from the point of view of anyone but DC’s accountants?
The art by Mikel Janín is lovely, smooth and clear – his couple of panels of Starman, gorgeously coloured by Jeromy Cox, are stunning, while he does a great Lex Luhor. I like his JLA a lot also, I just wish we saw more of them. Janín’s cover, too, is a winner, while Jim Lee, Scott Williams and Alex Sinclair’s variant, a Joker close-up, is the best thing I’ve seen from them in ages.
I’d love to hear what you thought of this issue if you read it. The big question: does Dark Judges knock-off The Batman Who Laughs actually have any fans?