"The Comic and the Straight Man"
Writer: Jai Nitz
Artists: Christopher Jones (p), Terry Beatty (i), Heroic Age (colors)
Publisher: DC Comics
My first thought after reading this issue of The Batman Strikes! was, "Hmm, where have I seen this before?" The second was, "No, I haven’t seen this before, not exactly," which was followed by a virtual tube-light turning on in my noggin. I say tube-light because had it been a bulb my third thought would have been my first one and it wouldn’t have taken me so long to realize that although reminiscent of previous stories (in the cartoon series), this take on the Wesker-Scarface dynamic was novel and interesting enough to stand on its own.
As clear by the cover, along with Scarface (and by extension his "dummy") there is a third "villainous" voice that sounds in this issue: the Joker. Starting with Mr. Pasty Face-Green Hair making off with the wooden dummy (i.e. Scarface), the story plays out with an interesting mixture of both Scarface and Joker "patented" shticks. With Scarface’s interest in making money and Joker in the making his, uh, jokes, the two partner-up, pooling their resources and their "minds" to make things very difficult for the Bat.
I understand that I, with my jaded mentality, am not the target audience for this series, and that the kids won’t even give a first thought let alone a second about the things that I get stuck on, but there was one thing about this partnership that rubbed me the wrong way. From what I get and know about both the Joker and the Ventriloquist (and by extension, Scarface), the two differ in their psychoses. While Arnold Wesker needs and uses the wooden Scarface as an outlet for whatever is wrong inside him, the Joker doesn’t suffer from the same split personality problem. Or maybe it can said that his (the Joker’s) personality is too split to work even with or just a single dummy. This I bring up because as much as I enjoyed the banter between the Joker and Scarface, there was always this tickle of a point of contention at the back of, well, my mind.
Back to the story at hand: left alone and crying by Mr. Scarface, the Ventriloquist plays his part by doing everything he can to get his partner back, even going as far as saving and then temporarily partnering up with the Batman. Whether deliberately or just by pure chance (meaning, only to me), writer Jai Nitz’s depiction of this character shows us a side of who/what Arnold Wesker could be, had he not gone off the deep end. Even if Scarface’s face is the one in the limelight, the Ventriloquist is the real brains behind the act. Wesker’s presence of mind and confidence (when on his own) here is that of a person who can and except for this "break-up" actually is the voice and brains of Scarface.
With the visual creative team of Christopher Jones, Terry Beatty and Heroic Age continuing their run on this series, the art of this issue is in the same style and vein as the ones before it, which means, it mirrors the animated show’s animation style quite nicely. This also extends to the recent "squaring of the jaw" that the fourth season of the show has brought for this Batman (which brings this version "physically" closer to the Batman from the BTAS and the other Timmverse series.)
Conclusion: Despite my cynicism of the characters, this was an enjoyable story. Just as with the show it is based on, The Batman Strikes! has also come a long way from being the Not-BTAS series, and this adventure does its part in developing its mythos.
You can find more reviews by Bruce Logan at www.xcave.net
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!