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Justice League Unlimited #41

Posted: Tuesday, January 8, 2008
By: Ray Tate

Grace Randolph
Dario Brizuela, Heroic Age (c)
DC Comics
"The Anniversary Party"

In short, fantastic. Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and a number of other Leaguers have left earth for a space mission. The trouble is that Batman has forgotten an important anniversary; the day that he and the Joker met. Acting like a jilted lover, the Joker decides to punish Batman for forgetting the important date by punishing his friends and wrecking his stuff. The Joker hijacks a shuttle and pilots it to the Watchtower, where Zatanna, Hawkgirl, Elongated Man and the Crimson Avenger guard the earth.

Randolph comprehends the Batman/Joker dynamic as well as the beats of animation. When, on page one, Harley shows the Joker the headlines, Randolph humorously cuts to a chase Brizuela skillfully executes on page two. You can almost hear Shirley Walker's Joker theme in the background.

Because the Joker crippled Barbara Gordon, I cannot really stomach the character for very long. I don't find him funny. I never did, but now whenever I see him in a comic book, I just wish somebody would kill him. This manic incarnation, however, is far less successful in his criminal pursuits. He's matched by a razor-sharp Batman, who stops him all the time. Batgirl is still patrolling Gotham City with and without Batman. Therefore, I can find humor in the animated version Joker's actions as well as his comeuppance.

Randolph writes this gleeful loon with his henchwench vandalizing the Watchtower and attracting the attention of more powerful heroes. You may think this to be an easy clown pasting but the League underestimates the Joker, whereas Batman and his family do not.

The League's behavior leads to some genuinely funny counter-moves from the Joker and Harley, who easily recalls the delivery of Arleen Sorkin. Randolph however isn't about to humiliate the League. Instead, she shows that while they underestimate the Joker, he also underestimates them.

You don't need super-powers to tackle the Joker, and that's why Zatanna's solution to the clown pest problem is particularly hilarious. Harley contends against the Crimson Avenger, and Brizuela generates the energy of a zany Warner Brothers cartoon as weapon is topped with weapon.

In a way, the next scene does have Batman stopping the Joker. On the cover, you can see the Joker wearing the Dark Knight's cape and cowl, and this leads to some unexpected comedy. Hawkgirl, given dialogue that draws upon the voice of Maria Canals, also gets to ‘portray’ Batman. Unlike the comic book version, Batman in Justice League Unlimited is more expressionistic and often casts a dark bat-shaped shadow. Randolph places the Joker and Harley not in the shadow of the Bat but in the shadow of the hawk.

While the Joker and Harley earn some bruises as they best the League in round one, round two is a different story. The League realize that any foe of the Batman should be treated seriously, powers or no powers. They combine forces, form a smart and funny strategy and in the end boisterously give the returning Batman a surprise anniversary gift.



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