Batman never rests. We don’t know how he does it, but the Caped Crusader doesn’t take vacations, and that’s one of the things we love about him. Take now, for example. We’re currently living in unusual times as regular comic publishing is being retooled, but we’re still getting new Batman stories. Thanks to DC’s Digital First initiative, the Dark Knight’s patrol over Gotham is continuing uninterrupted. Don’t worry, if you prefer print comics, these stories will be published as physical copies as well down the line.
One advantage to these digital stories is that they can play around with their placement in the timeline or canon. For example, our current Batman titles are dealing with the aftermath of Alfred Pennyworth’s death, but over in Batman: Gotham Nights #4, the Caped Crusader’s butler is alive and well. I’m not going to lie, it was great to see Alfred again, even if it was only in a limited capacity. He helps Bruce Wayne remotely from the Batcave and something just feels so familiar about it. That’s one of the great things about these digital titles, they can give us moments like this without disrupting the ongoing story. It’s like having our cake and eating it too, if the cake was baked by Alfred.
If you’re still on the fence about checking out Batman: Gotham Nights #4, then I have four words for you: Joker, Attorney at Law. Did that get your attention? The setup is that some of Bruce Wayne’s rich friends are doing illegal things, and thanks to a few tips from the billionaire playboy, the one-percenters wind up behind bars. The GCPD sets Bruce up as an informant and places him in jail with them, but the situation escalates when the moguls retain the services of the Joker.
It’s funny, I recently wrote an article focusing on the many roles the Joker has played in the past 80 years, but I don’t recall him ever acting as an attorney. He’s been a judge a few times—such as the Batman: The Animated Series episode “Trial” and in Batman #163—but this was a fun new angle. Of course, since he’s the Joker, this wasn’t a traditional attorney-client relationship, and the Clown Prince took some liberties with his role. I won’t spoil the ending, but during the story’s final moments, Joker actually gives Bruce Wayne some good legal advice. I guess a broken clock is still right twice a day.
Interestingly enough, the Gotham Nights series seems to have a reoccurring theme where the villains cause Batman to question something he’s doing as Bruce Wayne. It happened with Lawyer-Joker at the end of Batman: Gotham Nights #4, and with Poison Ivy in Batman: Gotham Nights #3. During the story, Batman battles Ivy, who is trying to save the Brazilian rainforest by murdering loggers tycoons. After a brutal battle, Batman decides that Bruce Wayne needs to buy some of the land Ivy was trying to save, so that he could turn it into a nature preserve.
It’s a nice gesture from Batman, and it shows that on some level Ivy got through to him. It’s sad, because it also puts a spotlight on the tragic nature of Poison Ivy. Had Ivy gone to Bruce Wayne and asked for his help, the entire affair could’ve been avoided. Bruce would’ve built the preserve, lives would’ve been saved, and Ivy wouldn’t have to be locked up in Arkham. In the end, Poison Ivy is her own worst enemy. It should go without saying, but murder is never the solution, and she could do so much more for the environment if she went about things in a different way.
Let’s turn our attention to another corner of continuity, with Batman: The Adventures Continue #3. For anyone who has ever wanted more seasons of Batman: The Animated Series, this comic is a dream come true. It continues the continuity of the famed cartoon and is exploring characters the series never had a chance to introduce, like Jason Todd and Deathstroke. Jason is currently watching in the shadows, and I have no idea what his plan is. What are his intentions, and why hasn’t he revealed himself?
It’s easy to assume that things will play out the same way they did in the classic “Under the Hood” storyline, but don’t forget, this is written by Paul Dini and Alan Burnett, the minds behind some of the greatest B:TAS episodes. I wouldn’t put it past them to surprise us and give us a new twist on the Jason Todd saga.
The really remarkable thing is that Jason has been able to trail Batman unnoticed for quite some time. In fact, it was Deathstroke, not Batman, who noticed the former Robin watching in the shadows. It takes some serious skills to sneak up on the Dark Knight, so it’s clear that we shouldn’t underestimate Jason’s. When he strikes, it’s going to surprise us all.
I’m going to end this column with an appeal to Batfans everywhere—don’t sleep on these digital series, even if you need to wait for them to come out in print. The stories are exciting, they cover new ground, and are raising some interesting questions. In fact, my mind is currently spinning with a bunch of Jason Todd theories. If you have any of your own, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter to share your thoughts. Until then, keep watching the skies!
Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for DCComics.com and DCUniverse.com, is a regular contributor to the Couch Club and writes our monthly Batman column, "Gotham Gazette." Follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.