Gotham Knights #52 Review

Reviewer: John Babos
Story Title: Pushback: Book Three

Batman created by Bob Kane

Written by: A.J. Lieberman
Pencils by: Al Barrionuevo
Inks by: Francis Portela
Colors by: Brad Anderson
Letters by: Clem Robins
Assistant Editor: Nachie Castro
Editor: Matt Idelson
Publisher: DC Comics

Following on the heels of the year-long mega-successful HUSH arc in the pages of Batman, writer A.J. Lieberman delivers an intriguing epilogue to that tale with Pushback. The Batman: Gotham Knights series picks up the remnants of Batman’s rogues gallery following HUSH, building to a major showdown between Hush and the Joker.

This arc seems to be shooting to become DC’s “supervillain Sopranos”. Parts one and two have delivered their own twists and turns, with part three continuing the trend.

Hush has seemingly taken out the Riddler, putting him at odds with the Joker. While Hush wants to settle the score with the Riddler over the events of the HUSH arc, the Joker wants the Riddler… for something else.

Lieberman weaves a compelling tale that gives us a more lucid Joker than we’ve seen in a long time — a Joker driven by a unyielding purpose that the Riddler is the key to. While its easy to jump to the conclusion that Lieberman’s Joker characterization is more akin to Marvel’s Kingpin or Tony Soprano than DC’s deranged Clown Prince of Crime, I still found his take on him engaging and wildly entertaining. It’s the WTF moments of the issue, like why is the Joker so seemingly sane and nefarious, which has me thinking this is deliberate with a shoe-falling and jaw-dropping payoff coming at the end of the arc.

Outside of the unique take on the Joker, what is odd is that everyone from Batman to Oracle to the Joker is calling the bandaged trenchcoat garbed supervillain “Hush”. This arc could have provided a passing reference as to why Tommy Elliot’s nom de guerre is Hush. I don’t recall it ever being explained in the HUSH arc.

As you can tell from this review, with my constant references to Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee’s HUSH arc of yesteryear, that Pushback is a tougher read if you haven’t read HUSH. It’s not a very accessible read.

While I would argue that, with some refinements, this is the arc that Jim Lee should have drawn instead of the Loeb-penned HUSH, the interior art team on Gotham Knights is a far cry from Jim Lee or cover artist Lee Bermejo. With their own gritty style, Barrionuevo and Portela do capture some strong emotions in their characters faces, but the drawback is that all the characters look the same with only their girth, gender, bandages and cowls differentiating them. The Joker and Bruce Wayne look almost identical on pages 21 and 22 respectively.

To cap things off, the book has an interesting cliffhanger ending, setting up a potential one-on-one battle between a mystery villain [see the last page] and Batman that fans should be excited about.

Overall, Gotham Knights is an entertaining read. It’s no Killing Joke, but it’s a decent Batman rogue’s story.