"Joke's On You"
Writer: Judd Winick
Artists: Tom Raney (p), Scott Hanna (inks)
A-plot and B-plot come together this issue, as the Joker tortures a captured Luthor for some unspecified items, while the Outsiders use force and wits to combat the gorilla troops led by Grodd that are still invading New York City.
I really liked the way the plot threads meshed this time, because I was not seeing a lot of connection between Grodd's attack and Luthor's abduction in previous issues. Those issues offered something else, though, showcases for most of our new heroes in this latest "non-team" of oddballs in action.
The Joker, whom Winick delights in writing, takes the spotlight this issue. Me, never a big fan, not sure if anything new can be done with the character. It's not the part of the book that works best for me, even though Winick does a passable gloss on Byrne's more human, Kingpin-like Luthor.
It's not really in the battle on the streets and piers of NYC either, though it's nice to see Nightwing's strategy and Arsenal's skill work so well together once a plan of response is formulated. This team does communicate, and Winick has made a lot of refreshing choices in assembling it. Indigo's the newbie, making everyone uncomfortable with her awkward questions, unknown abilities and compromised history.
I like that the physical powerhouses of the team are two of the women, Thunder and Grace. One shifts her density and weight (kind of like the Vision), and the other is "really freaking strong" (kinda like Giganta with a brain). None of this Star Boy (heavy) and Light Lass (weightless) power sexism for the highly evolved Winick.
Adding Jade to the team (a sentimental favorite for Winick, I'm sure, but one of the few DC heroines to have been repowered almost to her original state after the eighties debacles) is a smart move. It's only Metamorpho, in fact, who hasn't really gotten a spotlit moment yet. After the recent failure of the Doom Patrol, I'm not sure if we need another Cliff Steele/Ben Grimm figure on a misguided team. Well, that's how I've always seen him, but this team ain't misguided thus far.
So, once we're done with Joker's posturing (and some homophobic banter from Lex that is probably more in character than not), we get to the real meat of this story. It's a scene I think the book required, given its history: a sequence in the Batcave of Bruce passing the baton to Dick. In what amounts to a mission statement for the title, the two old friends end the issue with one of their typically tense conversations, which reflects the nature of their estrangement as well as their unavoidable affinity. It's very nicely done, as is a somewhat more clichéd scene of Thunder's father, Black Lightning, disapproving strongly of her career choice. He clearly wishes the hero bug had never bitten his daughter. Winick may not be Bendis on the dialogue front, but he does a fair job of depicting believable emotions.
Raney's not slouch on that front, either. His Joker is effeminate (which fits the script), his Arsenal is commanding and sexy, and his Jade is a confident, beautiful legacy hero. I'm not that sure about his Metamorpho (even Porter managed to capture some of his Silver-aged goofiness of design, while Raney is all about the modern updating), but the gorillas have been great throughout.
Another winner, if still a bit showy. The last Teen Titans lost its way by telling the wrong stories about complex people. Can Winick pick the right ones?
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