Writer & Artist: Sean Murphy
This is by far one of the darkest arcs of Batman, and Sean Murphy is able to continue it with meaning and cathartic content. It’s filled with such complex and manipulative love, issue #5 amazingly draws interactions of complex relationships.
Harley & Batman: Harley is having a hard time dealing with both Batman and Jack Napier. In a strange way, she is attached to Batman as much as she is attached to Joker. Their love is not sickly, but family. He has cared for her and believed in Harley’s redemption. And so, she doesn’t harm help but decides not to help him. Murphy brings out the darkness of this dynamic as Batman becomes angry at her pacifying.
Harley & Jack: This might not be the real Harley, but even as they play fight, Jack has to tell Harley to not give him a black-eye, in which she responds “Ehh, quit yer whining and go put on your makeup…” Yikes!
Harley & Joker: The most infamous couple for their violence. Harley is still in love and has an unfathomable perspective. She empathizes with the Joker. She admits to seeking for his moments of weakness so she was able to share more of her. To allow him to chip away at her is Harley’s form of love.
Joker & Batman: They are twisted and destined and they are horror and pain. They both idolize the same goal, but would rather destroy each other than achieve it, and the doctor calls them out on this: “Maybe if you two weren’t so stubborn you’d realize how similar you’ve become.”
Batman & his family (Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon): Bruce Wayne is NOT acting cool here. One of his darkest points is the way he speaks to Dick Grayson.
These are the closest types of relationships thinkable in the DC world. The level as to how each character knows each other is unimaginable. Only you can know your loved ones on this planet, and so sometimes this love is manipulative, it can easily turn abusive. As the Joker once said, “All you need is just one bad day.”
I love how he references “Harley’s Holiday” from Bruce Timm’s Batman: The Animated Series. She admits she never once got mad because she knows who the real good guy is. Batman is becoming violent, I think it’s one of the most abusively violent versions of Batman we’ve been exposed to. He’s using his strength to harm and to dominate, something altruistic heroes are majorly against. And so it gets darker:
Marian Drews investigates the Wayne Manor to discover or plant evidence that their family supported the Nazis back in World War II. This secret would spill so much toxin into the name of Wayne. The Wayne were people who built their lives on the backs of those suffering. This anger, this hate, is it natural to Batman?
The art is gorgeous and full of visual treats. And how much of a daring show can Poison Ivy perform? Sean Murphy knows how to write a psychedelic toxin out of Ivy.
And hey! We also get Bruce Wayne in a pink bathrobe, and whoever planned this scene is an emotional genius; it was a smack of a break from the heavy narrative.
There’s so much fighting left to do and I lose my mind each time I read this series! It’s commentary on social politics and social relationships stand true even at this time. Murphy and colorist Matt Hollingsworth are killing it in issue #5, making it not hard to fall in love at all. Reading it, you can tell it’s a personal issue as he pulls in realistic moments and perspective. How many monsters have been loved? And how many heroes have been tortured in silence?
Cannot WAIT for the next issue!
Images courtesy of DC Entertainment