Written By: James Tynion IV
Art by: Mikel Janin
Colors by: Jeromy Cox
Lettering by: Tom Nepolitano
Sandwiched between the previous arc and the next big one, this issue acts as an epilogue and a prologue simultaneously. In the last issue The Justice League have captured the totality, encountered Starman, and the Legion of Doom have The Batman Who Laughs. Scott Snyder and Jorge Jimenez have also taken this issue off handing the duties to a different team. Furthermore, this issue focuses far more on the villains than it does on the heroes, as referenced in the cover. This comic is essentially a stop gap between two major story beats.
The issue revolves around three things; the return/reboot of Starman, The Batman Who Laughs, and setting up the next arc (Road to Drowned Earth). This is an issue with far more questions than answers. Starman is still a big mystery and exactly how he is linked to the totality (from the previous arc) is not discovered. The Batman Who Laughs plays the foil in this comic and his motivations remain unclear. Finally, the drowned Earth arc is hinted at but the full consequences have to been realized.
James Tynion has worked closely with Snyder in the past, and they make an excellent team when passing writing duties back and forth. Unlike normal “fill in” writers, Tynion is able to carry the title without any jarring changes in tone. The scenes with The Batman Who Laughs are downright frightening. You can tell Tynion has a lot of fun writing for the character, as out of the three central mysteries he gets center stage. The character being part Joker and part Batman is played up perfectly. He is written as equally unsettling, sadistic, and conniving (Joker) as he is intelligent, deductive, and forward planning (Batman). If there is one fault in the storytelling it is that scenes with The Batman Who Laughs really drown out anything else. I found it hard to be as invested in Starman or the Drowned Earth prologue has they seemed far less intriguing.
Much of what can be said about the writing can be said of Mikel Janin’s art. Everything is incredibly well done, but it is clear that it is The Batman Who Laughs is who he really enjoys drawing. There are clear allusions to the works of Clive Barker (Hellraiser in particular) and horror throughout any part of the book with him. There is one particular series of events that stuck with me far after putting the issue down, involving the reveal that The Batman Who Laughs may not be as captive as Lex Luthor has hoped. Scenes outside those ones are well done but far less dynamic.