Jester song

Batman Vol 3: Death of the Family
by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV,
illustrated by Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion and Jock.
DC Comics 2013.

Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy…

Hamlet, Act V Scene 1

In the medieval period the suggestion is that monarchs would keep jesters to amuse them, to be the butt of jokes possibly but also to speak truth to them in seeming jokes and enigmatic statements.

One of the underlying themes in this graphic novel is of Batman being a monarch in a court composed of his extended ‘family’ of Alfred Pennyworth, Commissioner Gordon, Robin, Batgirl, Nightwing and so on; in which case the masked detective’s murderous adversary the Joker positions himself as the perpetually grinning jester.

This collected edition of Nos 13 to 17 of the Batman comic, which includes ‘backup’ related stories by an extended team of writers and artists, was part of DC Comics’ reboot of their titles of a decade ago, going back as it were to basics but with a 21st-century sensibility; but this was a sensibility which didn’t hold back on graphic violence while, at the same time, being surprisingly mimsy about strong language.

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Grounded? Wanna bet?

Cover art by Sara Pichelli and Justin Ponsor

Ms. Marvel, Volume 1: No Normal
by G Willow Wilson,
Adrian Alphona, artist.
Marvel Collected Editions 2014

Presenting the international sensation, the All-New Ms. Marvel! shouts the back cover of this collection of numbers 1-5 of the comic book giving us this origin story. “Kamala Khan is an ordinary girl from Jersey City — until she’s suddenly empowered with extraordinary gifts”: and while we’re given some answers to how this came about, like many such origin stories it’s just the start of much more.

What distinguishes the new Ms. Marvel is that she’s not only a Muslim American with Pakistani parents but also just 16 years old; this means that all the usual teenage anxieties and challenges have then to manage different cultural expectations — in addition to the unexpected acquisition of powers undreamt of.

Luckily she has the mental resources to help her deal with her powers, aided and abetted by (a) her addiction to writing Avengers fanfic and (b) her friend Bruno whose interests in biochemistry may lead to a university scholarship. But whether these will be enough for her to cope with the kind of emergencies her Avengers idols have to routinely manage is another matter.

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Crusader with a cape

batmanchalice

Batman: The Chalice
by Chuck Dixon.
Illustrated by John Van Fleet
DC Comics 1999

Into Bruce Wayne’s hands is entrusted an object for safekeeping. Once sought and guarded by his medieval ancestors, the house of Gevain, the Holy Grail — for this is it, a relic missing since the time of the Crusades — proves a dangerous legacy for Wayne to guard, even when he is in his guise of Gotham City’s finest, Batman.

Shall I list those who also seek the cup for its power? Ra’s al Ghul, the Penguin, Catwoman, Ubu, the Brotherhood of the Merivingians [sic] for a start. Lined up on the caped crusader’s side are Alfred, Azrael, the Oracle and Commissioner Gordon, but will they be enough to hold off the dark forces that hanker after the sacred receptacle?

Or will Bruce be forced to call upon a more superior being to spirit it away?

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