This is one of the most predictable comics I've read this year.
It's also one of the best. J Michael Straczynski begins his tenure as writer of DC's team-up book by dusting off Silver Age C-lister Robby Reed, possessor of the mysterious H-dial which turns him into a different hero every time, and sending him to Gotham City. The cover hints that he's not going to have the best of holidays - that's a pretty doomy title to go with the striking image by interior artist Jesus Saiz.
But by the time a petty criminal steals the dial a few pages in you know just where this story's going, and wait for the twist. Well, the twist is that there's no twist. But there is a nicely sketched guest hero, a striking transformation by Robby Reed* and a sermon from Batman that somehow works. I wasn't looking forward to an appearance by the overused Joker, but JMS really refreshed the character for me. His Clown Prince of Crime isn't trying to hard to be funny, but you can't miss that he's skewed. Truth be told, I could have stood more of him here. So far as the good guys go, JMS provides Batman with a 'glovely' new trick and makes Robby Reed a convincing kid.
The always accomplished Saiz ups his game to produce the most beautiful artwork I've seen from him, superbly coloured by Trish Mulvihill and complemented by the letters of Rob Leigh (click to enlarge). I like the Astro City-ish look of new hero the Star so much that I'm sorry we're not likely to see him again anytime soon. And wonder of wonders, someone has finally drawn the pouches as just that - pouches that move along with Batman.
But which Batman, continuity cops? I'm guessing Bruce, as he's such a dick with his 'This is my city' routine that masks a heart of something or other. Not that it matters much, when we have a gem of a story like this.
* One of those names you have to use in full every time, a la Charlie Brown; anything else doesn't seem right)