I would watch a Skottie Young Batman, though I’m thinking it would feature the douche-nozzle Jean Paul Valley. It wouldn’t be right, but by the gods would it be fun. What I’ve always been impressed with in his work is the ability he seems to have to step outside of the form, look at it, and use what he likes to turn the rest on its ear - utilizing the form itself as art. It’s akin to what Miles Davis did with his trumpet, or what Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong did with their voices, or how Jim Henson transformed the expectations of puppetry in its various styles, or what Jeffery Zakarian can do with an Iron Chef mystery ingredient. (Anybody else notice that the telekinetic Inhuman from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is the Chairman from that show? I’m hoping that they have him fake out eating an onion to an apple at some point. Just saying.) (I’m really pushing the boundaries on references this time ‘round, eh?)
Gertude was dead, to begin with. (Rizzo, stop eating those apples!) We are once again greeted by a new storyteller, a device that Mr. Young has placed in front of us several times with each being shuffled off their immortal coil by Gertrude with much haste. It seems that this will become a “You killed Kenny” kind of gag that will play out no matter the reason behind it, which is an example of what I mentioned in between references in the paragraph above. (I’m now referencing myself…insufferable.) He’s taking an established gag and turning up the heat on it to make something…hotter. Um, better. He’s adding layers to the base ideas of the book, which is incredibly fun already, to continue growing these characters and their world with depth rather than the breadth we’d been given before. Yes, new areas and vistas make for pretty splash pages, but I find defining character moments just as wondrous. Gertrude’s been hysterical for me, laying into the “unsuspecting” denizens of Fairyland like me finding popcorn shrimp at a buffet, though she’s been going like a typical MMORPG player, hitting every side-quest while the “terrible danger that’s happening right now but really only when you get there and accept that mission” slides for, say, 27 years? Now, we have a dedicated plot against her, providing some further structure to this sugary sweet slam fest. This is what will raise the book above its superbly silly slapstick and into the realm of a really kick@$* action series.
Subtlety can mean so much in the terms of artwork. With just a little adjustment of Gertrude’s posture and body language, Young transforms our snarky, little anti-hero into someone who’s really menacing. She pulls the Queen out of a hat with as little consideration as any of her other “let’s kill things” moments, but now there’s a determination to it. She is willing to lay her power against anyone in this world. Up to the point of meeting Happy (Hmmm…subtext much, Dr Freud?), Gertrude was a tornado of amazingly blasé destruction, just sort of bowling though the world. Now, she’s focused, and it’s honestly a little scary. It’s a minor, but noticeable and visceral, change. I can’t forget to recognize how amazing Jean-Francois Beaulieu’s colors are throughout the series. He adds to the new undertones that Young applies to the things I’ve mentioned, but also finds the places where the cheerful world meets destruction and finds ways to keep even moments of stillness active and alive. The palette is vibrant and nuanced, and I’m always amazed at how everything looks like candy, even the blood.
So, the back page is where Skottie goes the extra mile to turn the satirical tone onto himself, and it’s always in a fun, not-too-self-deprecating tone. It’s another nod to how very aware he is in all his choices, and that’s what makes his book so interesting to enjoy and pull apart. Nods at his put-upon cleverness of dispatching overwhelming odds between issues belie the careful thought and consideration that he commands in his work. Skottie Young has given us a broken and flawed character in a world that won’t accept her, and every moment is pure bliss because he just does it so damn well.
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