Recently I read and reviewed The Joker: Clown Prince of Crime, a collection of Joker stories in a new trade paperback. This sample of Joker’s 1970’s-era escapades whet my appetite for short story comic collections, and luckily for me, DC Comics has put out another book of vignettes by one of my favorite pairs of Batman writers & illustrators: Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, who both worked on Batman: the Animated Series. Seriously, don’t get me started on Batman: the Animated Series, because it really is the best depiction of Batman out there and it’s just plain awesome.
Batman: Mad Love and Other Stories is a collection of great stand-alone tales anchored by “Mad Love,” one of the best Batman stories ever. The funny thing is, “Mad Love” isn’t really about Batman; it’s about Harley Quinn, the Joker’s accomplice and maybe-girlfriend, the clown princess of crime. Dini and Timm created Harley for the animated series, and since then, she’s grown to become a beloved figure in the DC universe. Although I was somewhat disappointed that this book wasn’t entirely made up of Harley-themed stories, the material that is included is entertaining and unique, making this a must-read title.
Batman fans will definitely enjoy this collection of well-written and enjoyable stories. Its entries range in length—some are quite short while others take a little longer to get through—but all of them are top-notch. Dini and Timm are truly great writers, and this collection showcases their talent as collaborators. These tales of laughter, melancholy, and attempted murder are perfect for fans of all ages, whether they are seasoned in the ways of the caped crusader or new to his crime-fighting mission. The stories also include many fun and fantastic villains, from Harley and Joker to Roxy Rocket, the Ventriloquist, Scarface, and more. In a cool slice of comics trivia, one story features a demon that was originally created by Jack Kirby.
Not all of the stories are illustrated by Bruce Timm, but quite a few of them are in his signature style. Timm’s illustrations are always colorful and fun. They exude a particular kind of happiness, even when the Joker is tossing Harley out in her nightgown, and that’s what makes his stories so entertaining: the combination of dialogue with pitch-perfect illustrations and whimsical coloring. However, that’s not to denigrate the other illustrators whose work is featured in this book. Rick Taylor brings a melancholy sadness to poor Mr. Arnold Wesker—better known as the Ventriloquist—while Klaus Janson illustrates a Scarecrow story with colorful realism. Some entries emulate the classic Film Noir look, while others showcase a 1970’s vibe with bright backgrounds and distinct shadowing that contributes to the mystery of the story. All of the entries utilize a basic panel structure that isn’t hard to follow and easy-to-read lettering throughout.
Batman: Mad Love and Other Stories was one of the most enjoyable collections of comics I’ve read this year and it’s a book that I’ll definitely pick up again and again—a fun way to spend an afternoon!
Batman: Mad Love and Other Stories
by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm
Art by Bruce Timm, Rich Burchett, John Byrne, Dan DeCarlo, Klaus Janson, Glenn Murakami, Mike Parobeck, Matt Wagner
DC Comics, 2011