Li’l Gotham #21
by Dustin Nguyen & Derek Fridolfs
There are plenty of Halloween-themed issues coming out this month. With much of the issues of Li’l Gotham having some holiday focus, it would be safe to assume that this issue would involve that holiday as well. Instead, Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs capture the spirit of October with a different holiday and bring readers another excellent entry in the series. Joint visitation means that Bruce must bring Damian to see his mother, and it is no surprise that things get interesting when the Al Ghul family is involved.
Before diving into the story, it must be mentioned that the cover of the issue is extraordinary. The ghoul-filled moment is gorgeous and Nguyen deserves as much credit for how unique and beautiful the title looks as he gets for its stories. The focus of this issue finds Bruce and Damian heading to visit Talia and Ra’s, who is referred to as ‘Grandpa’ here, which is both adorable and bizarre considering the subject. Along the way, their flight is disrupted when they have engine trouble and the two must parachute and survive in the desert, trekking by foot to reach the castle.
The issue seems to feature more references than normal. That is not to say that the book is bogged down with these moments. Instead they are all worked in incredibly well and are unlikely to interrupt the story to those familiar or unfamiliar with what is being mentioned. Among all of the nods made, the most entertaining of them involve former Robin, Jason Todd. The most subtle however, a line offered by Alfred, is a fantastic but chilling moment that certainly has an impressive degree of dark humor.
The issue also makes time for some very authentic, almost candid father-son interaction. Between comedic moments like the visual gag of Damian strapped to Bruce while parachuting to other interactions, readers are reminded that these two characters are father and son. Nguyen and Fridolfs do a great job of writing them, and it is in these moments that audiences find the heart that makes all of the humor even more effective. There are even a few family moments shared once they reach the Al Ghul castle. Seeing Talia curled up in bed with Damian while reading him a story is some fun imagery that knowingly betrays these characters’ roots for humor.
The climax of the issue when met with Damian’s commentary fuse to create some serious laughter. All Saints Day was an unexpected holiday to choose, but Nguyen and Fridolfs prove once again that they have a solid handle on the series and its characters, and everything else falls into place gracefully.