This week, DC has a pretty big sale on Comixology called "Gotham's Finest," focusing on Batman's supporting cast, and it's a bit of a weird one. For one thing, it looks to be primarily themed around 1999's No Man's Land crossover, the massive story of a functionally post-apocalyptic Gotham City that has been ravaged by an earthquake, and the Officer Down event from 2001 that saw Jim Gordon shot by an unknown assailant.

That doesn't mean it's bad --- a lot of those stories are good, and Scott Snyder and Jock's Black Mirror is something you definitely want to get if you don't have it already --- but it does mean that they're asking for a pretty big commitment. If you've only got a single dollar burning a hole in your pocket and you're looking for a great read, though, there's one comic you need to get immediately: 1984's Batman Special #1, "The Player On The Other Side."

 

 

Written by Mike W. Barr with art by Michael Golden and Mike DeCarlo, "The Player On The Other Side" is one of my all-time favorite single-issue stories, largely because it takes one of the weirdest premises, takes it to its logical extreme, and then presents it with complete grim sincerity.

The core idea is that it's Batman against his evil counterpart, someone who's as devoted to crime as Batman is to justice, which is a pretty good starting point. What sets the Wrath apart, though, is that it's everything taken one step further --- he's not just an evil version of Batman who wears a big W on his face so that he has the same silhouette, he's someone who turned to crime when his criminal parents were gunned down by cops at the exact same moment that Thomas and Martha Wayne were shot by a mugger.

If that sounds familiar, it's because it's a similar origin to the one that Prometheus had when he showed up under Morrison and Porter in JLA, in a story that similarly went way over the top. Admittedly, the Wrath doesn't download Batman's digitized karate moves into his brain via CD-ROM, but, you know, it was the '80s. Technology just wasn't there.

 

Click for full size

 

But really, that's the charm of the story. The basics are as far beyond normal as Batman himself, but when the Wrath goes after Commissioner Gordon --- because the law's staunchest ally would therefore be his biggest target --- it's presented as a serious action story with all the thrills that go along with that. It's a great read, and Golden and DeCarlo make it an absolutely beautiful one as well.

The 'Gotham's Finest sale runs through August 10.

 

You Think You Know Batman? Check Out Some Facts You May Not Know