The 2015 Weekly Writer Challenge: Week 11 – Paul Dini (Part 2)
52 weeks. 52 different writers. 2 trade paperbacks or hardcovers a week. Each week I’ll take a look at a different writer and read two different collected editions from within that person’s repertoire to help in the examination of their work. Paul Dini carries on this week’s challenge as we look at even more of his work with some of the charismatic women who reside in Gotham City.
Paul Dini stepped back into the Batman spotlight in 2006 to help compliment Grant Morrison’s run with the character. In the midst of this run, Dini brought back the fan favourite Batman villain, Hush, and pitted him in a sinister way against Bruce Wayne and the Bat-family. Dini used the reintroduction of Hush as a springboard for another series featuring three of Gotham’s baddest ladies. Gotham City Sirens was born and cast Catwoman, Harley Quinn, and Poison Ivy in a new light that won fans over immediately.
Gotham City Sirens
Gotham City Sirens follows Catwoman, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy after some major shakeups in Gotham City. Catwoman recently had he heart removed by Hush, Harley and the Joker are no longer an item and Poison Ivy has been spending plenty of time with a reformed Riddler. When the three ladies cross paths in the new Gotham climate, they decide that there’s no better time than now for them to start living together. With the three Gotham City sirens all under one roof, plenty of shenanigans start to unfold featuring a plethora of guests from Batman’s rogues gallery.
For a story that features Batman’s three biggest female villains (and sometimes allies), Gotham City Sirens is a far different story than what you’d expect it to be. It’s more “Two Broke Girls” than it is something like “The Dark Knight Returns” (No I don’t watch Two Broke Girls, I just know the basic premise of that show…don’t judge me for knowing things!). By that I mean the book is light and playful instead of taking itself overly serious, which is surprisingly refreshing and ultimately makes a ton of sense when you settle in to how the three main characters are portrayed. It’s a series that I could actually see being made into something of a sitcom and with someone like Paul Dini writing it, a man who is famous for his work on Batman: The Animated Series, it makes sense that this comic could feel made for television.
Dini handles the distribution of story quite well throughout Gotham City Sirens, giving each woman her moment to shine but it is abundantly apparent from the opening moments that Catwoman is the “cat”alyst (sorry, I had to) for this story. It’s the events that occur to her before Gotham City Sirens even begins that really dictate the direction of the story. In Paul Dini’s Batman storyline “Heart Of Hush”, Hush surgically removes Catwoman’s heart to strike out against Batman. It’s a great story that serves as a backdoor pilot to Gotham City Sirens. Catwoman experiences a few minor health issues as a result of her heart being ripped out, grappling with that and ends up using Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy as an almost safety net. Catwoman draws in the other two females by giving them a cut of the $30 million dollars she steals from Hush as a result of the “Heart Of Hush” story. At the end of the day, it shows how heavily this story hinges on “Heart Of Hush” which is a little unfortunate. With Gotham City Sirens being a fresh, new series, one would hope it would be a little less reliant on other stories but at the same time, if it wasn’t for certain developments in Batman’s world during this time fram, the book wouldn’t have even been possible in the first place.
As much as I point out how the heavy reliance on continuity is a little bit of a bad thing for the story, Paul Dini manages to still make it work brilliantly in other aspects. When you get past having to take in that Hush is actually parading around as Bruce Wayne or that the Riddler is a good guy now, the story gets a bit easier to handle and actually compliments everything happening. But to a further point, the best storyline in the first collection actually hinges on some little known history surrounding Batman and the Joker. Dini pulls a great trick, fooling the reader into thinking one thing is happening when in reality it is something completely different that’s occurring.
Each woman that forms up the Sirens gets a great chance to shine within every storyline. Catwoman is a focal point of the entire series, dealing with her heart problems but also providing a home base to the ladies of the team. Naturally she is cast into a leadership role, attributed to her wealth but in some ways also because of her character alignment. Of the trio of Sirens, Catwoman is easily the one who falls closest to being considered “good willed”. The feline loving female might be closer to a hero than any of the other women but that doesn’t mean she shies away from doing things that might not be considered good. Harley Quinn is like the annoying younger sister of the bunch, still being slightly lovestruck as well as irresponsible. She leads a fast and wild lifestyle with little regard for her actions or how they effect other people. Harley seemingly goes through a very mild emotional roller coaster as she’s torn asunder by her loyalty to the ladies versus her loyalty to the love of her life, the Joker. Poison Ivy seems like the most independent character of the bunch, with her stories never really needing much connectivity with the other women’s tales. More often than not you’ll see Ivy off dealing with her own conflicts while Harley and Catwoman gallivant around Gotham. Even still, Ivy’s inclusion in the story paves the way for the appearance of another important and unexpected member of the cast, The Riddler
One surprising aspect to his volume is the fact that Dini includes a reformed Riddler into the story on more than a few occasions. With his initial appearance in the story, it’s easy for one to write off his appearance as meaningless but the further you get the more you realize that he has a bit more of a role to play. Dini actually gives the character some great moments and even his own issue to tell a story in. It defies a bit of the logic surrounding the title of the book having the word “Sirens” in it but it still works for telling some compelling tales. The Riddler isn’t a character that many writers tackle due to the challenge it is to write him but Dini takes the challenge head on, utilizing the chance to write the character in a new light.
When it’s all said and done, the best part of Gotham City Sirens is the fact that these stories aren’t serious. Yes, there can be some serious subject matter within some of these stories but Dini handles them with a tasteful manner that keeps the tone light instead of gruesome. Ultimately, these stories were never going to change the lives of these women or Batman forever, and it shows in Dini’s approach. He handles the characters seriously but the stories themselves are just fun. When a writer doesn’t need to worry about making sure their stories are status quo shaking or internet exploding, they get a better feeling of freedom as they can write without the shackles of making sure everything is absolutely perfect. With that said, Dini does strike perfection with how he writes every single character. That alone is more than enough of a reason to pick up Gotham City Sirens and enjoy it for what it is; a fun collection of stories featuring a trio of Gotham’s lovely ladies.
Collects: Gotham City Sirens #1-13
Best Character: The Riddler
Best Line Of Dialogue/Caption: “And if I’ve learned nothing else from Bugs Bunny cartoons, it’s that there’s always SOMETHING I can say to get the bad guy to untie me.” – Harley Quinn.
Best Scene/Moment: Harley Quinn and Bruce Wayne’s night out – Issue 4
Best Issue: Issue 5 -Out Of The Pest. Issue Five stands out because of it’s dramatic opening and conclusion as well as the way Dini reaches into Batman history and uses a little known character from it. The issue opens and closes with the Sirens in true peril of which they deal with in clever ways. It’s an all around solid issue that is a high point to the most compelling arc inside the entire collection.
Why You Should Read It: Read Gotham City Sirens because it’s fun. Plain and simple. Paul Dini nails the characterization of every single character in this volume, making every story rewarding even if they aren’t overly serious. Dini throws conflict after conflict at these women and they just keep marching on to the beat of their own drum. You’ll take plenty of laughs away from a collection of stories set in the Batman world during a particularly interesting time period.