Batman #9, with the shadows outside the spotlight forming the menacing shape of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. No! It's not FDR; it's The Penguin! That makes much more sense.
The interior art is handled by Michael Avon Oeming, a welcome presence whose highly cartoony art makes for a quite nice result when blended with the general aesthetic of the TV show's costumes and design work. The script is by an even older comics hand, Mike W. Barr, who has turned in one of the more complex, densely dialogued issues of the series to date. While The Penguin is hardly Batman's greatest foe, he's definitely one of his more eloquent enemies, and it's a pleasure to imagine the alliterative lines and literary allusions Barr writes being spoken in the voices of Adam West and Burgess Meredith.
The Earth-2 refugees and their new ally Deimos (the archenemy of the title character from Warlord, if you've never met and/or heard of him) continue to journey to the underground city that seems to be beyond Telos' ability to attack (smart money would say Skartaris, setting of Warlord), stopping to fight Telos' borrowed Brainiac robots along the way.
Telos visits the city of Kandor to cajole the Kryptonians into fighting, as they don't seem to be attacking another city as he demanded. This whole scene is a little on the weird side. Kandor doesn't look too terrible Kandorian, no one has superpowers (what color sun is shining down on Telos? The lighting sure suggests yellow), and Nightwing and Flamebird (both of whom are male) are there, so I assume this is a Pre-Crisis Kandor.
Oddly, writer Jeff King doesn't really introduce the city or its two superheroes; Flamebird's name is mentioned, Nightwing's isn't. And then Telos just kills the whole city anyway, so who cares, I guess.
Meanwhile, Earth-2 Batman II decides to cover his pals as they make their way underground, and Earth-2 Dick Grayson remains with him. It appears that while they failed to recruit any of the dozen or so superheroes just chilling in Pre-Flashpoint Gotham City, including that city's Batman, they were followed by a big chunk of Batman's rogues gallery. I wasn't sure if all of those characters should be there in the forms they were (Like The Joker and Dr. Hurt, for example), but the tie-ins are so full of little continuity and timing glitches, it's not really worth dwelling on how Stephen Segovia and Jason Paz draw The Joker's face or whatever.
Earth-2 Batman II appears to kill himself while taking out all of them save The Joker (I think; there's a body, but his head doesn't come off or anything, and DC usually goes pretty over-the-top when it comes to depicting a death...plus, he should be pumped full of Miralco, and thus still pretty invulnerable), The Joker shoots Earth-2 Dick Grayson who is totally gonna be the new Earth-2 Batman III in June's Earth 2: Society and, in the underground city of Skartarsis (Hey, I was right!), Shakira is using construction equipment to throw Monarch and Per Degaton into a pile of time-travelers. None of whom I recognize. I think one might be Max Mercury, and another a mis-colored Waverider, but I'm just guessing now.
I have no idea who the Bat-villain dressed like a cartoon king is, nor do I know who the all-white guy is. Help?
Save for this one, of course, which pairs Bernie Wrightson-inspired artist Kelley Jones (who drew some of my favorite Swamp Thing pages after Alan Moore and Rick Veitch's runs) with Swamp Thing co-creator Len Wein. You couldn't really ask for a better team for this book. Not without somehow convincing Wrightson to draw Swamp Thing again, of course, and even then I wouldn't be that excited, as Jones is one of my favorite comics artists of all time.
So Wein takes the time period quite literally here, as his issue opens immediately before Crisis on Infinite Earths, with Abby remarking on the red skies, and Swamp Thing traveling to Gotham City to ask Batman what's up with them (Rather than traveling through The Green, he puts on a trench coat and wide-brimmed hat and takes the train, as Abby wanted to go with).
They're not there long before a dome goes up, and they're stuck, with Swamp Thing cut off from The Green and lacking his powers—sort of. I'm not sure how a Swamp Thing with no "powers" even works, as he is here the plant version that though; it was Alec Holland until he/it learned otherwise. What, exactly, animates Swamp Thing if he has no connection to The Green and no powers? Additionally, he seems to be able to use his powers to a certain degree, their effects just aren't very long (He grows a rose from his finger tip in one panel, for example, but it dies in the next panel).
And he never gets around to contacting Batman, although Batgirl Barbara Gordon appears briefly, chasing Poison Ivy. As for their opponents from a rival city, they're a bunch of vampires from the Vampire World's Gotham City—a setting co-created by Jones in the trilogy of Batman vs. vampires projects with Doug Moench.
Wein does an extremely efficient job on this book, re-telling Swamp Thing's entire origin in a three-page sequence, getting him into Gotham City, and then moving he and Abby through the year under the dome in a rather interesting fashion (Swamp Thing is basically stuck in the park, and Abby comes to visit him when she can and tell him about life outside the park). Jones predictably brings the crazy to Swamp Thing, in melodramatic poses and expressions, and incredible scenes of his body forming, de-forming and re-forming.
"Why not buy both?" the wily shopkeep asked. Ha! He was lucky I was spending $3.99 on a comic book at all! If I were as thrifty as Scrooge, I wouldn't have bought either, but merely read it in the store and put it back on the shelf.
At 43 pages worth of comics, it is a better value than the bulk of IDW's $3.99 comics. That may be because they're reprints—of Italian Disney comics—rather than originally produced comics, but I hope they can keep that price point and page count. If so, I may add this book to my pull-list, rather than just sampling it out of curiosity.