The more I read the "Joker's Asylum II" one-shots, the more I'm impressed. If this is DC's way of working with a new crop of writers and getting them an early shot at the big leagues, it's working quite well. Take for instance the latest issue, "Joker's Asylum II: Killer Croc." At its core, we're getting crime noir Killer Croc. It's a ludicrously fantastic phrase when you think about it. But you know what? It was pretty fun.
If you've ever read a crime noir story, you can see exactly where this is heading. Killer Croc in with a wannabe crime boss husband and his wife is an average enough idea, but it's all of the little details that Mike Raicht comes up with that makes it entertaining. He has David Yardin place Killer Croc in a button down shirt and vest, and there's something instantly strange about the visual that grabs your attention. And so, as the story progresses and Killer Croc continues to stand (or attack) silently in his suit, you find yourself wondering just how much of his humanity still remains in his crocodile body. That's the big story; not the series of betrayals that you see coming, but at what point (if any) Killer Croc will have enough.
Yardin's and Cliff Richard's pencils are ultimately the star of the show. Yardin draws the book in a great combination of smooth and ragged, depending on the character and the scene itself. And fortunately, Richards is a good substitute for Yardin; while he doesn't pull off the ragged quite as much, "smooth" is absolutely the word I'd use to describe Richards' art too. But it's Yardin that steals the show; images that should've been a throw-away, like the reflection in the pool of blood on the floor of Arkham, end up chilling and worth a second look. Likewise, the image of Batman in the alleyway trying to track Killer Croc doesn't look quite like anyone else's art in comics these days, in a good way.
It's not a perfect one-shot — it's probably the weakest of the "Joker's Asylum II" issues to date — but it still sets out to do something and achieves it, and I felt like my time was well-spent. And despite one of the more gruesome scenes I've read in comics this month (Killer Croc's escape from Arkham), it never felt like it went too far or over the top. I'd definitely take another look at a comic from Raicht down the line.