Rendered in adorable watercolors from Dustin Nguyen, "Batman: Li'l Gotham" #5 brings a Valentine's Day installment featuring the exploits of the Joker as he tries to evade a day enslaved to the bidding of Harley Quinn. The opening scene exposes the Joker's displeasure for the holiday in comparison to imprisonment in Arkham or even defeat at the hands of Batman.
A mishap with some potions puts the Joker in a spot where he begins to enthrall all the ladies he encounters. The basic plot is lifted from comics, cartoons and storybooks, but slotting in the diminutive denizens of Li'l Gotham freshens up the story, providing ample opportunity for sight gags, puns and over-the-top expressions and reactions wonderfully captured in Nguyen's paintings. Letterer Saida Temofonte rounds out the visuals with quaint sound effects and charming manipulations of the dialog stemming from the love-potion affected females in this story.
Nguyen even squeezes in a li'l cameo from the Li'l Justice League as they work on a satellite. That scene allows for the obligatory Batman appearance and even provides a nice bit of snark from the miniature version of the Caped Crusader. It's a fun aside from the thrill of the chase that drives "Batman: Li'l Gotham" #5.
In a week that delivers the grand finale to the sweeping "Death of the Family" crossover, which shaped Batman comics for months now, this issue offers a nice contrast and another fine example of the variety of influences and interpretations that celebrate these characters. A youthful troublemaker that could easily have tripped into this comic by making a wrong turn while trick or treating replaces the grotesque Joker with the decaying chunk of flesh stretched over his face in "Batman." The Li'l Gothamites are cute and entertaining, not overly so in that they loose their personalities, but just enough to distinctly represent a fresh version.
This valentine from DC's Digital First lineup is certainly worth the price and will most definitely provide a longer lasting impression than candy or cards. As Nguyen and co-writer Derek Fridolfs have done throughout the series, "Batman: Li'l Gotham" #5 offers an amusing and picturesque celebration of Valentine's Day, with a super twist.