The second “season” of DC Comics’ mid-90’s anthology series fared mildly better than the first, with a better line up of creative talent, although the character selections at times left much to be desired (aside from Hitman, was there even one other Bloodlines character they could consider a success?).
The opening story featured the Joker in a dreamlike fantasy world where he was a regular joe struggling with his homicidal tendencies, living in a land where a Skeletor-like version of the Joker faced off against his demonic Bat-nemesis for domination of the land. The fact that we’re supposed to be in the Joker’s head makes the story… difficult to appreciate (I think a drugged up, dreaming Joker would hardly tell a linear story). James Robinson puts in a decent effort, but the real charm is Christian Alamy’s art, which is open and beautiful juxtaposed with horrific and grotesque imagery. A back-up feature with Orion squaring off against the Source Wall by Walt Simonson and Jose Luis Garcia Lopez is a decent read, but again better to look at.
There’s also an unassuming Blue Beetle story where the bug winds up in a town policed with an iron fist, primarily using his technology. It’s a rather simple old-west style story of fighting an unjust law, which is illustrated by Patrick Rolo, who kind of came and went in the mid-90’s. Rolo has a great eye for dynamic figure work, and his thick inks made for a distinctive look amidst the Image-obsessed era. The story ends revealing itself to be a prologue for another story which may or may not have concluded in the Justice League, so that’s disappointing.
The Arkham Asylum feature story in issues 3 and 4 by Alan Grant and Tim Sale was highly enjoyable, as the institutions inmates are forced into staying at the Blackgate island prison, where they’re uncomfortably mingled with the vilest of sane murderers and thieves. Jeremiah Arkham and the facility’s warden decide to let the two factions hostilities be resolved via a softball game, and despite it’s obviously silly premise it does provide for a fun two-parter with a more than satisfying resolution.
Issues 5&6 feature the first and third part of a Robin/Huntress story by Chuck Dixon and Phil Jimenez, of which part 2 was facilitated in Robin #6, so these two issues have joined Aden’s Robin collection.
Issue 10 has a “Zero Hour” lead-in story featuring the “Time Villains” (Clock King, Chronos, Calendar Man and Time Commander) last seen in the godawful Team Titans. This story is a fun spot of “time is broken”, as multiple versions of the characters start appearing and glitches in time start to cause massive confusion. Its fun but it never really has a resolution as the characters are completely forgotten in the events of Zero Hour.