Batman: Arkham Knight #5– “Better Man/Bane of Existence”
Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Illustrated by Viktor Bogdanovic
Inks by Art Thibert
Colored by John Rauch
Letters by Travis Lanham
Man can Tomasi write some good dialogue.
At this point, I might sound like a broken record, but it bears repeating: Peter Tomasi knows these characters and how they should interact with one another. That certainly helps in stories like “Better Man”, the dialogue-heavy opener to Arkham Knight #5. Most of this story takes place in Marshall-Rogers Park in central Gotham City, with Bruce Wayne, Jim Gordon, and Barbara Gordon on a run while discussing city business. First off, it’s really nice seeing Barbara doing something that doesn’t include sitting behind a computer. I love Oracle, I really do, but seeing Babs out and about, interacting face to face with other characters is a delight.
Bruce and Barbara are trying to prod Jim toward becoming the new mayor of Gotham, and he of course refuses. Their interplay here is fantastic, with Bruce playing up his “oblivious billionaire” front (“Other than these running shoes, I don’t spend money on dumb ideas, Jim”) and Jim being his no-nonsense, down to earth self (“Barbara, I love you. Wayne… I tolerate you… and your heart’s generally in the right place.”) It’s funny conversation that doesn’t come off as empty banter or filler, but instead something that these people who’ve known each other a very long time would say to one another.
There’s also a funny scene where Bruce, playing down his athletic prowess, is told by the Gordons that he needs to exercise more, and it flashes back to Batman taking down thugs in the various landmarks they pass.
It’s an old storytelling technique to be certain, but it still works and it’s pretty funny.
There’s depth to their conversation too, with Gordon rejecting their offer to run for mayor with pretty understandable reasons. He feels that for the GCPD to make a real difference, to really change, it needs to be federalized, which he’s 100% against as a career cop. It’s something he knows has to happen, but he also knows he’s not the man to do it, because if he left the force it would fall apart at the seams. He does give his blessing to put together an exploratory committee, though, so some wheels can be set into motion. It’s a long scene, very dialogue-heavy, but as I said before it all rings true and feels like it has a point.
We’re also treated to a scene that could have easily been mishandled in a myriad of ways, but instead lets us see Barbara handle herself on her own. She’s held at knife-point by a thug who underestimates her ability to fend for herself. Being the more than capable woman she is, she takes the thug down with ease, and then does something I won’t outright spoil, but I will say offers a pretty big laugh and look into her personality.
“Bane of Existence” is up next, and no bonus points for guessing who that’s about. It’s a five-part story, and only the first two installments are collected here, so it’s a bit more difficult to judge it without knowing where it’s going. It’s a good enough set up, I suppose, but there’s some silly nonsense about Santa Priscans being the true heirs to Gotham and Bane being their fated deliverer. It’s a little too goofy, especially for a character like Bane who has been presented as cool, calculating and tactical from the beginning, but then again maybe the Titan is messing with him something fierce.
Two things I noticed about these two installments: they’re remarkably funny:
…and incredibly violent:
Bogdanovic has always done this series well, but in this issue especially he has some real fun with facial expressions and Rauch’s colors. The image he close the issue with is entirely predictable and a bit disappointing considering it’s been done to death, but thankfully we only have to wait a week for the resolution.
As an issue overall it’s a tad uneven, as are most that collect two different stories instead of telling one whole plot. Regardless, it’s a strong installment in a series that has yet to have a truly bad issue.
- You like Batman.
- You like to see Bruce Wayne interact with characters.
- You’re a fan of Jim Gordon.
- You like the Arkham games.
Overall: Solid overall, with the first third being much stronger than the second two. That’s mostly due to the last half of the book being part of an on-going story and not its own self-contained piece, but it loses a bit of steam along the way. Regardless, this remains one of the best and most surprising Batman books on the stands today, with great art, gripping action, and the best character interactions and dialogue in ages.