Wow….that got really dark, really fast.
Personally, I didn’t find it off-putting. If I weren’t reviewing, I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. But since I started this gig, I’ve tried to consider stories from multiple angles so that I can speak to a broader audience. An audience that might not necessarily always fall in line with my own personal preferences. And that includes kids. After reading a couple of pages into the issue, I paused and flipped back to the cover to see what this issue was rated. “T for teen”. That is appropriate, and I was glad to see it. The level of violence depicted in this issue is definitely not meant for kids. And while the stereotypical idea that comics are fanfare for children is greatly outdated, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t still parents out there who believe in that old adage and will unknowingly purchase this issue for their grade-schooler.
I should point out that my intention in mentioning this is merely to inform, not to judge. If your child is emotionally developed enough to handle this content, far be it from me to scold any parent that would give this issue to a 10 year old. That’s the parents call. I mean, I was 11 when I first read The Killing Joke, and I wasn’t emotionally scarred. So yes, this wasn’t written for and should probably not be consumed by kids, but if they are going to read it, make sure that you know what your kid is reading and that they are able to handle the content. But I guess that goes for anything really.
So, what’s this level of violence I’m going on about? Let’s see…where to begin. Pools of blood, neck snapping, decapitation, severed limbs, bodies being torn limb from limb by an explosion, messages scrawled in blood, and other disturbing imagery of a similar nature. What? The written word isn’t enough for you? Fine. Take a look at this:
Oh God….the humanity.
I like what I’m seeing. And not in a twisted/weird kind of way, but in the fact that the imagery definitely speaks to me on an emotionally visceral level. Sometimes, I think that we downplay illustrations in this sense. It’s a drawing, and since it’s not photo-realistic, we treat it less seriously. Take for instance, The Walking Dead. When you see somebody getting dismembered by a zombie, it strikes more of a chord since it does appear so real looking. What I encourage any reader of comics to do, is to go to that place. Really experience what it is that you are looking at. Don’t just write it off as comic art. Really take the time to consider what you’re seeing and perhaps the deeper significance it might have if it were more real looking. Personally, I think that my comic going experience has always been greatly enhanced by this approach. Don’t just read the story. But imagine what it would be like to actually walk in and see a scenario like this in real life. Can you get your hairs to stand on edge just by thinking about it? Now you’re getting the idea.
Art for this chapter is once again handled by David Finch. Usually I’d use this paragraph to expound on the artist’s contributions to the issue, but I think I’ve already gone ahead and done that. King may have scripted this story, but Finch really brought this particular tale to life for me in many ways. And really, I don’t think there’s a higher praise to give an artist, so I’ll just leave it at that.
One of the other things you’ll probably notice about this story is its abundant use of jump-cuts: abrupt transitions from one scene to the next, which basically call on the reader to fill in the intermediate blanks. Sometimes these kinds of cuts can be confusing, when a reader is left wondering how they arrived at a scene or what events transpired in between to get them there. In this instance, I felt that King did an excellent job at omitting extraneous scenes while still keeping a tight narrative that didn’t leave room for confusion. As I see it, this choice had two major benefits. First, it gave us more story with less filler. And second, the hectic nature of the cuts complimented the hectic nature of the content, forcing the reader to experience a small part of what the characters must have been enduring.
I had one nitpick for this issue, and it involved the clue that lead Batman to Amanda Waller. As it turns out, when you added the sequence of numbers on each individual dog tag, each one totaled 24. The 24th letter of the alphabet is “X”. So natural, it must mean Task Force X, AKA The Suicide Squad. What does that mean exactly? Do all the soldiers under Waller’s command always have that going on, or was it something that someone specifically engineered for this one instance just as a clue. And if so, who? That clue was just too suspect and left me asking way too many questions. It’s already convoluted enough when you stop to think about it, but couldn’t 24 have meant dozens of other things. I’d say that’s definitely a hiccup in an otherwise flawless issue of Batman.
Best Batman being Batman moment:
Claire: NO! NO! NOOOOO! (screaming unrelated to question being asked)
Alfred: Perhaps tea, then.
Odds and Ends:
Throughout this story, I’ve found Duke’s presence as an almost required afterthought. As if King was simply forced to include him because a higher-up said so. Duke’s arbitrary scene in this story is no more necessary than any of the others, but I definitely found it to be the most meaningful one yet.
- I thought the scene where Batman confronts Hank about killing 27 men was interesting. At first, I thought Hank was shocked that he had killed 27 men and him screaming “no” was him freaking out about having done it. Later on, it becomes clear that him questioning how many he had killed was not because he didn’t remember doing it or regretted his actions, but because he knew there were 28 men and that one got away. It’s always fun to pick up on things like that on additional reads. You know, things that were scripted in such a way that they could have multiple meanings depending on your frame of reference.
- SuperHero rule #1: Parents die in a traumatic way. CHECK!
- You prefer a bit of mayhem and chaos in your stories.
- You like great Batman moments. King is pretty consistent about putting one in each issue.
- You like when a story doesn’t focus solely on one emotional plateau. Sure, this issue is weighty, but it doesn’t forget to include the humor and heart.
Once again, the creative team of King and Finch put forth a story that both resonates and impresses in completely unexpected ways. I genuinely love how the story is just going all over the place. Like, I think I know what is coming up next, and then, “BAM”. I’m blindsided by something completely different. It’s also really nice getting some twists thrown in there that are for more than just shock value and actually add to the overall story being told. Can’t wait to see what happens in #5!
SCORE: 9 / 10