I’ll say it right up front: This is the first issue of King’s Batman run that I found lacking. There is still plenty of great stuff in here, but I have to recognize the less than stellar moments right alongside the awesome parts.
Our story starts off with Alfred donning the Bat-suit in order to confront Gotham. Saying nothing more than that, I’m sure some of you are assuming my issue with this scene is as simple as that. While I’ll admit that having Alfred running around in the Bat-suit in a contemporary issue of Batman is a little strange, I appreciate the sentiment behind it. All throughout his run, King has snuck in plenty of references to the Golden Age of Batman. Seeing how Alfred wore the suit a few times during this era, it’s a nice reminder of the silliness of those past stories. Like I said, maybe it’s something that doesn’t belong in a modern day Batman comic, but I still found it fun despite how outlandish the concept might currently be viewed.
My actual problem with this whole scene is its necessity coupled with the confusing nature of the dialogue. I’ll start with neccesity since it’s easier to explain. Why did Alfred need to go there in-person? Couldn’t he have auto-piloted the Batmobile from the cave? And if he had, he could have piloted multipe Batmobiles at once instead of just the one. Sure, seeing Alfred in the suit was funny, but it would have been cool to see Gotham taking on a whole fleet of Batmobiles. I can just picture them circling around him in Gotham Square, and when he zeroes in on one, another blindsides him from the rear.
The dialogue is a little trickier to explain. It starts off with Batman telling Alfred to delay Gotham till he can show up on the scene. The very next thing that Alfred utters is directed at Thomas (pictured above). Since Alfred is talking out loud, I rightly assumed that he was talking to someone on the radio. Afterall, he was just talking to Batman on the radio. And since he says Thomas, I further assumed he was talking to Duke THOMAS. If you look at the dialogue pictured, it’s not impossible to see Alfred saying this to Duke with some kind of droll British wit. It wasn’t till I hit the fifth word ballon that I realized I was reading it all wrong. At this point, I was completely pulled out of the story. And I hate when that happens. I like getting immersed in what I read, and when something shatters that fantasy for me, I don’t take too kindly to it. Once I figured out who he was talking to, it was actually even harder for me to understand. I get that Alfred is talking to Thomas Wayne, but what I don’t get is why. And, is this him reliving parts of an actual conversation they had or is he just making up some story for….well, that’s just it. I don’t get it. Feel free to explain it to me. I mean, I liked parts of it. Particularly the ironic section on books and board games, but ultimately, I didn’t understand the point.
Next, we get the main attraction that the cover is promising us. However, the cover is pretty misleading. The Batman portion of the Gotham fight is completely onesided. Batman just wails on Gotham like he is some kind of punching bag. It’s cool, because we get to see Batman absolutely owning someone, but it’s also a little hollow since it doesn’t even seem like Batman is putting forth any real effort to keep Gotham so off-balanced. Then, Batman decides to call in The Justice League for some reason. I could see him resorting to this if at some point he had seemed in danger or outmatched, but up till then, it didn’t appear as if he had even broken a sweat yet.
When The League shows up, long story short, Gotham decimates them! And saying long story short isn’t even an exageration really. I honestly wouldn’t have minded seeing a more indepth breakdown of the fight between Gotham and The League. Just an extended fight scene with 1 guy versus 8. I mean, I can’t be the only one who was curious about the moment to moment details of how that would have played out. As it stands, it’s over before it even begins. But, maybe that was the point. It definitely makes sense if that’s what King was going for, but I still would have liked to have seen some more of that super-powered battle. It’s also weird when you consider the fact that Batman was actually doing just fine against Gotham. It wasn’t untill The Justice League showed up, and Gotham amped up his powers, that he even got a shot in on Batman. And even then, it was incidental (Batman got struck by Wonder Woman’s flailing body.)
I’m sure those of you that haven’t read the issue yet are kind of confused. “Wait, he couldn’t beat Batman but takes The League out in seconds?” This is actually the part in the story when we learn how G&GG’s powers work. And I have to say, I thought it was pretty cool. (We don’t yet learn the specifics of how they got them, but I’m sure that’s coming in the next issue.) But as I sat there marveling at how cool it was, I took pause. Something about how G&GG had to trade life for power was insanely familiar. My recollection wasn’t instantaneous, but it did eventually come to me where I had seen this before…
The Golden Voyage of Sinbad! It’s a Ray Harryhausen film from 1973. The main villain from the film was a sorcerer who, everytime he used his powers, was brought one step closer to the grave (trading life for power). If you’ve read my stuff before, you know that I can be a bit of a stickler for fresh content. So, you might be surprised to know I’m not really holding this against the story. Even though it is borrowed, whether intentional or not, it’s a fantastic concept that deserves attention anyway. Plus, it’s got enough tweaks here and there that it’s really only the same in the broadest sense. My biggest concern right now is in actually getting a plausible backstory for these designer powers. I mean, let’s be serious. Somebody developed a process that makes a normal guy the equivalent of Superman?!? How? Plus, why haven’t we seen more people using this process? I get that it has a built in deterrent, super expensive and definitely lethal, but I just don’t see that being something that would stop more people from doing it. Especially not some of the DC Universe big bads who would do almost anything to fulfill their vengeance against their sworn nemeses.
As I’ve already stated, there are plenty of strange things going on in this book, but a number of equally great things as well. Personally, I think the standout sections involved Claire. When this story arc first began, I saw a lot of people online complaining about how GG didn’t have her own story and she was just a sidekick to Gotham. That may have initially been the case, but I now find her to be far more compeling than I ever found Gotham. I’d even go so far as to say that, in the very short time we’ve gotten to know her, I think I actually like her better than Duke or Harper. While those two have varying levels of cockiness and arrogance about them that I find off-putting, Claire seems to be a genuinely good and self-sacrificing individual. Real hero material.
Even though her sections were my favorite, that doesn’t excuse them from evaluation. Much like the peculiar dialogue at the opening of the book that involved Alfred, Claire has a narration that closes out the book that I found equally problematic. It’s presented as if everything we are seeing isn’t happening now, but is instead a story being told to us by Claire sometime in the distant future. I guess the problem I have is that it’s inconsistent with the rest of the book. When you start off reading, everything is occuring in the here and now, but then it switches to some kind of flashback. So what was it? Was everything a flashback and we just didn’t know it till the end. Personally, I think it would have been a stronger tale if Claire had narrated throughout. The ending is far too quick in my opinion, but if we would have been following her voice through the whole story, we would have been given the opportunity to build up to the ending along with her instead of just getting a rushed climax that we didn’t have time to take in before it was already over.
- Seeing Alfred in the Bat-suit totally reminded me of the selfie variants DC put out in 2014.
- Claire is your favorite Gotham sibling.
- You want to see an emaciated looking Batman.
- You want to see Batman give Gotham a good walloping.
- You want to see The Justice League, however briefly, get their butts kicked.
While I’ve been enjoying King’s run on Batman, I’m not finding it quite as enjoyable as the work he was turning out for Grayson. I think it’s perfectly acceptable as comic fanfare goes, but it’s just lacking that extra spark to make it truly memorable. (Something that I think Grayson had in spades.) Unfortunately, this issue marks the first installment of the “I am Gotham” story that I thought was being held back by more than just a lack of distinction. As I read along, I found myself questioning the purpose/inclusion of certain scenes and the accompanying dialogue. It’s also one of the rare occasions where I wish they would have spread the content out over two issues instead of just one. I’m usually all about cutting the filler and getting on with the story, but here, I felt like a concept was being broached that deserved a little more reflection. As it stands, the story moves along at such a brisk pace, I didn’t really feel like I was given the proper amount of time to appreciate what was going on and really invest in the moment this was all leading to. I would never use the word “bad” to describe the contents of this particular issue, but I was definitely left feeling a little confused and unfulfilled.
SCORE: 6 / 10