Forget about Gotham Girl, this issue was all about the villain cameos!….or at least that is the way I saw it.
Going into this story, I had a preconceived notion of what I was in store for, but King completely blindsided me. And in actuality, that is something that has happened in every single Tom King Batman issue I have read thus far. King seems to have a real knack for going places that you just wouldn’t expect, which is great, because it keeps things feeling very fresh. In any case, I assumed this issue would be similar to Batman #3. Only this time, we would get all the missing details we weren’t given last time. But Nope. That didn’t happen. Instead, what we get is Gotham Girl working through her loss while simultaneously taking-out whatever random villains come her way. And I loved it!
The story opens with this shot of a dirigible towing a submarine through the night sky:
And my geek-out meter immediately went to 11. No way! Is King really doing this? Yep…it’s Colonel Blimp. This is totally a continuation of his story from 1982!
It was so surreal. Upon seeing Colonel Blimp, the original story started flooding back into my mind. To me, it was as if the 34 years between this story and the original just melted away. As if, in the world of Batman, the original story was something that had just happened. Not something from decades ago. It was awesome. In a lot of ways, it’s not a feeling I can easily relate to you, it’s just something you have to experience for yourself. And it’s something King does two more times in this issue!!! I was totally loving it.
At least, I should say, I loved what I was given. But what I was given, ultimately, wasn’t everything I needed. I had several really big questions that I wanted answers to, but they weren’t even touched on. As an epilogue, this is where all the loose ends should get tied up, but they simply weren’t. I’m hoping that the answers I seek are forthcoming in King’s subsequent arcs, because if not, he’s leaving some huge holes in the narrative. And even if he does eventually get around to shedding some more light on Hank and Claire’s background later down the road, it still means that this initial story arc is incomplete, in and of itself. If all that is the case, I suppose it would be better to look at this as the opening act to a three part play as opposed to a self contained story. But seeing as how I don’t know what is going to come to pass, and despite the fact that I loved it (all the awesome villain stuff), I was still left feeling unfulfilled.
Captain Stingaree in a contemporary issue of Batman!?!?!? Tom King, you are the MAN right now!
As my opening statement indicated, I was all about those villain cameos. And while I totally loved every single one of them, I felt that they really distracted me from the emotional ride I was supposed to be going on along with Claire. In an interview that King gave recently, he stated that they were included to “have something fun in a story that’s a little bit depressing.” While finding that balance is genuinely sound thinking, for me, it became all fun as I completely lost my emotional attachment for what Claire was going through and focused instead on geeking out about Batman history.
Admittedly, this perspective is probably relevant to a very small percentage of readers, as I am sure few of you have actually read the stories being referenced here. But hey, this review is from my perspective, so bear with me. Seeing these cameos was great, but it made me hungry for more of them. And I don’t mean more cameos. I mean more full stories staring these characters. Everything now is geared towards these long sprawling arcs that can eventually be released as trades. Because of that model, we’ve lost the one-and-done issues. And that is sad. I don’t think it’s asking too much to have a single 20-page self-contained Kite Man story. Honestly…that would be beyond awesome.
I understand that DC wants these larger arcs because it brings people back week after week. But hey, if they put out really good one-and-done stories that people wanted to read, why wouldn’t readers tune in next time to get another good story, regardless of whether or not it had ties to the previous story. Another way of looking at it is, when DC puts out a story you don’t like and it last a whole year, you’re going to be waiting a long time till it’s over. But with one-and-done stories, every issue will have the potential to give you something new to be excited for. I’m sure that if something like this were to be implemented, the writers wouldn’t be too thrilled. After-all, coming up with one idea that you can spread out over 12 issues seems easier to me than having to come up with 12 different ideas. But I’m not asking for it every single issue. Just an occasional one here and there. Perhaps one between each larger arc or something like that.
I guess I am focusing so much on this because of something else King said in that interview:
“I feel like there’s so much that happens to Batman between the panels. We only show the main story, but every night, he’s fighting three other villains that we’re not showing. I wanted to show these villains that just don’t live in the foreground.”
*The full Tom King interview can be found here at Comics Alliance.*
That bums me out, man. I want to see that stuff. I want to see him stopping petty crimes, muggings, and D-list villains. Why can’t that be the main story?!? Is a story about Kite Man guaranteed to be any less compelling than a story about the Joker? I’d like to think it’s more about the skill of the writer and the story being told more than who happens to be featured in it. But oh well, I guess I’m just a fossil living with antiquated ideas. I’m actually genuinely curious if anyone else feels this way? Would you like to see more smaller arcs/one-shots, random crime, and less know villains? If so, let me know in the comments.
Yes. Yes, it is beautiful.
Art for this issue is handled by Ivan Reis, and I think he is equally as talented as David Finch. Maybe even more so in some aspects. I mean, some of his panels in this issue are the most by-the-book perfect examples of what I picture in my mind when I think of contemporary comic book art. While his work is somewhat void of any kind of definitive personal style, he makes up for that by simply displaying an incredibly high level of technical skill. I guess you could call it house style done to perfection. That’s not to say that there aren’t any questionable renderings. There are a few peppered throughout. But on the panels/pages that he chose to really concentrate on, they are unquestionably beautiful.
Odds and Ends:
Did this remind anyone else of the time Britney Spears went nuts and shaved her head?
- I didn’t care for the dialogue in this section at all. It feels like it’s just there to fill in readers on what’s going on in case they missed the first 5 issues. It’s like Batman keeps saying, “He knows Duke. He was there” I guess I can see how Duke is saying all that to impress upon Batman the importance of helping her. But I’m pretty sure Batman is already fully committed to helping Claire without Duke’s pleading. I totally read those “I know” dialogue balloons from Batman in an annoyed voice. Haha.
I’m not sure if any of you regular readers noticed or not, but I’ve been M.I.A. for the last three weeks taking care of some personal stuff. But I’m back now. And what an issue to return on. So many wonderful villain cameos for me to sink my teeth into. Thanks Tom King. You made my day.
Hell Yeah! Kite Man!
- Kite Man, A.K.A. Charles Brown (Haha. His name is Charlie Brown. You know. The Peanuts comic strip), made his first appearance in Batman #133 from August 1960. I’d have shared the cover, but the Kite-Man story is only one of three that appear in this issue. The other two being “The Voyage of the S.S.Batman” and “Batwoman’s Publicity Agent”, which adorns the cover.
- Here is the splash page for the Kite-Man story along with the one for “The Voyage of the S.S.Batman” Why? Because Batman piloting what looks like a Bat-themed pleasure cruiser is too good not to share.
- In his premiere appearance, Kite-Man goes on a crime spree using all kinds of gimmick kites to pull off varying heists. During one robbery, Kite-Man and his henchmen get the drop on Batman and take him back to their hideout. Batman escapes and uses Kite-Man’s own kites to bring the “Canny Kite-Criminal” to justice.
Check out that colorful narration. You don’t see that kind of writing in comics anymore.
- In his next appearance, Batman #315 (1979), an airline is closing down and canning all their employees. Hence, payroll and severance packages for the entire company are being helicoptered into Gotham. Kite-Man plans on stealing this veritable fortune but is ultimately stopped by Batman.
- There is a small interlude in this comic that I’d also like to point out since it falls in line with something I mentioned above in my review. While on his way to stop Kite-Man, Batman crosses paths with 3 punks in the midst of robbing a jewelry story. He almost passes them up because the Kite-Man heist is a bigger deal, but ultimately, he stops because he knows that no crime is too small. That’s what I’m talking about. I wanna see Batman stopping those petty crimes.
- Colonel Blimp made his first appearance in a two-part story which appeared in October of 1982. Specifically, in Batman #352 and Detective Comics #519. It’s a pretty simple tale in which Blimp steals a submarine and a battleship and ransoms them for 10 million dollars. Blimps motivation is that his father was a Navy-man who was working on a Dirigible projected in the 1950s. When the project was scrapped by the government, it ruined his father’s life. Hence, Blimp used his father’s passion for lighter-than-air craft to extract revenge on the U.S. Navy.
- Captain Stingaree, A.K.A. Karl Crossman, made his first appearance in a 3-part story from 1976 that appeared in the pages of Detective Comics #460-462. Stingaree was convinced that Batman was actually three different men, the Courtney triplets (Michael, Robert, and Jerome), and came up with the perfect traps to take out each of them. In order to lure Batman out, Stingaree plants a bomb in Gordon’s car.
Well, I guess now we know where the guys that wrote SPEED got their idea from.
- To be honest, I don’t really want to tell you how the rest of the story goes. For those of you that do want to look it up, I don’t want to spoil it since it does have a rather twisty turny kind of plot that keeps you guessing what the heck is going on till the very end. If you really want to know, ask me in the comments and I’ll divulge it there.
- Incidentally, the second part of this story also shows Batman stopping two random crimes: a mugging and a robbery.
- Villain Cameos!
- Villain Cameos!
- Villain Cameos!
This issue was more than I could have hoped for, but at the same time, didn’t really give me what I needed. For me, it was beyond great to reminisce on the past, but I didn’t feel like we were given a complete conclusion to the story being told. And this is probably just me…but I spent far more time getting caught up in the villains, and therefore, didn’t really feel that I was able to connect with Claire’s story in the way that was intended. But, despite that, I still had a blast!
SCORE: 8 / 10