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I found this issue leaving A LOT to be desired in so many ways.  Primarily the defamation of character it so blatantly bandies about.  And I’m not just talking about Catwoman.  Batman gets his fair share of completely ludicrous moments as well, and they are entirely unbecoming for such a cautious and fastidious character.

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The entire issue displays a Batman lacking any kind of precision.  Instead, we get a blunt instrument lacking subtlety, barreling into this challenge like a wrecking ball on heroin.  Sure , it’s a high octane issue filled with an insane amount of action, but it doesn’t do much in keeping with our expectations of the character.  While I think it’s important to give us new stuff so that we don’t get bored with reading the same stories over and over, I still think it’s important to keep with a character’s given modus operandi.  Going into this story, I don’t think any of us could have foreseen what we got.

In a perfect Batman story, Batman would break in on his own under the cover of darkness and steal Psycho Pirate and be out before anyone knew what was going on.  Hence, the idea of Batman needing a team seems unnecessary to begin with, but I went with it because I figured they would each play a vital role in a hurdle that Batman knew he’d have to face.  The fact that Punch escaped from Santa Prisca implied to me that they would be entering through the same way he escaped.  Locating a man who was on the inside was Batman’s way of gathering Intel in an attempt to negate possible threats.  To eliminate the element of surprise.  But no.  What we got instead was this high risk extravaganza.  A Batman who willingly flies haphazardly into the face of danger.

“But Brandon, all of that was a plan.  It was a misdirection, so in essence, it was subtle.”  I say BAH to that.  It may have been a misdirection, but with a level of risk that Batman would never condone.  Batman puts himself at risk every time he goes out to fight crime, but he always stacks the odds completely in his favor.  There were simply way too many uncontrollable factors here that were working against Batman.  For instance:

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It’s one thing to dodge incoming fire from a lone gunman in a dark alley using the shadows and your billowing cape to throw off his aim.  It’s another thing entirely to charge at 10 dudes in broad daylight  firing automatic weapons at point blank range directly at you.  That’s just complete nonsense.  Batman is just a man.  He is a highly trained man.  Maybe the most highly trained man in the history of forever, but still just a man.  Give me something plausible enough that I can find a way to believe in it.  Not something so outlandish that I am left shaking my head in disbelief at the sheer nonsense of it all.

Then we have his fight with Bane.  If all of this was part of Batman’s plan, getting thrown in prison so he could break out to let the others in, it means he let himself get beat up.  How did Batman know Bane would stop where he did?  How did Batman know Bane wouldn’t have just killed him?  How did Batman know Bane wouldn’t have hurt him more seriously?  Does that also mean he let himself get shot down?  What if instead of crashing he blew up?  Like I said, there were simply way too many uncontrollable factors here for Batman to have considered this a viable plan.

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yeah…that totally looks like the plan of a master tactician….

Another thing that had me rolling my eyes; Bane threw Batman into that pit without removing his utility belt or costume.  Bane knows that Batman has stuff hidden all over his costume.  But it wasn’t even a hidden item that Batman uses to escape.  It was his metal gauntlets that are completely out in the open.  But let’s inventory some other useful items that Bane should have taken away.  Let’s see….Batarang, Batline, acetylene torch, rebreather.  Yeah, Bane left him with everything he needed to escape.  And yet, we have Batman escaping by punching holes in the wall?!?  Or was that just to crack his own back?  I don’t know.  Whatever it was, it looked goofy as hell.

While we are on the back break thing, that was totally anticlimactic and super cliche.  Bane is so much more than just that.  Plus, in the original story, it happened after dozens and dozens of issues.  With each issue tightening the suspense.  It was a building crescendo that ended in an unbelievable moment.  In this issue, it just happened.  And I was like, “Ok, well of course it did.”  And I felt nothing.  I wasn’t at all devastated like I was during Knightfall.  And then, moments later, it was resolved.  No long drawn out recovery like in the original story.  No suffering along with Bruce as he suffered.  It totally plays into the instant gratification of today’s society.  And it’s boring as can be.

Now let’s talk about Catwoman

Two weeks ago I was very level-headed when it came to the jaw-dropping shock King gave us at the end of last issue.  Instead of losing my cool, I decided to wait it out and see what he had in store for us.  At the time, I assumed that Catwoman being a mass murderer was just some kind of cliffhanger set in place to keep us on the edge of our seats and get us talking for the interim.  That she was somehow set up or framed.  Finding out that she did indeed murder all those people leaves a sour taste in my mouth.  Although, that’s putting it lightly.  Truth be told, I’m severely pissed.  In her own words, Catwoman says she slit the throats of hundreds of people, and those were the lucky ones.  Seriously?!?!  Perhaps King is hoping to justify her transgression by illuminating that her victims were terrorists that deserved it because they killed little kids.  While that is some seriously ghastly stuff, and I’m not questioning whether or not someone who kills kids has the right to live or not, I find it beyond annoying that King would decide to tack that kind of history onto a beloved character like Catwoman.

In a way, I feel like King might be trying to gain some type of closure through the actions of fictitious characters.  I don’t know King personally, but I suspect that his previous line of work probably exposed him to events very similar to the ones Catwoman is recounting.  I know that when something doesn’t work out in my life, I relive the events in my head and try to come up with what I could have done differently to achieve the outcome I wanted.  Sometimes they are completely farfetched, but they help me work through my problems.  With writing as a profession,  I’m sure that some of those unresolved feelings would naturally present themselves in one’s work.  I want to make it clear, I don’t nor would I ever be able to understand the horrors that King has most likely been witness to.  And I certainly don’t wish to question or undermine his feelings on the matter.  It’s something that should be broached.  So, while I appreciate him sharing that side of his life with us, I’m not ok with him shoehorning that kind of story onto Catwoman.  It messes with the character.  He isn’t putting himself into the character and having them react the way they would to a given situation.   He’s making them react the way he wants them to so that he can tell the story he wants.  And that is so not cool with me.

I think that if her story were long and drawn out, where we actually got to see Catwoman succumb to the temptation of killing someone, it would have worked much better than just reading about it.  We don’t get to see her agonizing over every decision.  We don’t get to see how hard it was for her to do what she did.  We don’t live her story with her and find a way to accept her actions.  I’m still hoping that the reason we aren’t shown all this is because it didn’t really happen and we are just being made to think it did.  However, it could also be that King realized that showing Catwoman slitting throats would be too much for the reader to overcome.  If all we do is hear about her acts, it might be easier for us to swallow than actually watching her do it.

You know, if King really wanted to have a story about a character killing terrorists, I know a member of the Batfamily that would have been way more suitable than Catwoman.  How about Jason Todd?  And it wouldn’t have even been a breach of character.  Maybe not as shocking, but it would have made a hell of a lot more sense.

This issue’s one redeeming feature is the letter from Catwoman, and I’m not talking about the part where she talks about murdering terrorists.  But the rest of it.  Hearing about her growing up.  Hearing about how her and Batman’s relationship helps her forget the pain, even if only for a moment.  That was all really nice.  Unfortunately, I had to reread the entire comic just focusing on her part in order to really cement in my mind what was going on.  The visuals were in constant competition with her letter, and it wasn’t even clear to me till late in the story who was even writing it.  It’s kind of a jumbled mess.  And while I’m on the subject of Batman and Catwoman’s relationship, why exactly would he be interested in having a relationship with a woman that’s slit the throats of hundreds of people.  I won’t give Selina a pass just because they are kid killing terrorists and there is no way that Batman would either.  Every life is sacred to Batman.  I’m just praying that some kind of twist is coming up to save this story.  If not, King has made a serious misstep.

Recommended if…

  • You like stories where the characters are completely out of character.
  • You like watching the DC Universe’s greatest tactician act like a rank amateur.

Overall:

I love Tom King’s work.  I loved his work on Grayson, and I’ve been fairly pleased so far with his work on Batman.  But this issue is, without a doubt, the worst thing I’ve ever seen him produce.  If something comes up in the future that makes the issue better in retrospect, I’ll be happy to eat my words.  I want King to pull a win out of the bag.  But as it stands, at this exact moment, and without any future stories to support it…it’s just awful.

SCORE: 3 / 10