The fourth installment of “I am Suicide” hits shelves today, and with that comes the realization of what the title actually means. (And here we all thought it was because Batman was forming his own Suicide Squad.) Like everything from King’s current arc, some people are going to love it while others will be cursing his very name. For all of you Catwoman fans who were on the verge of brandishing your pitchforks and torches, I can’t wait to see your reaction to the twist that King has decided to add to Batman’s origin. I read it with slack-jaw and bewilderment.
Issue 12 feels very much like a mirror to #10. Both feature an action heavy plot that unfolds as we read a letter. But where as #10 featured a letter from Catwoman to Batman, this issue features the reverse. In the aforementioned issue, I found it peculiar to be following Batman’s story visually while simultaneously reading a letter from Catwoman that didn’t coincide or relate with what was unfolding on the panel. The same can still be said of this issue, but at least this time around we get to read Batman’s voice while watching him. Still, I felt like I was reading two separate stories. One involving a self evaluation on Bruce’s part and the other a surgical strike on a compound.
The single greatest element this issue has to offer is the outstanding artwork provided by Mikel Janin. I’d go so far as to say it’s the best I’ve ever seen from him. Aside from the first and last page, everything else in the book is a stunning two page spread. As such, the story goes by very fast. But if you take the time to enjoy each spread for the amazing artwork put on display, I’m sure you’ll get more enjoyment out of the issue than just from the story proper. In a way, it almost feels like a portfolio showcasing all of Janin’s talents. We’ve got collages, closeups, sprawling exteriors, dynamic layouts, explosive action, facework, perspective shots, interesting angles, and even some straight up artistic shots. My initial feeling was that the art was flawless. But after spending so much time pouring over every inch of every page, I did find a couple of questionable panels.
What’s wrong with his legs?
I also really appreciated certain elements of Bruce’s letter. Specifically, the self evaluation he undergoes. How, at his core, Bruce realizes he is just a child; that the way he has chosen to carry out his war against crime is, in fact, very much actualized from the mindset of a child. Any adult would have found more practical ways to deal with their pain, but he is still dealing with it in the limited way a child would approach it given their narrow understanding of the world.
It’s also interesting to hear Bruce discuss the realistic perspective involving the absurdity of a grown man, being dressed as a giant bat, fighting crime. As longtime purveyors of comics, we don’t usually give this a second thought. Of course Bat-Man fights crime. That’s what a Bat-Man does. But if we had no basis in this for comparison, we would think it was strange. If I said I was going to dress up like an alligator and hand out saplings on Arbor Day, I’d imagine I’d get some pretty large sideways glances. And that’s got to be the same way some people see Batman within the comic world. We like him because he is a cool badass character seeking vengeance. But without the concept of Batman being ingrained in all of us to some degree or another, it is a strange idea to take at face value.
My third and final positive for the issue is the fact that Batman, single-handedly, takes out Bane’s entire complement of mercenaries. He systematically works his way through the prison, taking out bad guy after bad guy. It’s almost like a video game where you have to clear every level before you make it to the boss stage and finally get to fight the big bad. Admittedly, I would have preferred it if some sneaking about had been integrated into the montage, but I’ll take what I can get. While I don’t care for the head on attack strategy displayed throughout the story, I never found it in question that Batman should be able to take all these guys out, given the right circumstances. So, it’s nice to see him doing it, whether or not I approve of the exact methods being utilized. With that, let’s just jump to the negative, where my first one directly correlates to this positive.
Look, I firmly believe that Batman is capable of taking out 100 guys, but not in the way that is being shown here. I mentioned this in my review for Batman #10, but Batman cannot dodge the incoming gunfire of 20 automatic rifles aimed directly at him. If he is dodging all that, we are talking Flash speed. He’s also not impervious to gunfire. Bullet resistant, sure. If he’s actually taking those hits and just shrugging them off, well then, that’s Superman. And he is neither of them. I’m perfectly willing to believe that Batman can dodge the gunfire from a couple of gunmen when he uses the shadows and misdirection as his ally, but there is no way I can buy into what he is doing here.
The next question that comes to mind is: if Batman can take out the complement of the entire island, why didn’t he do it from the beginning? Issue #10 had this whole elaborate plan where he got captured intentionally so he could escape and let everyone in from the inside. But why? This issue shows that he could have invaded the place single-handedly and taken Psycho-Pirate by force, or better yet, without anyone even knowing. Here, we see how he could have entered from the top tower or even through a subterranean cave filled with water. Both scenarios could have played out like they did here or with complete stealth. Basically, he didn’t need to get captured to get in. He could have just gotten in.
This also draws into question the need for the team at all. This issue proves that Batman didn’t need the team. He could have busted in under cover of darkness and taken Psycho-Pirate without anyone being the wiser. Or, he could have just done what we see here from the very start and taken him out over the unconscious bodies of every single individual on the island. You don’t need a team if the entire opposition is unconscious!
Now let’s consider something else. At the end of last issue, Batman was in a ventilation shaft above the throne room. But at the beginning of this issue, he has to work his way back to the throne room?!? What happened? He was there! What? He decided to leave, come back, and in the process leave a sea of human carnage in his wake. Why? What was the point? This stuff is getting pretty nonsensical if you ask me.
At the end of my review for issue #10, I said that if things transpired that changed my feelings about the story, I’d be more than happy to recant my words. But as it stands, this issue has just proven to me that #10 was even worse than I had initially thought. As a matter of fact, this issue is calling into question every issue that’s come before it. Things that I could have at least tried to justify up till now, have been given answers that completely make previous events seem like so much drivel. But hey, I haven’t even gotten to the worst thing about this issue yet…
BRUCE WAYNE IS SUICIDAL!
That’s right. Ten year old Bruce Wayne tried to commit suicide. But then he thought: instead of killing myself, I’ll kill myself through the act of being Batman and at least do some good in the process…. Look, I’ve tried to maintain a level head during this run, but this is the straw that broke the camel’s back. I can’t take this anymore. This is simply put…terrible. Like, why did King need to include the suicide thing. I was still good with some of the other ideas he had connected to this. For instance, Bruce prayed and no one answered. He realized that other Gotham citizens were doing the same, so he became what people prayed for. That’s awesome. And you don’t need him to be suicidal for that to still work.
I can even see where Bruce died, metaphorically, so that Batman could be born in order to protect others and become their guardian. The idea that his life is no longer his is great as well. Because he would give his life to protect the people of Gotham. But to actually take it that extra step and say he cut his wrists and was bleeding. To claim that Batman IS an act of suicide. That’s too much. It’s taking that line of creative freedom way too far. As a logical person, I know that Bruce realizes that his death is ultimately inevitable, but to imply that it’s not merely inevitable but that it’s offhandedly the goal is sheer lunacy.
From this point on it starts to make even less sense. He says that since he has made the choice to die, he can see it in others. Implying that Catwoman is also suicidal?!? When was this ever established? I mean, I know she is a thrill seeker, but the idea that she wishes death upon herself?!? Then he goes on to talk about sharing what they have in common…which is death. And it just goes on and on like that. All this death talk is so stunningly ridiculous. She is dead and he is dead because they both chose death. And the dead don’t make others dead. They don’t take from others the choice to choose death. Which is how he knows she didn’t actually kill the 237 people. You see how crazy all that sounds??
Up till now I’ve been trying to find something worthwhile in each issue I’ve read. Heck, even in this one I found positives. But King is making it seriously hard for me to maintain objectivity when he puts in so many asinine elements.
***Update: After writing this review I realized that while I had been critical of King’s decision to include a suicidal Bruce Wayne, I never actually bothered to explain why I had so much displeasure with it. If you want that explanation, you can find it here in my followup to this review.***
- Him. Him who? Is this the mysterious “him” that Snyder introduced in All-Star Batman? The one that Batman supposedly trained early on in his career and who eventually became a villain?
- You are a huge fan of Mikel Janin’s art. This is probably the best I’ve ever seen from him.
- You don’t have a problem with accepting King’s take on a suicidal Bruce Wayne.
The main selling point to this issue is Mikel Janin’s art. Other than that, I had a really hard time finding additional material that was worth the price of admission. King is just including so many face-palm inducing moments, I just don’t know what to do anymore. People who are enjoying this arc often cite its unpredictable nature and thought provoking plot as key factors in their support for it. While I can’t argue that it does in fact have these, I don’t understand why we have to abandon reason and character solidarity to attain them. Is it too much to request a healthy balance of all four?
SCORE: 3 / 10