What an opening! A crash of lightning during a rain storm that back-lights the gates of Arkham Asylum. This is some quintessential Batman iconography right here. I was so happy I couldn’t help but crack a smile at so perfect an image.
I found the opening of this story, depicting a break-in at Arkham Asylum, equally as entertaining as that single image. The first 4 pages are wordless, and frankly, I enjoyed getting into the story without the use of dialogue. So much so that when they started talking on page 5 it actually threw me a little. Not sure why, but in that limited opening sequence I had already made the assumption that this was going to be a silent issue. I also found it funny that, with no dialogue at all, I was perfectly able to follow what was going on with no confusion. But once they started talking, I started having questions.
Basically, Tiger attacks Batman to free Psycho Pirate so Pirate can counteract his Venom withdrawal. Initially, one of Batman’s comments made me think the attack was all a ploy between the two of them to draw out Bane’s henchmen. That and the fact that if someone attacks you, you’re probably going to say something to them about it. But it does end up being real. Since it was all real, it simply struck me as odd that Tiger didn’t receive any repercussions from attacking Batman. And shouldn’t Tiger still want relief from his pain. Doesn’t seem to me that what happened would dissuade him in any way from still seeking that release.
I found this little exchange in particular to be rather peculiar. I shouldn’t..have broken into Arkham? I shouldn’t…have kicked you in the back? But Batman says, “Don’t sweat it Tiger. It’s not your fault Bane’s henchmen got this close.” That’s what Batman thought Tiger was apologizing for? That’s not a very inductive conclusion to have come up with based on the previous set of events. But hey, Batman just got his head smacked into a pane of glass. He might not be thinking that clearly.
I’d like a large glass of Sunpist please. Sunpist?!?
The next scene (which is the bulk of the issue) takes place at a fast food franchise that has adopted Batman as its primary theme. Without going a page further into the story, I started hearing Kevin Conroy’s voice in my head (see Interesting Facts). I knew exactly how I expected and demanded that Bruce react, and thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed. He was pretty pissed. It must be seriously disheartening to see something you created to help others reduced to nothing more than a gimmick used to sell burgers. While thinking about that, something else occurred to me. In a way, this is all very meta. After all, Batman is a story that is clearly packaged to us by a company to make money. I’m not certain if this was something King was expressly trying to convey, but it’s definitely something I got out of the scene. But I digress. Back to the scene itself.
Which Robin thought it was a good idea to come here? Surely they know Bruce well enough to know how he would react to all this. And let’s not forget that they are all having a discussion that doesn’t seem like the type of thing you’d want eavesdropped over. Lastly, and admittedly the least important of my gripes, Bruce having a fast-food burger. Seriously? Bruce treats his body like a temple. I can’t believe he would ingest that inedible crap (incidentally, he leaves before eating anything. Yay!).
While I found the locale questionable, the interactions between the characters were actually quite entertaining. I mean, we’ve got a table of Robins here. And what are Robins known for if not their banter. Stick them all together and you’ve got a banter-fest! There’s also this nice little exchange in the background between Jason and Damian that I completely missed on my first read through where Jason steals Damian’s Bat-Mite Meal toy. So, keep your eyes peeled for that. I also thought it was interesting how Bruce was trying to have a serious discussion but everyone was just playing around and poking fun. It simply captures more of a real life feeling to a family meal than I expected to get going into this scene.
Ok. I lied. I got two more gripes. Bruce called them all together to tell them to stay away?? They were already away and in the dark, most likely dealing with their own superheroing. Since all this is going to be concluded in 5 days anyway, it’s possible that it would have been over and done with before any of them even knew it was going on. I’m just saying.
I also don’t like being casually reminded that all these characters have “died”. I know they have, but I really really really don’t like to think about it. I started reading comics in a time when death actually meant something. I lived through the period of time where Jason Todd was dead for 17 real-world years. The fact that “death” has been reduced to nothing more than a strategy to sell comics is kind of infuriating to me and serves to further diminishes the semi-realistic nature the Batman comics used to adhere to. Furthermore, knowing that all these guys have “died” and come back to life puts less weight behind Tim’s “death”. Granted, they don’t know he will be back. Maybe his “death” will actually stick. While they may be grieving, we know consequences don’t exist anymore, so all sense of danger has been removed from the equation. Which is unfortunate.
After the Batburger sequence wraps up, we get a quick interlude between Batman and Catwoman on the roof of the GCPD. Or as I will hence forth refer to it as the “And yet” scene, because they say it sooo…many…times (Incidentally, the Wayne Manor scene at the end will be called the “may” scene). It’s a really weird scene because of what just transpired in the last 2 issues. None of which is even mentioned. While it does stand to cement the fact that Catwoman will always be there to help him no matter what, it ultimately felt unnecessary because it’s just repeating a point that the last issue already made.
Since I brought up the repetition thing, I might as well point out that every time we transition to a new sequence, it’s prefaced with the words “later”. I don’t really feel like there’s a need to tell us that. We all understand how time works. And it’s not like any part of the story has us jumping forward or backward in time to the point that we would need that kind of clarification.
Art for this issue is handled by David Finch. While I think that Finch is a very solid artist, he does have one area that I think he could stand to work on…faces. When he is doing someone like Jim Gordon or Alfred Pennyworth, the face is very distinctive. But when you look at the rest of the cast, the faces occasionally have an offhanded resemblance to one another. Not only that, but at times they seem a little rigid too. Kinda like everyone just had plastic surgery or something.
- I get that we are all supposed to believe that the hanging corpses are the Robins and that Bane already got to them, but come on, does anyone really believe that? It’s obviously just three of Bane’s henchmen whom he killed and dressed up like Dick, Jay, and Damian in order to send a message. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m not going to lose any sleep over this for the next two weeks.
- Considering you offhandedly named yourself after the guy who killed you, I think enjoying fries that are named after him is one of your less questionable decisions.
- At times I’ve enjoyed Duke, and at other times I’ve found him hard to stomach, but can I just say that after this issue I have a new found respect for him. While all the other Robins are plotting behind Batman’s back, Duke actually decides to follow Batman’s orders. Props to him.
- Batman: The Animated Series, Season 2 Episode 21, “I Am The Night”. Batman: “When all is said and done, how much good have I accomplished? They sell T-shirts of me. I’ve become a cliché. More good for the tourist trade than the streets.”
- Um…Batman has taken Venom before. Then again, he took a precursor to Venom, so maybe that doesn’t really count. Or perhaps it’s because that previous event (Legends of the Dark Knight #16-20) doesn’t exist in this timeline.
- You wanna spend the evening out with the Batfamily at one of the local fast food chains and revel in all their hijinks.
While it’s nice to be getting back to a more straightforward story (bad guy coming for us, we have to stop him), it was hard for me to look past all the little distractions that the story kept throwing at me. Unto themselves, none of my gripes are really all that bad. But with such an extensive volume of them, they start to wear on what was otherwise a very entertaining tale. Basically, the sum of its parts don’t equate to perfection, but individual moments were definitely some of the best I’ve seen King deliver in awhile. Especially in the humor department. I also think the story could have benefited from a more consistent tone. It starts off as a suspense, transitions to a comedy, converts into a drama, and ultimately ends up as horror. It’s just very all over the place. But hey, you’re getting more for your dollar that way…I guess.
SCORE: 6.5 / 10