Gordon goes for a walk, Catwoman dons her Jim Balent apparel, and Deathstroke and Deadshot engage in a deadly duel to the death. All in this weeks exciting installment of Batman!
Upon opening this issue, the first thing I thought was, “Oh no, this isn’t the second part of the Kite Man story!” I really enjoyed that Kite Man story from two weeks ago, and since then, I’ve been on the edge of my seat anticipating the next part. So, to open this and find it jumping back to the main story was a little bit of a downer for me. But I quickly forgot about that feeling as I was being bombarded by images of Gordon in his skivvies.
Those be some mighty square britches.
If you haven’t already read the issue, you’re probably wondering what the heck is going on right about now. It’s pretty simple really. Gordon wanted to meet with Riddler and Joker to negotiate an end to the hostilities. While Riddler left a very intricate list of instructions on what needed to happen in order for Gordon to meet with him, Joker simply said for Gordon to come in his undies. Not only does this juxtaposition between order and utter nonsensical randomness help to remind us who these characters are, but I think it also stands as a reminder as to why this war is even happening. They may both want to see Batman put down, but it’s this conflict of methodology that ultimately has the two of them at odds. While Riddler seeks the perfect answer to any given question, Joker is the kind of chap that likes to keep changing the question.
Even though I enjoyed this contrasting comparison presented within the opening pages, the rest of the narration accompanying Gordon’s walk was a little less pleasing. Since Bruce is relaying this story to Selina, and it entails a conversation between two people, Bruce has to keep identifying the speaker. On the first page alone, we have 7 different instances of I said/He said. I found it a little annoying because I had to concentrate on who was speaking which line in order to keep the conversation straight. Sure, I do that without even thinking about it when reading a book, but this is a comic. I don’t know about anyone else, but I kind of had to shift gears since reading a comic puts me in a different frame of mind than when reading a book. It was also a little weird to see Bruce describing the “business” of the scene. When you consider the fact that this is a comic, a medium designed to integrate pictures with words, I couldn’t help but think how much easier all of this could have been if it had just been done in a more standard/straightforward manner.
After the opening, we get a quick rooftop chat between Gordon and Batman. And no matter how many times I’ve seen these, they are always a welcomed sight. During the exchange we learn why Batman and the cops can’t act too openly against the warring factions, that Gordon has decided to call in the Feds, and that both parties will stop fighting if Batman is delivered to them. And, as always, it ends with Batman disappearing while Gordon continues to talk to nothing. So classic. So perfect.
Next up in the story is a Catwoman interlude. And while it was totally awesome to see the purple suit again, I’m not entirely sure the scene had any true relevance to the overall narrative being presented in this issue. To me, it just felt out of place and somewhat extraneous. It was also a little annoying because this happened:
So, I think it’s pretty safe to assume this means they had sex. And since this wouldn’t be a point in their lives where they knew who each other was yet, it probably means they did it with their costumes on. And that just reminds me of events from Catwoman #1+2 from 2011. Not really one of my favorite moments to be honest with you. So, the fact that this is essentially further establishing that as a trend between them doesn’t really make me all that happy. But seeing as how that might just be a problem I have, I won’t hold it against the book.
Now we come to what I would consider to be the meat of this issue, the battle of the mercs. Both Deathstroke and Deadshot were sent to kill Batman, but in the process, they run into one another and decide to kill each other instead. While there are some really great bits of business that transpire between the two of them, particularly when it come to how evenly they are matched with firearms, we don’t really get to see much else of their fight with each other. It’s shown more as a collage of stills than a sequential battle. As such (and this might be a weird way to put it) it feels more like I’m looking at art than at two people fighting each other. I’m not in the story living it with them, I’m looking at an epic mural dedicated to their contest of skill.
I think that something similar can be applied to how I feel about the victims of their conflict. The narration goes into detail about how many innocent civilians died and in what way. But reading it like that, it just felt more like I was looking at statistics than actually experiencing it. They are just numbers on a report, not real people losing their lives. Just like the two page spread of Deathstroke and Deadshot fighting, there is a two page spread dedicated to the victims. And just like the fighting mural on the page before, I felt distant from it. The fact that we don’t get to truly see events unfold made me disengage from them on an emotional level. And from the way the story wraps up, I get the impression that King was going for an emotional finale. But I just wasn’t there for it because I wasn’t given the opportunity to immerse myself in the world. I was just an outsider looking in, disconnected from the events on the page.
Much in the same way that I thought the opening to the story could have benefited from a more straightforward approach, there was a similar instance that occurred during the two page victim spread. Narration covers the pages, and towards the end of it, Bruce starts to have an emotional breakdown. And I felt so far away from him. I couldn’t see his eyes. I couldn’t see his face. I couldn’t see his pain. And once again, I was disconnected from the story because I wasn’t allowed to take part in it. It was extremely frustrating, because I wanted to be there. But because of the way the story was presented, I was denied access to it. And instead of becoming an experience, it was just a story. And that’s truly sad.
On a less serious not, I can also condemn the story for not showing the characters portrayed correctly. And by this, I mean according to their fighting abilities. It makes sense that Deathstroke and Deadshot would have a nice game of cat and mouse as long as they kept it long range, but as soon as they closed to close quarter combat, it should have been over. Deathstroke should have decimated Deadshot. It actually gets worse when Batman engages the duo. Look, I can buy that Batman should be able to take out Deadshot in a couple of hits. But Deathstroke?!?! This issue shows Batman taking him out with 4 measly hits. A Batman/Deathstroke fight should be an entire issue! Not summed up in one page. That’s just ridiculous. I’d have actually preferred it if they had swapped Deathstroke and Deadshot in that fight though. Batman just wails on Deadshot. I’d have been much more willing to have accepted Deathstroke getting knocked unconscious if they had shown Batman repeatedly and brutally pounding his face.
While I don’t necessarily think the visual elements presented are the ones I would have preferred Janin to focus on, that doesn’t mean I think what he did present is anything less than perfect. So, like always, Mikel Janin is the superstar of any story he is connected to.
- You wanna see Gordon in his undies.
- You wanna see Selina in her purple suit from the 90s.
- You wanna see a Deathstroke versus Deadshot versus Batman fight.
- You wanna see some incredible Mikel Janin art.
I was definitely more disappointed with this issue than I thought I’d be. While I really think the subject matter is top notch, the execution doesn’t really allow you to fully experience the story. I constantly felt disconnected from the characters, the fighting, and the emotional core of the story…which I was most assuredly meant to feel. The story also features some rather clunky dialogue along with a seemingly inconsequential scene put in for frivolities sake. But hey, the art is still top notch.
SCORE: 6.5 / 10