Whether I love what King is doing or hate what King is doing, there is always one thing that I find consistent in his work, and that is his penchant for taking things in directions I simply didn’t expect.
If you are one of the individuals that reads solicitations, you’ve know for awhile now that Batman would be wandering the desert. This had many of us, myself included, believing that Selina would say “no” to Bruce’s proposal and that this would send him on a soul searching adventure to find himself after being turned down. After the last issue, and Selina’s answer of “yes”, I still adhered to the notion that he would be doing some soul searching. But now, I believed it would be as a result of getting a “yes” answer and not really knowing what to do about it.
Well, color me surprised, because King isn’t doing any of that.
The story is split into two main sections. One involves Batman and Catwoman wandering the desert and the other involves the “Robins” discovering Bruce’s engagement. The desert sequences are probably the more intriguing of the two storylines, but much of this should be credited to the mystery of it all. Sometimes a reveal just isn’t worth the slow buildup that precedes it, but in this case, I can honestly say that I am genuinely intrigued to see where all this is going.
Generally speaking, the overall plot works, but I didn’t much care for the minutia that made up the interconnecting moments. As I said, it’s the mystery of it all that drives the desert scenes. And while that driving force to get to the answer is ever present, I found myself being more concerned with where we were headed than being interested in what what was actually happening while getting there.
For instance, the first 5 pages do nothing but establish the fact that Batman and Catwoman are crossing the desert. We don’t get any interesting dialogue, and really, the visuals aren’t all that stellar. That’s not to say that they are poorly illustrated, but it’s just page after page of orange and yellow hues. And lets not ignore the fact that there is a two-page splash that’s nothing but sand, sky, sun, and wind. Look, I get that they are trying to establish the vastness of the desert, but for me, it just doesn’t work. In my travels I have been to places that are infinitely vast. And like any traveler, I take pictures. The pictures I have taken of expansive vistas never do the real locations the justice they deserve. The photos often help me to recall how I felt while actually standing there, but they simply can’t capture the boundlessness of nature. And if I find the picture of an actual location to be a paltry substitute for actually being there, you can see what I’m saying about an illustration attempting to do the same thing. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a simple yet beautiful attempt at capturing something uncapturable, so I give it credit for that. But ultimately, it falls short of delivering a feeling if you haven’t already experienced that felling in earnest.
On the flip side; we have Dick, Jason, Damian, and Duke hanging out in Wayne Manor with Ace the Bat-Hound and Alfred. Given the reveal, I really would have liked to have seen the “Robins” talk more about all this. Instead, much of their section is played for laughs, and only the very end shows some pertinent emotional outpouring. But even that is ultimately void of any true exploration, instead, it just kind of happens.
If anything, it seems to me that the bulk of their conversation is spent making fun of memorable moments. They talk about Bat-Cow, the now oftenly overused trope of Bruce’s dark secrets ultimately coming back to bite everyone in the ass, Robin being the sunny side of Batman, Jay’s death, his time spent as a villain, and the time he stole the tries off the Batmobile. Usually I’m all about references (and these are some great ones), but here, it seems that King is just filling the pages with them for lack of being able to have the characters express themselves in a forthright and meaningful way. This is one of those times where I don’t need to know that King knows stuff ABOUT the characters, I need to know that he genuinely knows how they think. Because what I want to see is how each individual feels about this, not be marveled by references.
Since this is Joelle Jones’ first issue on Batman, I should probably speak about the art, but to be honest, I’m not overly impressed. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing at all about this that is bad, but it’s nothing more than just fine either. Part of this opinion is probably stemming from the hype that DC was pushing at SDCC. They made this really big deal about Joelle being on Batman, but at this point, I don’t see what all the hubbub is.
Odds and Ends:
- Fans of King’s previous project, Grayson, will be pleased to know that Tiger makes an appearance and, for all intents and purposes, seems to be a major fixture of the story going forward.
- For those of you not keeping track of original numbering, this will be Batman #798. Which means, Batman #35 will be issue #800. So, do we think they are going to do something grand or just let it slip by without observing a centennial issue?
- There is this guy out in the middle of the desert that’s supposed to stop everyone from entering Khadym. He’s supposed to stop heroes…and villains… and basically everybody from entering. But then Catwoman whoops his butt. If this guy was hand picked by the Justice League of America to keep people out, how is it that a relatively superless super-villain has the ability to take him down? And that’s not to mean any offense to Catwoman either, but if she can get in, this guard doesn’t stand much of a chance against a true Big Bad. I’m just saying.
- That dialogue is being delivered by someone off panel, but the tail of the word balloon makes it look like the individual in the frame is the one saying it. Not a deal breaker, for sure, but it definitely gave me a seconds hesitation of confusion.
- I love the title of this story arc: “The Rules of Engagement”. The phrase is commonly associated with the conduct one is supposed to hold oneself to when engaged in combat with the enemy. But in this instance, it has a double meaning, referring also to the newly engaged couple. Considering that their engagement is about to bring on combat, I’d say that is an extremely clever title.
- Does anyone else think Batman and Catwoman are on their way to secure Holly Robinson? Just a thought.
- You’ve always wanted to see a mashup of Batman meets Lawrence of Arabia.
- You enjoy seeing the “Robins” poke fun at each other.
While I’m very interested in where this story is headed, I felt that the execution of the opening chapter left much to be desired. It’s got a lot of filler, a lot of missed opportunities for character exploration, and a lot of sand…
SCORE: 6.5 / 10