Issue #4 of Batman: Sins of the Father was disappointing; the plot didn’t progress enough because pages were wasted on revisiting Lawton’s origin and after several issues of familiar proficiency, Bruce Wayne suddenly started acting like an idiot. I’m pleased to report that the fifth part of the tale is much more satisfying- Gage increases the tempo, packs the issue with action and reintroduces a competent dark knight.
Despite getting his ingenuity back, Bruce definitely remains on the back foot; throughout the whole of issue #5 he’s a step behind Lawton, desperately scurrying around trying to protect those closest to him (a situation contrived by the aforementioned rash action he took last issue). Regardless of how we got here, I wouldn’t have it any other way; a race against time is the perfect content for the penultimate issue of a series. If the situation wasn’t tense and the stakes weren’t high, what reason would there be for tuning in for issue #6? Batman should generally be the smartest guy in the room but that doesn’t mean we as readers want everything to go his way all the time.
Although Batman is rushing around trying to save people, issue #5 isn’t just a heartless action romp. Gage deftly uses this opportunity to provide touching moments between Bruce and the surrogate paternal figures in his life. Not only is this a welcome change (in the main continuity, Batman is often too staunch, busy or gruff to actually thank Alfred for bringing him up), it’s also perfect timing storywise; making the audience care about the supporting cast makes us even more invested when they come under threat in this issue.
Speaking of Mr Pennyworth, Alfred is simultaneously frustratingly irrational and gratifyingly badass in part five but remains recognisably the butler we know and love. I appreciate when writers use Alfred’s more assertive side sparingly as Gage has by reigning him in until late in the series; it makes his actions more surprising and maintains his gentlemanly, dignified persona. Deadshot, meanwhile, has become less intriguing. He’s still an intelligent, fearsome threat for Batman but the more of his unhinged side we’ve seen, the more Lawton has felt like a generic comic book villain.
A couple more things that got me thinking:
- I was glad when Lawton made it clear this month that he’s not really interested in hurting Bruce because he was only a child when Thomas Wayne and the Arkham staff sent Floyd back to live with his abusive parents (Up until this point it had bothered me that he was antagonising an innocent person as part of his big revenge plan). He goes on to explain that his beef is with Alfred who either didn’t realise what a monster Thomas was or turned a blind eye. This is an excellent point from Deadshot and a hole in the story originally told in the first season of the Telltale series which (correct me if I’m wrong) hasn’t yet been explained.
- It’s revealed in this issue that Bruce Wayne is openly financing Batman’s co-operation with the GCPD. I hated when this was introduced in the main continuity as part of Batman Incorporated and I still hate it now. The whole point of having a secret identity is to protect yourself and your loved ones from the consequences of being a vigilante; if you start publicly bankrolling the same vigilante you put yourself, family and friends back in the very same crosshairs!
A few things troubled me about the art this month. Usually, Guy Major’s colours provide a moody, consistent tone for the book but the building in which the conclusion of the issue took place had a bizarrely bright purple roof and the glowing eyes on Batman’s cowl (which I previously praised as a cool, unique touch) now glow far too much. I also felt that Ienco’s Bruce has an unnaturally downturned mouth in many instances, and several characters’ stances look strangely stiff. Nonetheless, the book is overall as delight to look at, as usual. You can tell Ienco enjoys drawing the Batmobile; every shot of it looks painstakingly crafted by a technical draftsman. Every time I flick through the issue, I spot a new detail: gothic architecture, startled birds flying away, a precisely drawn forklift truck and parked cars in the background, the contents of a store cupboard, a kicked-open door suffering a second impact as it swings ajar into a wall, and even the Batwing from Arkham Origins! Just take a look at the perspective work and detail on the gun in the image below; Ienco must use lots of photographs for reference and a lot of patience to get his images that perfect!
- You like it when digital-first issues flow together well; the transition between digital issues #9 and #10 is seamless!
- You like stellar, unique artwork.
- You’ve been waiting for this story to really get going.
Overall: Due to the amount of action contain therein, issue #5 is a read that flies by but it’s worth revisiting for the emotion and artwork on show. Gage and Ienco return to full strength and effectively set up the series’ finale.