This second installment of Tom King’s “The Tyrant Wing” may be one of those issues that can be better appreciated from the distance of seeing how all of this will ultimately play out. As a single floppy, though, it’s likely to spark some controversy. Given King’s preoccupation with attempting to subvert the readers’ expectations, however, I’m going to hold off on writing some lengthy diatribe about everything that feels wrong in this book, and instead confine myself to just pointing out a few curious observations.
Because it may well be that King wants us to feel like everything is wrong in this book, and that the whole point of this arc is to destroy our sense of equilibrium. In other words, King could be intentionally trying to provoke a reaction with some of the over-the-top things that happen here.
It’s a fair enough story-telling technique, but I’m going to step back for a moment and ask whether it’s A.) fair, and B.) effective. As to fairness, I guess you could argue that anything goes in a fantasy environment like this and if there’s some sleight-of-hand that’s all part of the detective genre. Do we as an audience want to be messed with, however? That will probably vary from reader to reader. Which leads us to the question of effectiveness. From my own personal experience with this run so far since the failed elopement of issue no. 50, I feel like it’s just been one “shocking” thing after another. And oh look, here’s some more of the same.
And since King has zero track record of following up on these shocking events in a meaningful or emotionally satisfying way, I have zero faith he’ll follow up with anything that happens in this book either. So half a point for fair, goose egg for effective.
Mean Batman is mean
Let’s take a deeper look.
We closed the book last issue with Alfred literally in the crosshairs and the sound of the gun going off. Here we open to a scene that appears to be some time later (which establishes a new timeline for what happened in the previous book since it appeared at that time that the interview with Batman and Penguin was happening concurrently to the assassination attempt, but now we know the interview is, in fact, happening after the shooting–the outcome of which we’re given no satisfaction in this book whatsoever).
King continues to play games with time: intercutting this Penguin interview with Batman’s pursuit of Bane at Arkham. The juxtapositions are needlessly confusing and King deliberately holds back clarifying information in order to preserve a “mystique” about who is doing what and when and how the information is unfolding.
If you like your comics Usual Suspects-style, this may appeal to you. For my money, it’s just got “hand of the writer” all over it and feels like an exercise in frustration. There’s no point in this comic in which I just feel immersed in the world; I’m always aware that King is trying to do something or say something or hide something, and that intrudes on the ability to just let the thing unfold. It’s honestly making this story needlessly complicated and a chore to read.
And to the point of what King’s hiding, Batman makes one of those completely out of character moves that turns a potentially interesting potboiler into a flaming Hindenburg-level bit of incendiary nonsense.
I always say I give a book an extra point or half-point for cool Commissioner Gordon moments, but this book actually loses half a point for providing one of the most poorly motivated “big drama” events between Batman and his long-time GCPD co-collaborator.
And while I’m there. I might as well nitpick the fact that Batman is giving Gordon a left-cross and Gordon is somehow falling to the right. The awkward staging of such a large panel draws even more attention to how silly this moment is.
And this is where I remind myself and everyone else that this moment feels so brainlessly “shocking” that I’m almost convinced that what we’re seeing on the page isn’t actually what’s happening. And then I’m just annoyed all over again at the hand of the writer showing itself.
Kingpin Penguin obliges us with a waak
Whatever the shortcomings (or just plain lack of confidence I may feel) in the story, Mikel Janín’s artwork never fails to please the eye (that one Gordon moment notwithstanding). The book is rendered with loving clarity of action and nuance of character: Oswald Cobblepot’s full range of rages and ramblings are well-captured in a myriad of expressions and body language, at least of few of which speak eloquently for that small spark of humanity that maybe persists in spite of the monster he has become.
I actually found myself flipping through the pages carefully and examining them for any “tells” about what might actually be going on. I have some speculations, but I also think I may be overthinking it all. It could be that I’m so tired of how predictable King is that I’m hoping for something truly brilliant to leap out of left field; to discover that King has had us all buffaloed.
But to be honest, I expect to be disappointed. That may be the saddest commentary of all.
- You want backstory about the Penguin and Penny? You got backstory! Well, kind of.
- You like Batman and Gordon high octane interactions! Well, kind of.
- Batman vs. Bane! Well, kind of.
King takes the train off the tracks and hurls it straight down the side of the mountain in this second stop on “The Tyrant Wing” express. I can’t tell you what’s more frustrating: leaving the Alfred event just blowing in the wind, suffering through a couple of mindless Bat-beatdowns, or the fact that King felt the need to put us through all this while also playing timeframe games in an attempt to ratchet up the tension. Just not falling for it here. Well executed book, but it’s mostly just exposition and, I suspect, misdirection, and may leave you with a taste like ashes.