So… This concept of progressing a story… I’d love to see it happen at some point… This issue doesn’t really offer us anything more than, “Batman wakes up, makes threats to Bane, and punches people as he walks out of Arkham Asylum.” So, not only does it not give us anything new, but it’s executed poorly as well.
I want to like Batman. I write for a Batman site, so that alone should inform you of a certain degree of love I have for this character… But I’m not a fan of Tom King’s Batman – both the book and the character. There are many things that Tom King does well, but writing Batman is not one of them. In fact, I’d barely consider this writing. What I mean by that, is that whenever I read an issue of Batman, I feel like King approaches the issue with the mindset of, “How quickly can I knock this out with as little effort as possible so I can move on?” and, to me, it shows in the final product.
We spent months enduring the “Knightmares” arc when all we really wanted was to move past it and progress the story. This week, we are officially past “Knightmares,” but I can’t say that we got much progression. In this chapter, Batman wakes up in Arkham Asylum, then proceeds to walk out of the building. That is your story. Yeah, he punches a laundry list of rogues along the way while talking at them, but it only lasts for about a panel or a page for each character. If that’s your thing, great! It’s not my thing. I expect more from Batman. In fact, anyone could write a comic that consists of what we have here. Anyone.
As expected, King falls back into his crutch of using prose to “narrate” the images we’re seeing. It’s a script that’s indirectly connected to what’s actually happening on the page, and while it can be effective, King’s fallen into a habit of doing it nearly every single issue. It’s predictable at this point, and makes me wonder if King is even capable of writing actual dialogue and conversations between characters anymore.
The laziness of the script blows my mind. Now, I know what goes into writing comics, and I’m well aware that even when there’s no dialogue, there’s quite a bit of text that essentially “directs” the artist. But King has shown that he doesn’t really do that. He’s shared multiple pictures on Twitter showcasing how incredible the artists are that he works with by comparing his script next to their finished product. While I’m glad he’s giving his artists that type of recognition – God knows they deserve it – you can’t help but look at the script and think, “Can you, I don’t know… pretend to care about writing a quality script?”
With the exception of a few characters encounters – Riddler, Scarecrow, Two Face, and Mr. Freeze – King could have honestly just put, “Batman encounters and punches a rogue. Pick who you want to draw.” In fact, I kind of suspect that nearly the entire script for this issue would read this way, and while I get writers need issues like this to catch up or allow the artist do what they want/ have more control, I feel like this is becoming a consistent trend with King. And while I want the artists to have ownership in the work they’re doing, I’d also like to have a decent script as well… I don’t think that’s asking for too much.
I also take issue with King’s use of the rogues here. Having Batman just make his way through villain after villain, with no effort, dropping each of them with a single punch… It cheapens the villains. It makes it really hard to take this story seriously. And then, to make things worse, you have Batman boasting about how much of a badass he is in an attempt to strike fear. The problem is, it isn’t scary, and feels way out of character. Yeah, Batman should throw out some threats to terrify people, but this doesn’t read that way. If I were Bane, I wouldn’t be scared. This is the opposite of scary, it’s humorous! And no, that isn’t the intention.
Most of Batman’s threats to Bane remind me of some drunk, college bro that’s pissed at somebody at a frat party, so he’s making sure everyone else at the party knows he isn’t happy, but he isn’t really going to do anything about it other than complain. Batman literally spends an entire issue making threats, only to follow them up with something along the lines of, “I’m coming after you!… But not today, because I’m tired and want to go sleep… In my house… In my bed! But after that… I’m coming for you… Unless Alfred makes me a big breakfast that requires a morning nap.” Like, come on… Is Batman a four-year-old throwing a temper tantrum? Is he about to tell someone he isn’t their friend anymore? Batman is better than this. King is better than this. Damnit, we deserve better than this.
Ultimately, nothing happens here, and that’s a shame. Tom King likes to play the waiting game, and I’m convinced that he chooses this approach because he doesn’t really have anything to say. The story he’s trying to tell throughout his 100+ issue run could have easily been done in 50 issues or less, so he’s just padding the hell out of his script to buy time. Yeah, there’s potential for a worthwhile payoff, but I’m not holding my breath. King has a tendency to just zip through the “meat and potatoes” of his stories – neglecting all the textures, character focuses, and plot developments that make reading something interesting and entertaining. All he delivers the bullet points. I’ve described his scripts as feeling like an outline instead of an actual story, and I still feel that way. What’s worse, is he seems to be overly proud of himself for doing this, and he pushes his work as if it’s something that it isn’t… a masterpiece.
The Art: Another common theme concerning Tom King’s work lately, is the fact that the artists have been his saving grace. Great art goes a long way, and Tom King owes his partners a huge thank you. I tend to find context lacking from most of King’s Batman run, and most of what is there is found in the art.
For this issue, we have Mikel Janin covering art duties, with an assist from Jorge Fornes. Both men are incredible artists who have a great aesthetic and can deliver some incredible sequential pieces that tell beautiful, captivating stories. This issue is basically Batman punching people, and the prevent it from looking like a comedy – which probably would’ve been the case if handled by a number of artists in the industry. That being said, when there’s not much more to the script, you can’t really do much more with the overall product.
If I have one complaint about the art, in particular, it’s that Janin and Fornes’ work doesn’t mesh well together. This is a minor, hyper-critical gripe, but sometimes a shift in styles takes me out of the story. If DC and King need to shift artists as much as they have, I wish they would group Janin and Moore together, and then Weeks and Fornes’ together. Either way, that’s my only gripe about the art, so that should tell you how good the work is from these two men, as well as Jordie Bellaire’s colors.
- You like to see Batman walk.
- You like to see Batman punch the Arkham Asylum class of 2019.
- You want to see Batman make idle threats and tell everyone he’s a badass.
Overall: Mr. King, I’d love if you tried a little harder. At this point, it appears as though you’re phoning it in, and you’re doing it with the most popular superhero around today. It’s not a flattering look for you, especially since we know the greatness you can achieve when you actually try (Grayson, Omega Men, Vision, Mister Miracle, Sheriff of Babylon). You have thirty-something issues left… Please give Bat-fans something they can actually sink their teeth into, and stop relying on the same schtick.
A Batman fan
**Now, I want to make something very clear. While I’m not a fan of King’s Batman, and while I despise some of the decisions he’s made or his execution, that does not constitute a personal attack on him. If you’re here, reading this, and you feel the need to threaten physical harm or death to Tom King, his family, or whatever… Don’t. In fact, if you’re that person, don’t come to this site. We don’t need that toxic behavior here. We need to be better than that. Complain about the work all you want to, but the moment you make a threat against the person, you’re in the wrong. Period. We won’t tolerate it, and I encourage you to stand against it as well when you witness it.
DISCLAIMER: Batman News received an advance copy of this book for the purpose of review.