It’s just a teaser image, but I confess I’ve already made up my mind: this is not going to go well.

As you’ve surely heard, Batman writer Tom King will be leaving the title after December. As you’ve also surely heard, he will continue writing the words “Bat” and “Cat” in Batman/Catwoman, which kicks off in January. As you may not have heard, King’s Batman-redefining shakeup is still on the slate, only it will take place in Batcat rather than Batman.

DC has released the above image, and it may well be that the shakeup is now revealed. For the heathens among you, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm produced the finest exploration of Bruce’s early struggles as Batman since Frank Miller’s Year One. Some of us would even say we prefer this animated take—with the exception, perhaps, of the origin it gives Joker.

At the center of the drama is the Phantasm, a mysterious villain who’s collecting on the moral debt of Gotham’s organized criminal element. The game of whack-a-mobster carries on for quite some time before Batman finally solves the case of Phantasm’s identity and the motivating factors behind the killings.

For those of you who may not have seen it (though I think you’re cuckoo-loco for not having done so), stop reading now, or you’ll be spoiled. All you need to know is that the identity of Phantasm had serious effects on Bruce in the animated film, and this teaser image is therefore loaded.

Still here?

With much love to Tom King, whose work on Omega Men, Vision, and select other issues I absolutely loved, THIS IS A MISTAKE. King’s run on Batman—especially the past 22 or so issues—has been incredibly controversial. Many of us would say that he cannot write in Batman’s world with any sort of fidelity, and yet here we go throwing a character into the mix who means so much to fans—one who will only complicate a scenario with which King already struggles mightily.

I would love to eat my cynicism next year, but I don’t think I will. I held out for a long time on King’s Batman, sustained by his work on those aforementioned projects that I enjoyed. I can’t do it anymore. As far as I’m concerned, King is at the ground floor, and he needs to prove himself to readers before we get excited about such a bombshell of a character introduction. For now, I’ll keep on expecting the worst.


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