I’m shuffling through an abundance of opinions trying to determine the best way to speak to this issue, and I honestly don’t know where to start. I mean, we actually get some plot progression, but everything else is just so… “Tom King Batman” that I genuinely hate this issue. Oh yeah, I said hate. Get ready because the <beeps> are coming out.
And speaking of <beeps>, if you want to join a <beep>ing awesome review team, we’re looking for passionate fans who want to share their love of Batman and comics! If you’re interested, find out how to apply here.
I’ve been quite vocal about my thoughts concerning Tom King’s Batman, and while I think Tom King is a wonderful talent, I can’t say the same for his work on this title. Some people love this run. I get it – to each his own – but I’m not one of those people. And while I’ve always found something to take issue with concerning King’s Batman, I haven’t always despised the book. That stance didn’t come about until around Batman #54 though. Since then, I’ve practically hated this book.
Now, to be fair, I’m not bashing this book for the sake of bashing it. I’ve expressed very specific reasons as to why I haven’t cared for Batman lately, and those same reasons keep popping up each and every issue: King’s poor portrayal of Batman, illogical motivations/ relationships, lack of progression, and King’s writing technique. To make matters worse, whenever King does provide progression, he just passes over chunks of the narrative without letting us experience the meat of the story. For me, this has made Batman feel hollow.
As I stated in my introduction, this issue does provide some progression, and while I’m happy to see that, all of the other opportunities I mentioned are still blatantly there. I mean, right away, King turns to his crutch of using some type of prose (in this case, a song) to narrate his panels. As I’ve stated before, I actually like this writing technique. I think it can be very effective when used properly, but when you use this technique for every single issue – sometimes for the entire issue – then that technique is no longer effective. When used this consistently, you start to lose something that is critical for storytelling… engagement.
Anyway, this issue picks up following Bane’s brutal beating of Batman. Thomas is riding horseback through a desert with an unconscious Bruce draped over the back of the horse, and a casket in tow. Who is in the casket? Is the casket for Bruce? Where are they going? These are all valid questions. Do you know what else are valid questions? How did they get here? Why is Bruce still knocked out? Why did Bane let Thomas take Batman? Are we really supposed to believe Batman has remained unconscious long enough for Thomas to leave the country and ride horseback through the desert? This really seems like a lot of narrative to just blow past and not explain. Also, and I know I’ve already made a reference to this, but having Thomas sing “Home on the Range” isn’t helping. These two need to talk. We need answers.
Thankfully, part of the way through this issue, my wish comes true. We get actual dialogue! After months of speculating why Thomas would side with Bane, what his real motivation is, etc, we get… Whatever this is. Bruce finally comes to. There’s some talking. Well, what King considers talking, I guess. (“It’s all right. You been through something. You’re coming out of something.”) It’s not great. Bruce is still angry, rightfully, so Thomas punches him (Jesus, what is it with King having people who care for each other punch one another?). Then Thomas tells him that Bane broke him, body and soul, and that all of that is in his past. In Gotham. Then Thomas claims that Bruce doesn’t need to worry anymore because he’s there… AND THEN THEY HUG!
Are you <beeb>ing kidding me!? What is this bull<beep>? A father, who is from an alternate reality, just assisted someone in mentally torturing and physically beating his son for months, and now he’s telling said son that everything is ok because he’s here now? <Beep> that! This is <beep>ing Batman. He wouldn’t hug this man. He’d be pissed. He’d also have the wherewithal to know this isn’t necessarily the same father he knew and grew up with. It’s just completely off base. And what is with all of the references that Thomas is a better Batman than Bruce? No. Just no.
All this reveals, yet again, is that King doesn’t have a grasp on Batman as a character. And again, the character motivations are completely off base and illogical. Nobody in their right mind would approach this situation in a way that either of these men are. Yes, you could make the argument that these two aren’t in their right mind, but not in this way. And it gets worse. King makes a point to acknowledge Bruce’s anger, then does nothing with it. Zilch. Merely acknowledging something doesn’t count as dealing with it.
Then the story progresses. More events are acknowledged, but not dealt with. We still don’t know how Thomas came to this world. We don’t know why Bane would let him leave with Bruce. And we still don’t know why Thomas joined Bane instead of opposing him. I mean, we’ve gotten “answers,” but they don’t hold water (Thomas doesn’t want Bruce to be Batman anymore). So, now, King tries to expand on that motivation by revealing who is in the casket as well as where Thomas and Bruce are headed… In case you’re wondering, the answer is obvious, but it doesn’t make the situation any more believable… In fact, it only adds more questions.
It’s Martha. It’s Martha <beep>ing Wayne. Somebody, please start yelling “Martha!” and “Why did you say that name?!?” so this <beep> can stop! Seriously! What the <beep> is this?
Also, I would now like to point out that Thomas dug up the body of Martha from this earth. Bruce would be mortified. Not only that, in addition to lugging Bruce across the world, he also lugged a corpse across the world, but did so after mending Bruce’s broke back. And yet, somehow, he managed all of this before Bruce ever came to.
What’s really frustrating, is King feels like this is acceptable storytelling. No. No, sir, it is not. You are not providing a complete narrative, you’re providing an illustrated brainstorm with specific ideas for thematic impact. You’re not working an actual story. Your work is the equivalent of an outline, but even you don’t seem to know how you got from “Point A” to “Point B.” It’s a joke.
How much longer until Batman #85?
The Art: Mikel Janin covers the pencils for this issue, and he does an incredible job! The desert location for this issue takes me back to Janin’s work in Grayson #5, and it’s giving me all of the right nostalgic vibes. I’ve always been a fan of his work, but there have been issues lately where his pencils haven’t been as polished as we’ve come to expect – undoubtedly a result of the dual-ship schedule – but this issue appears to be completely finessed. Take into account the cinematic nature of his work, and the rich colors from Jordie Bellaire, and you’re left with an incredible combination. I’m just sorry that there isn’t a script of equal quality to support the book.
- You like hugs.
- You want to bond with your psychotic, abusive father.
- You want to get the full effect of the <beeps> from my review.
Overall: Mikel Janin deserves most of the praise here as the art is absolutely stunning! If not for him, I’m not sure I would have found anything worthwhile in this issue – an all too frequent trend of Batman lately. To give Tom King some credit though, we finally get some plot progression, but the relationships and conversations here are absolutely bonkers. For me, it isn’t believable, and while I had a fleeting moment of, “Well, I’ll give King the benefit of the doubt.” No… I’m sorry, mister King, but you’ve lost that grace.
DISCLAIMER: Batman News received an advance copy of this book for review.