Well… At least we only have to endure another ten issues of this instead of dredging to Batman #107 (or whatever number Tom King was originally supposed to end on).
Batman #75 debuts Tom King’s “City of Bane.” The first page is a splash page featuring the text “Later.” This is clearly here to signify that what we’re about to experience takes place in the future. It’s also a blatant warning for me that there will be no explanation on King’s part detailing how we’ve progressed from Batman #74 to Batman #75. We last saw Batman (or perhaps Thomas Wayne) climbing out of a cave in the desert, and now we’re going to jump to some crazy, new reality that King has whipped up. And guess what? Page two reveals a crazy, new reality that Tom King has whipped up without any explanation or context. Oh, look at that. King has tried so hard for so long to defy expectations that he’s become blatantly obvious and predictable. *Sigh*
So, what does page two reveal? The Joker and the Riddler are working in Gotham as police officers, and their commissioner is Hugo Strange. They also seem to be working with regular members of the GCPD as well. Again, no explanation or context. After finding two individuals murdered at the hands of Two Face, Strange calls for support from Batman… Thomas Wayne Batman.
Following Thomas-Bats’ introduction to the story, we learn that he’s made the Ventriloquist his own personal “Alfred.” Ok. Whatever. Carry on. While working the case, Thomas-Bats deducts that Two Face would’ve needed heavy muscle to murder Dr. Double X at the beginning of the story, and decides to utilize seismographs to try and track Harvey and crew down. His approach is successful.
Up to this point, my only problem with the book is honestly a conceptual problem and the reliance on shock value. Seeing villains run the city is supposed to be shocking… but for me, it’s not. This has been done quite a few times, and, as I stated earlier, this is ultimately a poor attempt on King’s part to try and defy expectation. I’m currently re-reading King’s entire Batman run to write trade reviews, and I’ve recently realized this has been his M.O. since day one. It’s exhausting. I’m finding it hard to even care anymore. And that’s just from reading it. Imagine having to craft 1,000 to 1,500 words discussing something you find exhausting.
Anyway, shifting back to the concept, your enjoyment of this issue is heavily reliant on whether or not you enjoy the idea of this reverse universe where the bad guys control things. In its own twisted, weird way, this is a fun – albeit, well-explored – concept… If it were an Elseworlds story. But it’s not an Elseworlds story. This is in continuity. This is actually happening. This is Tom King’s weird reimagining of “No Man’s Land,” and I don’t find it nearly as engaging or intriguing – probably because there’s no actual setup or exploration of this world. In fact, that is the key. “No Man’s Land” is one of my favorite Batman stories because it took the time and effort to set up the story in a realistic way for the universe. Here, King pompously expects you to just accept that this is the status quo.
While the issue implies that Bane used Psycho Pirate to manipulate people to create the current status quo, it would’ve been nice to actually experience it. I would’ve enjoyed watching Bane slowly turn the tides against Batman. I would’ve enjoyed watching Bane recruit key individuals before manipulating or brainwashing everyone else. I would’ve enjoyed watching Bane enact most of his plan to slowly dismantle and break Batman. That would have made King’s run interesting. That what have given validity to King’s “just wait” commentary. But King couldn’t be bothered to actually work a story, and now King is expecting a reaction and praise that he hasn’t earned. He’s merely yelling, “It’s all connected! Bane did it all.” as if he’s a glorious mastermind… Sadly, his execution is so half-assed that his work is proving him to be anything but.
Seriously though, there’s a ton of validity in asking, “How did we get here?” Yes, I know Bane used Psycho Pirate, but how? How did we shift from a city with a relatively strong structure and heroes, to this? How, exactly did Bane take over? How did the GCPD fall? Where are the other heroes? Why hasn’t the Justice League involving themselves? How does the outside world not seem to understand this is taking place? And how did Bane court all of these villains? Answers to these questions, even if crazy, would be interesting and are critical to the story as a whole… I mean, yeah, there’s a throw-away line about Gotham Girl keeping people out of Gotham, but are we really supposed to believe she can stop everyone? No. I don’t buy it at all.
Speaking of Gotham Girl, she makes up for the worst pages of this issue. During a confrontation with Solomon Grundy and Amygdala, King feels the need to inflect himself onto the character. We get an overabundance of King’s “humor” and awkwardness. It’s just another example in a long string of King altering characters so he can project himself instead. He has literally made this the “Tom King show,” and it’s insulting to the legacy of these characters. It also comes across as being very pompous and arrogant.
And then, finally, there’s the hooded man climbing up a mountainside throughout the issue. It’s quite clear that this is Bruce, so the reveal felt wasted. Also, the fact that a nobody would be able to slit his throat… I don’t buy into that. And then things take a turn for the worse when Catwoman shows up and King reverts back to the whole, “It was on a boat.” “It was in an alley.” nonsense. I can’t tell you how tired I am of reading this exchange between these to. Enough is enough already.
It’s also quite clear that King is pushing for a “love will overcome all” story, and while I like the theme of that, it doesn’t mean I have to like the execution… And I clearly don’t. In fact, I don’t like this issue at all. I find it juvenile and pretentious. To make matters worse, Tom Kings proclaims about how epic this all is, only makes him look like that kid telling everyone how smart and mature he is when evidence proves otherwise.
Batman #75 isn’t shocking, deep, profound, or engaging. It’s just more Batman by King nonsense… And then there’s the forced offer from Lex Luthor at the because of “Year of the Villain.” Yeah… If you stopped reading King’s Batman a while back, don’t believe the hype. There’s nothing here that should encourage you to pick it back up. Just wait for the next creative team.
Tony Daniel covers art for the issue, and while I’m a huge fan of his, this isn’t his best work. I’m going to assume he had to rush a number of these pages due to King’s shortened issue count, so I’m not really going to hold it against Daniel. That being said, there are distinct inconsistencies from page to page. Despite that, his work is far from bad. Hell, Tony Daniel on a “bad day” is still better than a majority of artists in the industry today!
Mitch Gerads delivers art for the back-up store (“The Offer”), and I found myself enjoying this quite a bit. There are multiple panels that feature the chaos going on in Gotham, and I loved practically every panel of it… But here’s the thing, this should just be an average day for these characters. We should see glimpses of this throughout Batman even when the good guys are in control.
- You’ve been reading the entire run, so you feel you might as well finish?
I don’t care for Batman #75 at all, and I have many reasons why I don’t. In fact, many of these reasons stem from a trend with Tom King. A trend of trying too hard to defy expectations rather than simply tell a good story. A trend of not properly setting up, working, or telling a narrative fully and completely. A trend of illogical character developments. And a trend of Tom King recreating characters as himself. At some point, I just want a well-written story, without gimmicks, without shock value, with honestly depicted characters, and without needing to skirt around crucial plot points. I don’t think I’m asking too much in that respect, but I don’t think we’re ever going to get that with Tom King’s Batman.