Well crap… After a slight improvement in the last issue, we’re now back to every character talking like Tom King. *Sigh* Well, at least Damian gets some kick as moments in this issue…
Let it be known, Damian Wayne is the best thing about this issue! In fact, I would say that this is his issue. Batman #77 follows Damian’s journey. Forced to ramp up the momentum and actually deliver some plot progression, King sends Damian into Gotham to try and stop the new dynamic duo and Bane. That’s a task that is easier said than done though.
We already know that Gotham Girl is patrolling the city limits, stopping heroes that try to come into Gotham. We also know that Bane put a kill order on Alfred if any of the Bat-family stepped foot in Gotham… But something needs to be done. Despite better judgments, Damian heads into Gotham and is immediately met by Gotham Girl. Naturally, my thought is, “Well, this isn’t going to go well.”
While Damian is handled incredibly well here, I can’t say the same for Gotham Girl. She’s back to sounding like Tom King. I literally read the lines, and I hear Tom saying these things rather than the actual character. It’s frustrating, and one of my biggest gripes about King’s work lately. And while GG’s dialogue isn’t as bad here as in Batman #75, it’s damn near close. I would say the entire scene is ruined because of how grating Gotham Girl is, but, if I’m being honest, the way Damian deals with her is so satisfying and clever, that it pretty much makes up for it. Add in the fact that Damian is so smug about the entire encounter, and I might have to admit to loving this scene (minus GG’s dialogue… Just want to be clear that she’s awful.)
Once Damian has taken care of Gotham Girl, he continues his trek into the city, which forces him to cross paths with Detective Zsasz and Detective Scarecrow. While I loved how Damian handled Gotham Girl, this encounter, unfortunately, isn’t as clever. Mikel Janin delivers some solid action here, and while that does make Damian look good, there isn’t anything else positive to say about the scene. Zsasz and Scarecrow both sound like King (again), and while you can make the argument that they wouldn’t sound like themselves because they’re under Psycho Pirate’s control, that still doesn’t mean that what we get is entertaining. It is what it is, and I probably wouldn’t have minded it much had I not heard King’s voice all over these lines.
Now that Damian has taken care of the “detectives,” he moves on to encounter his not-grandpa. Yet again, it’s another situation where Damian is actually written quite well, but Thomas is not. I love Damian because he’s an arrogant, little, shit, and we get to see that here. Kudos to King for writing him this well. But then we get the “stuttering moments” with Thomas… Nope. I get Damian is cutting him off, and I suspect King found the exchange funny but I did not.
I don’t hear Tom King when I read Thomas’ dialogue. That’s a plus, I guess. Unfortunately, I have to ask “Who talks like this?” when reading Thomas. I’m sure he, too, is controlled by Psycho Pirate, but it’s not really clear. If he is though, wouldn’t he have a similar speaking pattern as the others controlled by Psycho Pirate? It would make sense. If not, then wouldn’t those controlled by Psycho Pirate at least maintain remnants of their own personality? Neither of these are the case here. This issue clearly shows that Gotham Girl, Zsasz/ Scarecrow, and Thomas Wayne all act and speak very differently from one another, but none of them act or speak like themselves. It’s just weird and feels highly inconsistent.
Anyway, Damian may have met his match with Thomas. I won’t reveal anything here, but you better believe I’m going to touch on how this issue wraps in the spoiler tag below.
Peppered throughout all of Damian’s encounters are scenes featuring Bruce and Selina. I wish I could say there’s an ounce of anything good to be found here, but there’s not. Bruce wakes up, and the two decide to go have lunch in a scene that is completely uninspired and lifted from Nolan’s ending from The Dark Knight Rises. Typically I enjoy callbacks, but this almost felt desperate to win favor from readers.
Also, the dialogue, yet again, is awful. If you didn’t know that was Selina in the scene, and you just handed the pages to someone familiar with the Batman universe who didn’t have any context of this story, they would think Selina is Cassandra Cain was. Mainly because Selina speaks as if she doesn’t know how to speak. I get King is trying to write their conversation in a way that makes it look like Selina is trying to find the right words, but it honestly comes across as if she doesn’t know how to speak.
Then there’s Bruce. It hit me today that I probably enjoyed Batman #76 as much as I did because Batman didn’t say or do anything. Now, this should be a negative point that the title character has no role in his own book, but I dislike the way King writes Bruce to such an extreme, that I prefer he weren’t even in the story. That’s bad. This chapter delivers another self-loathing, suicidal approach to Batman that I just can’t get behind it. I haven’t been able to get behind King’s Batman since I Am Suicide, and that remains unchanged today. I just want all of this to end already.
Now we need to discuss that pesky little ending.
Damian’s presence in Gotham means one thing… If he’s not successful, then Alfred will be killed. Well, Damian finds himself unable to stop Thomas, and as punishment, Bane forces him to watch as he snaps Alfred’s neck. If I’m being honest, I’m feeling a range of emotions. There’s a part of me that is so over King’s run, that I simply don’t care. I’m not surprised. It’s King going for shock value. He’s sticking to his M.O. Whatever. I don’t care. Let’s just move on.
But then there’s a part of me that’s pissed. Seriously, dude? Learn to respect the characters you’re writing. Stop relying on shock value to make your stories interesting.
And then there’s another part of me that’s trying to rationalize everything. Alfred didn’t really die. Damian is under Psycho Pirate’s spell and he just thinks Bane killed Alfred. This ultimately doesn’t make sense (I mean, Bane honestly has no reason to keep Alfred alive), but it’s still what I’m hoping for. Regardless, if Alfred is gone, it’s a huge mistake on DC’s part. Maybe this is what’s meant to drive Bruce and Selina together? Maybe this is meant to be Bruce’s last break? Who knows? All I know is that I’m not a fan.
Mikel Janin and Tony Daniel share art duties for this issue. The two are both wonderful artists and deliver solid work. Out of the two, I’d say that Janin does more of the heavy lifting. He handles a majority of the art for the book and covers all of the A plot. I love seeing the way he draws Damian. There’s a certain demeanor Janin adds to him through body language, and it’s just a pleasure to experience. And although I’m only talking about Damian, all of Janin’s work is great. My only complaint would be Janin having characters fall incorrectly when getting punched (when Zsasz punches the guy walking his dog). It’s ultimately a minor gripe in the grand scheme of things.
While I mentioned that Janin does most of the heavy lifting, I do think Daniel has the more difficult challenge to accomplish here. Considering his pages are those featuring Bruce and Selina, and all they do is talk (I use the word “talk” loosely here), he’s forced to find ways to make the conversation look interesting visually. In some ways, he does. Others, not so much.
Overall, these pages just felt disconnected. I don’t know if I’d blame Daniel as much as I blame the script, but Bruce and Selina’s scenes should have the opposite effect on me.
My one gripe about Daniel’s pages – and I’m not sure if this falls on him or Bellaire/ Morey (whoever did colors for Daniel’s pages), but the shadows on Bruce and Selina’s faces while they’re walking drives me crazy. It’s clearly shadows of leaves from the trees, which I initially liked until I realized trees were only on one side of the sidewalk, but on both sides of their faces. Now I can’t unsee it.
- You’re a fan of Damian Wayne.
- You’re not a fan of Gotham Girl.
- You like King’s Batman run.
What can I say? If you’ve been a fan of King’s run, then you’ll probably love this issue. If you’re like me and haven’t enjoyed his run because of his inability to properly write characters, his insistence of inserting himself into characters, and the walking depression that is his “Bruce Wayne/ Batman,” then you’ll dislike this issue. Yes, it has its moments and the art, as well as Damian, is great here, but that’s about all I can say to support Batman #77. The “twist” at the end will definitely divide readers, and I’m willing to bet that many people will not be happy.