Tom King’s Batman run should just be referred to as “The never-ending King saga that accomplishes absolutely nothing.” Why? Because that’s how I feel after I read each issue. Considering he launched Batman during Rebirth with so much promise, it’s a shame that his run is so divisive. I mean, we’re at issue 80 now and there’s not much to show for it. Granted, we have five issues left, but it feels like it’s five issues too many because there still isn’t much progression at all. Can you imagine if King was allowed to carry on to Batman #100? God, that would’ve been a nightmare!
Batman #79 set us up with Batman’s return to Gotham! We were teased with bombastic action, and it was something that I was actually looking forward to… But, I’ve grown too familiar with King’s ways, and suspected that reality wouldn’t live up to my expectations – which, mind you, are already, generally, pretty low at this point. Anyway, I was correct. We end this issue the same way the last issue ended… Waiting for Batman to make his move on Bane. We’re also teased with a “cliff hanger,” but it’s on top of another “cliff hanger” that’s been unsettled and unconfirmed for three or four issues now, so I can’t help but roll my eyes. In general, I’m just so numb to everything King is trying to do at this point, that I simply don’t care anymore. It’s clear that he’s all about shock value, and shock value for the sake of shock value isn’t very shocking.
*Sigh* It’s just five more issues… I can get through this. *Deep breath*
Ok… Here’s the deal… I already know the comments I’m going to get. Half of you are going to say I’m “not harsh enough.” “This is garbage.” “King is a <beep>tard.” “0/10” etc. I see it every other week. Then, the other half of you are going to tell me I “don’t understand what King is doing.” “I’m an idiot.” “I’m not a real Batman fan.” Whatever. I’m passed it at this point… Anyway, when you break this issue down within itself, it’s not necessarily awful on the surface.
Bane is using Psycho Pirate to control the rogues of Gotham so he can run the city according to his will. Bane’s enforcer is Thomas Wayne, and Thomas’ sidekick is Gotham Girl. There’s a threat against Alfred’s life should any of the Bat-family try and interfere, and that’s not moot because Damian entered Gotham, and is now held hostage. Batman and Catwoman have now returned to Gotham, and together, they start taking back the city, with the promise that these two will soon square off against Thomas and Bane. This should all be highly entertaining and suspenseful, but, for many reasons, it is not.
First off, this book is so repetitive that it’s a joke. We’re getting high-level repetition with the overall narrative, repetition from an action standpoint, and repetition in smaller, more intimate moments. Repetition can be effective when used appropriately, but this is all just regurgitation for the sake of filling pages. I’m talking the bad kind vomit that’s all acidic and burns as it comes up, leaving an awful after-taste in your mouth. Yeah, that kind of regurgitation. That’s King’s Batman in a nutshell.
In many ways, it’s been blatantly clear that King is trying to rip off classic stories like Knightfall and No Man’s Land, just with way worse execution and piss-poor characterization. But if that weren’t bad enough, King has even started repeating his own stories; all of which weren’t executed incredibly well to begin with and are being handled even worse this time around. I mean, right now, Batman is faced with a city that is under the influence of mind control. King already did this with his Poison Ivy arc, but on a much larger and more effective scale. Next, Batman must face off with Thomas Wayne… Yeah, we’ve already had that story too. It literally just happened with Bruce and Thomas in the desert, and it didn’t even provide an actual ending or satisfying follow-up (not to mention, the ending that was inferred is so ridiculous that I can’t take it seriously… Thomas Wayne would never be able to take on Bruce and win.). Finally, there’s Bane. Again, this has already happened multiple times within King’s run. Stale bread, King. Stale bread.
There’s simply no suspense because the arc – both short and long – are so poorly constructed while containing a “been there, done that” vibe that it’s just hard to get behind. In addition, we know Batman will ultimately win. King’s already presented “Bruce at his lowest” (his words, not mine), so there is no going down from here according to King. He’s confirmed that the next issues are about building Batman back up. There aren’t any stakes anymore. We already know how this will end… *whispers* In disgrace for King.
And think, the examples above are just examples of high-level repetition. This issue, specifically, is essentially a lift of Batman #77 where Damian enters Gotham and completely owns a number of the mind-controlled rogues. Aside from the fact that Damian’s romp through Gotham is more entertaining than Bruce and Selina’s, one has to question the ease in which all three of these heroes are taking back the city. I mean, if it’s this easy, then why has everyone been acting like it’s impossible? At this point, it almost feels like Sales Associate Sally from Wal-Mart could’ve thrown a wrench in Bane’s plan.
Honestly though, one should question that if this threat does feel so impossible, then why go in with so few numbers? For months now, characters have been telling Batman, “You can’t win.” “It’s impossible to win.” “You’ve already lost.” So, why send Damian in alone? Why follow Damian’s attempt with just Batman and Catwoman? None of this holds much water once you stop to think critically. It just doesn’t.
Bane’s threat to murder Alfred was possibly the best caveat in this entire story, and it feels wasted now. It was a strategic play on Bane’s part to keep the Bat-family out of Gotham because he knows the odds aren’t in his favor if they’re together. I was honestly mad in Batman #77 when Damian entered Gotham. I thought Damian was being brash and arrogant – which is completely believable – and that he’d ultimately ended Alfred because of it… Until I found out that Bruce directed Damian to enter the city on his own, knowing Alfred’s life was at stake. Batman then, in this issue, claims he has no chance in stopping Thomas because Thomas knows him too well. What? Seriously? This makes no sense.
So, just so I’m understanding this correctly… Batman feels he can’t beat Thomas. So, as a result, Batman sends Damian – and just Damian – into the city. Damian isn’t as skilled as Batman, and if Batman feels he can’t win alone, then Damian doesn’t stand a chance either. Damian’s entry into the city also means Alfred’s death (which a part of me still doesn’t believe he’s actually dead), and now that Damian is captured, Batman decides to try his luck with Catwoman… What kind of <beep>ed up logic is this? It’s sure as hell not Batman-logic. Batman isn’t this stupid. This is clearly some Tom King “Wally West can outrun the internet” type of logic. Ugh… It’s bad.
Bruce is a tactician – something King clearly doesn’t understand about the character. The moment Bruce would’ve sent Damian in, he also would have made his own move then, along with the entire Bat-family, the Justice League, the GCPD… anyone and everyone. If you’re going to risk losing Alfred anyway, why not help ensure your victory? Why stack the odds against you? Well, I’ll tell you why… It’s because Tom King doesn’t take the time or effort to actually work and plan his stories properly.
Which brings me to the half-assed set-up. King focuses so heavily on the “smaller” moments – which I appreciate in many ways – but in doing so, he fails to establish and execute the actual narrative. And that’s a shame because I often feel that King has solid themes that he’s trying to convey, but the narrative itself is so terribly executed that everything ultimately falls flat. How can it not, though. There’s hardly ever an actual beginning, middle, and end to his stories.
For instance, in this chapter, it’s hinted at that Gotham Girl is weakened to the point of near-death… Not because she’s been using her powers, but because she’s using her powers without venom. This is literally the first time it’s even been referenced that Gotham Girl is using venom to maintain her health while using her abilities… And we’re discovering this when we’re supposed to be getting the payoff.
Come on, King! You can’t get a payoff if you haven’t set it up first. This is storytelling 101! Had this been established earlier within the run, or, at the very least, the beginning of “City of Bane,” then so many other aspects would have made sense. For one, we would’ve understood how Gotham Girl was using her powers without it draining her life force. Second, it would’ve helped sell the idea that Gotham Girl could beat Captain Atom. In addition to this, we would’ve understood why Bruce and Selina’s time on the beach was so critical. And… And it would have established how much the tides have actually turned for our heroes by stopping the delivery of venom… But King didn’t do any of this, so we didn’t actually gain anything from these past few issues.
Now, I know some of you are going to come back with, “King is telling us now because that’s how good he is.” No. Sorry. That’s not how good he is, that’s how lazy he is. And as much fault and blame needs to be placed on the editors as well. This – much like King’s entire run – doesn’t feel planned nearly as much as it feels like a constant reaction. King releases an issue. Masses bitch about how ludicrous, out of character, unclear, poorly executed – seriously, take your pick – the issue is, then a few issues later there’s a half-assed, throw-away line or editor’s note to try and justify or explain everything because it wasn’t handled well to begin with.
This book is a mess. The run is a joke. Tynion can’t get his hands on Batman fast enough, and I’m saying this as someone who feels that Batman was the worst aspect of Tynion’s Detective Comics run… But still, it has to be better than this. King is an excellent writer, but aside from some rare moments, he hasn’t shown it here.
John Romita Jr covers art for this issue. As many of you know, I’m not a huge fan of his aesthetic or style, but that’s merely a personal taste. Many people love his work, and while I don’t necessarily like the look of his art, I enjoy his craft. At the end of the day, Romita is one hell of a storyteller. His panels capture “scenes” and moments perfectly. I especially loved the scene where Batman confronts Two Face and Mr. Pyg. It’s great work, and many artists could learn a thing or two. He’s considered a legend for a reason.
- You love King’s run. (I’m only judging you slightly… Ok… A lot.)
- You hate-read King’s run. (This is not encouraged, but some of you do…)
- You’ve read everything up until now, you might as well finish. (Also not encouraged, but I’m a completionist as well.)
- John Romita Jr. (Yeah! Finally! A good selling point!)
If anything is clear from King’s Batman run – especially of late – it’s two things. 1. Tom King isn’t putting nearly as much thought, effort, or care into Batman as he did with the likes of Omega Men, Vision, Mister Miracle, or Grayson. 2. Tim Seeley does not get as much credit as he deserves for what he clearly contributed to Grayson.
Is that a harsh statement? Absolutely. But I call it as I see it, and King has been coasting on Batman since the non-wedding. The book has gone nowhere since then, accomplished nothing for the greater universe/ legend of the character, and has made a mockery of many of the characters it’s featured. At this point, King’s Batman is like an old, sick dog that just needs to be put down. Thankfully, that appointment has already been scheduled.
SCORE: 4.5/ 10