Typically, with King’s Batman, I’m usually all-in on whether I love it or hate it. This issue is different though. There are aspects that I really enjoy (thanks in large part to Mikel Janin’s incredible art), and then there are moments that qualify as “standard Tom King Batman.”… Which, in case you haven’t been keeping score, I don’t like… At all, really.
No matter your opinion on Batman #50 and the non-wedding, the ending that revealed Bane had been pulling strings this entire time was quite the revelation. King hadn’t really butchered Batman up to this point in his run, and it appeared as though he’d already, subtly, laid some groundwork with “I Am Bane.” Since then, though, we’ve endured a slow, unfocused, meandering story that checked all of the wrong boxes instead all of the right ones. King’s characterization has mostly been piss-poor. His plots have been riddled with holes. There have hardly been any threads to connect how Bane orchestrated all of this. And, unfortunately, King’s arrogance as of late has really just made this title even less enjoyable.
Despite all of that though, a part of me still keeps holding out for something great. Why? I don’t know. Maybe I’m just holding on to the fact that this is the same guy that wrote Sheriff of Babylon, Vision, Grayson, Omega Men, Mister Miracle… But the reality is that, that Tom King, never really showed up to write Batman.
This issue is essentially one big fight. As I stated above, there are elements that I thoroughly enjoy, and then there are elements that I don’t. So, what is there to like? Mikel Janin! The art for this issue is quite spectacular, and there are moments during this fight where it gets absolutely brutal and visceral! This tension has been building – not necessarily well, but building none-the-less – and to see Batman, Catwoman, and Bane go all out is a real treat. None of them are pulling punches, and the panels where Selina is slashing Bane’s face, followed by Bruce smashing Bane’s head into the ground resonated really well with me. I felt the intensity, and I believed that all three of these characters would, believably, be this angry considering everything that’s happened.
From start to finish, this issue is a visual masterclass that delivers with every punch, kick, slash, and slam. So, you might be wondering, “If this issue is mostly one big fight, and if Janin nails the art, then what’s the problem here?”
Well… It’s the script.
Now, there’s a good chance that King scripted some of the action that I enjoyed in this issue, and if he did, then, by all means, he deserves that credit. But, dear God, there are so many bad decisions here. The dialogue. The characterization. The plot. The reveals. The need to deconstruct characters. The need to subvert expectations… At this point, “Tom King” has become synonymous with “bad decisions” as far as his Batman run is concerned, and that’s a shame.
To start things off, you have Batman challenging Bane, and “tricking” him into not using any help during the fight. This means no outside interference, no weapons, no venom, etc. Batman wants this to be a one-on-one bout to determine who really is the better of the two. But this is all a lie because Batman’s plan is to cheat. He plans on using Catwoman and weapons to beat Bane… And I hate it.
No, I don’t hate that Batman uses weapons or tools to beat Bane, nor do I hate that he uses Catwoman’s assistance. I hate the King writes Batman in a way that Batman needs to lie and cheat to beat Bane. This is Batman. He’s better than this. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a huge problem overall, and I’ll completely understand if it doesn’t bother some people, but, for me, this is just an example of King misusing and misrepresenting Batman.
Also, I want to take a moment to acknowledge how stupid this makes Bane look. King’s entire run relies on Bane’s intelligence and strategy! I’m not saying that King executed any of these aspects well, just that the cusp of “Bane has been orchestrating all of this since the beginning” requires a certain level of intelligence. Now, this issue does nothing but push how stupid Bane is. It’s a little frustrating, and harkens back to process and King’s refusal to actually work his stories as he should. So many problems in this run have snowballed from the fact that King doesn’t feel he needs to outline his stories, and the belief that if he “doesn’t remember it, then it’s not worth remembering.” Comments and mindsets like this are why I call King’s work on Batman lazy and arrogant.
Anyway, there’s also the issue of terrible dialogue. Considering how incredible Janin’s art is, I really wish King would’ve just let the action stand on its own. No dialogue, just a good beating. But, no. King would much rather write nonsense than just let a good thing stand on its own. So, instead of a kickass fight, we get a kickass fight that comes off as a parody thanks to Batman and Catwoman’s ramblings. From Catwoman explaining the “trick,” to the “Cat got your tongue?” bit, to the “Break your damn back!”… It’s nauseating. Then there’s the whole exchange about who Gotham really belongs to… I can’t take any of it seriously. Whatever epic, climactic nature this issue had, the dialogue nearly sucked all of that emotion out of the pages.
The poor dialogue also leans into/ is a result of poor characterization, which only grows more evident when the book features Thomas walking past the beaten Bat-family – recalling events from the previous issue. I already ranted about this with my Batman #81 review, so I’ll spare you from it here… But seriously, so much of what King does is either convenient, nothing more than a means to an end, or strictly there to subvert expectation that it doesn’t really align well with the story or character motivations.
And that leads me to the “twist” of this issue. I’m sure many people will find the end of this issue shocking. I, personally, did not. I saw this coming. And I’m not admitting this to imply I’m smart or anything, I simply feared this was coming. So, what happens?
Right as Batman is about to “break” Bane, Thomas enters the fray and shoots Batman in the gut… Then he puts a bullet right into Bane’s head. Just like that, Bane is dead.
Yeah, I expect nothing less from Tom King at this point. The back half of his Batman run has been about shock value over quality storytelling. I’d considered the idea that Batman or Thomas would kill Bane, and honestly met each consideration with complete dread. So, when one of those two options turned out to be true, I wasn’t impressed. I’m happy that Thomas killed Bane instead of Bruce, but I’d rather neither of these outcomes came to fruition.
I know I’ve said this before, but I’ve become so numb to King’s work on Batman for so many reasons, that I really just can’t wait for this to end… Just three more issues people… Three more issues…
- Mikel Janin’s art.
- I guess if you’ve loved King’s run, you’ll love this issue? I honestly don’t know anymore.
Look, it’s more of the same. You either love it or you hate it. I’m in the latter category. If you’re enjoying Tom King’s Batman, I’m genuinely happy for you.