I love heists, the Riddler, and a good old fashioned villain team up so of course I was going to at least check out Tom King’s newest mini-series, Killing Time. Focused on Batman’s early days, the story revolves around Riddler, Catwoman, and Penguin teaming up to participate in the heist of the century!
And I figured what better way to write a review about a team up story than to do it team up style! This time you all will get to hear from both me and Casper as we share opinions on just how well King’s pulled off the first issue of this series.
Yep! I actually like quite a few King comics, although he certainly has missed the mark with several of his works. Hopefully this will be good–let’s have a look!
The first thing you need to know going in, is that this book is all about the heist side of things. It feels like it wants to be the next Oceans or Leverage story but on paper instead of the screen. King does this through frequent use of time jumps, and narration detailing every little thing characters do, where they do it, and when it’s happening.
And while I enjoy heists, and I appreciate a well timed flashback to tell us the trick, this book uses them to its detriment. On a first read, it is dizzying. On a second read it flows better because you know what’s happening, but you shouldn’t be required to read a book multiple times to make sense of the story. Few people will bother to read it twice, and the incredibly frequent time notations will put off others.
Exactly. The problem is that King gets too specific with little details. I don’t think we need to know the exact times when things happened, and I don’t think we even need this nonlinear narrative at all. It just makes it seem so much more complicated than it really is, and that’s never a good thing in my book. Constantly jumping around through time and getting time stamps as well as various names and locations thrown at you is indeed making me feel kind of dizzy. As a result, I find it hard to connect with the story and focus on the plot, because I keep getting distracted by my frustration with all these unnecessary details.
The heist here is fairly straightforward once you put it all together. It utilizes Catwoman, Riddler, and Croc in a way that is trying hard to be clever but breaks down a bit when you look at it really closely. Especially Croc’s portion. There is a whole side of this story that’s focused on blackmailing a security guard so he can let Croc into a bank, yet the narrative tells us that no one even bats an eye at Croc himself once he’s in. His disguise isn’t exactly incredible either, just a hat and trench coat he’s buried himself in. I can’t help but wonder at why the guard needed to be blackmailed at all or why no one recognizes Croc even though he’s stated as being well known already.
To take this a step further, I’m not even sure why the security guard had to be in this story in the first place. If the guard was cut, then I don’t think the story would’ve played out any different. Simply having Croc walk into a bank would have allowed the story to continue the way it does now, and this would’ve freed up some comic pages as well, which would have helped to structure the story a little better and develop certain scenes and characters more.
The second thing that I find really detrimental to this narrative is the frankly cloying use of narration. It sets a tone for the book, and immediately gets your brain in heist mode, but there’s just too much of it. As I mentioned, King tells us the exact time and place of everything going on, every time the scene changes. In some instances, this is genuinely helpful, while in others it feels a little insulting. For instance, there is a scene with Selina where she mentions it’s going to rain soon, the next time we see her they’ve moved inside ahead of the rain. It’s a natural shift for the characters, yet the story still takes time to point out the time and new location.
What’s worse is that it often quite literally lays out the obvious in a way that makes me feel like I’m reading a script for this comic, instead of the comic itself. The book has stunning art that can easily tell the story as much as the written text does, yet time and again the narration tells us the same thing the art is. One example of this is when Selina has changed into her Catwoman outfit and the narration says “She is now wearing her Catwoman outfit”. Another is in the opening pages of the title where Croc is entering a bank, the first few parts of the narration are fine, informative, and important to the story, but when I’m told “he breaks the second step from the top” while also seeing this, it’s frustrating and grating. I’ve frequently complained of King overly relying on artists to tell the story, and here I find myself in the opposite opinion. It is okay to find a good balance between visual storytelling and written.
This is just another good example of how specific things can be, while they’re not really that important for the readers. Every time that the creative team gets this specific, it almost seems like this is something to remember for later, except it’s pretty obvious that these are just minor, unimportant details. I think the comic would’ve been much more enjoyable without so much focus on inconsequential fluff.
Furthermore, I’m not really a fan of the tone of the comic. While it gets you in heist mode, Matina, I feel like I’m reading a really dry, boring police report about a crime that took place. To me, the comic is very monotone. It’s almost like every sentence in the narration boxes has the same rhythm and pace, and like we’re just getting the writer’s notes for the narration, instead of the narration itself. It keeps me at arm’s length and it makes reading this comic a bit of a chore.
Speaking of visual storytelling, the art in this book is stunning, and it should be allowed to shine. David Marquez’s pencils create gorgeous shots of the main cast, while Alejandro Sánchez’s colors bring the whole narrative to life further with beautiful lighting shots. One of my favorites is Catwoman’s first appearance as Catwoman. She looks incredible, and she’s outlined in light as the sun’s setting, brilliantly contrasting her black with the dark door she’s standing in. The book is alive with moments like this, little closeups that show highly emotive characters, and all kinds of details that readers will want to spend time on.
I agree. The art has a lot of energy, particularly during Batman’s brawl with Killer Croc. I also appreciate the artists’ cinematic approach. The layouts are very dynamic, and the close-ups, medium shots and wide shots are chosen effectively to let scenes play out in the most effective ways. While there are some pages that I think are slightly boring to look at, such as the entire page that just has four nearly identical panels showing Gordon in his office (with the only real differences being Gordon’s body language and facial expressions), most of the art throughout this issue does an excellent job of keeping it sequential and making the story great. The characters and locations are well-defined and designed; I just wish that the narration didn’t distract from the visuals so much!
While I enjoyed the idea of a heist in this issue, I’m also a little sad to see it go by so quickly here. By the end of the issue we’re promised less heisting going forward, and more mystery surrounding the item stolen. I am curious about it, why it was so guarded, and just what three of Gotham’s Rogues want with it, and why even Batman seems to think it’s dangerous next issue.
- Heists are your bread and butter
- You don’t mind a nonlinear narrative
- You’re here for Marquez and Sánchez’s amazing artwork
I like the idea and I love the art, but the nonlinear style and the dry narration takes the fun out of the story. Hopefully, now that the heist is complete and the story will focus more on the mystery of the stolen item, the creative team abandons the nonlinear structure and just tells us a cool Batman story. For now I recommend sitting this one out and seeing what the coming reviews will be like. This story might yet improve, but unfortunately I don’t find this first issue to be very entertaining. There are better comics out today.
Agreed, while I think this is a good opening issue to get me invested, the time jumps, overuse of narration, and plot issues take away from my enjoyment in a way that strips away the joy of a con gone well. I’m interested in the story, but I have a feeling even that might be tempered if the structure stays the same going forward.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.