We are officially at the halfway point in Tom King’s Killing Time. We’ve seen a theft, the start of an investigation, and our thieves waiting for their buyer, which means it’s now time for things to go very very wrong.
There’s a lot I enjoyed about this issue of Killing Time. The story generally feels tense, packed with action, and suspensful. As I just mentioned, things go wrong quickly here. The issue opens up with Catwoman and Riddler racing down the road in a stolen Batmobile, Riddler shot in the chest. The majority of the rest of the issue is focused on telling readers just how that happened, and showing a bit of what happens next.
Which is a pretty effective way to open the issue. I immediately wanted to know what would happen next after seeing that opening scene. It puts the reader right there in the thick of it, and the speeding car creates a pretty strong pace, or at least during the opening pages (the pacing does slow down a little bit as the comic continues).
It follows the style King set up in the last two issues by making frequent use of time jumps, and while it still makes me a little dizzy it felt easier to follow here. I think that comes from starting to get used to the style, and the fact that the book itself feels fast paced, so even while you’re jumping around you still feel like you’re moving forward. Still, there are some jumps that don’t feel needed like tiny little skips in time or ones where readers would naturally understand the narrative goes next.
I agree! I still makes me dizzy too from time to time, but on the whole I feel like I’m also getting used to the style. Maybe it’s just that the style works for this particularly issue, but I think I’m starting to enjoy it overall, too. There’s a kind of ebb and flow to the way that the story unfolds as scenes and timelines alternate, and once you settle into that groove as a reader, it starts to get pretty fun because you never really know exactly what’s going to happen on the following page.
King introduces a new character into the mix here, a man known as The Help. He’s an almost superhuman butler type character who was hired as a fixer by the Penguin to take out Riddler and Catwoman. There are things I do and don’t like about this character. He’s suave, and a bit sassy, and interesting in a mysterious kind of way. You can tell King’s set him up to play a major role in the latter half of this series. However, he’s also kind of too good. He’s set up as this character Batman will have a series of epic battles with. He knows every move Batman uses when they fight. He can name every teacher those moves came from. He also wipes the floor with Batman fairly quickly. I know this is set early in Bruce’s career but this isn’t a totally new Batman in these pages either, and it’s a little frustrating to see him so easily handled.
To be honest, I think The Help is kind of a badass. King writes his dialogue well; it’s a very distinct and consistent tone of voice that really helps to establish who this character is. I also like that he’s an expert martial artist and that he manages to beat Batman, because this (hopefully) gives Batman more fire to come back twice as strong and defeat The Help before the story ends. Besides, showing how he takes out Batman pretty easily makes him look more like a threat, a force to be reckoned with. What I don’t like, though, is that he can tell who Batman trained under just by watching Batman punch and kick. The punches and kicks look like regular punches and kicks from a variety of martial arts styles, and I think the idea that you can immediately see who Bruce learned those strikes from is pretty ridiculous in a bad way. Not only does the art fail to show these as unique strikes, but it also just adds a layer to The Help that makes the whole situation way more complicated and convoluted than it needs to be. Isn’t the fact that he defeats Batman enough? Does he really need to know every single master that Batman trained under? It’s a bit much and I ain’t buying it.
This all takes me to my biggest problem I’ve found with this issue: Batman. The book is called Batman: Killing Time, but Batman feels like a filler character here. He’s the detective always a few steps behind the main characters: Catwoman, Riddler, Penguin, and now The Help. When Batman does show up it’s mostly to fight and look cool. Even when he wins a fight he doesn’t feel like a competent character because he’s still playing catch up to the rest of the narrative. Chasing Riddler and Catwoman, chasing the box, waking up to deal with the aftermath of The Help interrogating the buyer. I’d love to see him feel more active here, instead being stuck in the middle of a cat and mouse chase this whole time.
Well said, Matina. I was thinking this as well as I was reading the comic. It’s a Batman title, but Batman hardly feels like the star of his own show. The fact that Batman takes a bit more of a backseat isn’t a super big deal for me, because I like spending time with Riddler and Catwoman, too. But I totally agree with you that Batman needs more character development and a more important role in this book. I hate it when Batman is constantly playing catch-up. Even if he isn’t the World’s Greatest Detective yet, he should still be a pretty damn competent detective already. He isn’t in this series. At times he seems a little naive, even.
That said, he does play an interesting role here than he did previously, which is the fact that we get a couple multi-year flashbacks with Bruce that tie him to this little box that everyone is so desperate to get their hands on. For the first time in this series, King does not give readers an Ancient Greece flashback, but instead uses this time to tell stories directly connected with the prized box at the center of this whole narrative. A few of them are focused on Bruce and Ra’s al Ghul, while others follow a young boy in a small town as he worries over a sick sister. We’re even told the name of the item in the box, even if we don’t get to see it. I like that at last we’re learning something about the box and what’s inside.
Absolutely! The mystery surrounding the box is compelling. It’s a bit of a MacGuffin trope, except that I think this will be fleshed out before the story is over. I think the flashbacks here work way better than the Ancient Greece ones in the previous issues; as a result the entire book just feel more connected, which makes for a much more streamlined reading experience despite the nonlinear approach.
The art, as always, is stunning. I mentioned that Batman is mostly around to fight and look cool, and let me tell you he looks fantastic in this book. More than any other character David Marquez draws Batman in a way that makes me want to frame panels and hang them on my wall. I have two stand out moments I’m thinking of: the first features Batman looming over the fiery wreck of the Batmobile, flames surrounding him as his cape billows upward.
Yes! That panel is great. It instantly reminds me of Norm Breyfogle’s fantastic Batman rendition, and I wonder if it was intended as a homage of sorts. Either way, dramatic shots like these are strikingly beautiful. Marquez is doing such a great job here.
The second is when he’s replacing the car with a bike. The composition here is gorgeous from Batman looking incredible on the motorcycle to the starry night sky above him. In both these shots I have to give equal praise to Alejandro Sanchez for their absolutely gorgeous colors, without which neither scene would hit as hard.
- Tense, high speed issues are your thing
- You like suave hitman characters
- Batman looks really really cool here, and you want more of that
The action, movement, and general tension of this issue is what really pulled me in this time making the story feel like it’s moving forward at a steady pace. While there are things about this series that bother me, like how overpowered The Help feels, or how background Batman himself is, I’m enjoying this series for what it is. With some answers, and more questions building I think Killing Time is at a good place during this halfway point.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.