Batman: Killing Time #4 review

So far I’ve had mixed feelings about Batman: Killing Time. I think the series has been doing some things really well, and in other areas it’s lacking in quality. That said, as the series goes on I find that I’m getting more and more invested in this story. That doesn’t mean that I’m completely onboard yet, but it’s definitely a good sign. Can the creative team convince me with this issue? And what are Matina’s thoughts on the whole thing? Join us this month as we have a look.

I don’t know about you, Matina, but I enjoyed this issue a lot more than I thought I would! The opening sequence where Batman’s surrounded by tigers immediately had my attention, because the art and the writing create a lot of suspense. Of course we all know that Batman’s getting out alive, but what I like about this is that it feels like it’s setting up a plot point that might come later in the issue. And it does. I won’t spoil what that is, but it’s a scene that pushes the story into a new direction and develops the characters’ arcs. In short, it’s a great hook and I love that it pays off later in the issue. We’re off to a good start here.

I’m not quite as sold on the issue as you are, Casper. While I enjoyed it, there were quite a few things in it I wasn’t super excited by, particularly the return of the Ancient Greece storyline, that felt like it encompassed half the issue. That said, I’m still loving how Riddler and Catwoman are portrayed, and the mystery of the item has me hooked.

I’m also a huge fan of The Help already. This guy is a certified badass, and King’s characterization is very consistent and solid. The Help is a cold, factual person on the surface, but in this issue we catch some glimpses of the character’s past, and suddenly there seems to be an emotional undertone in his part in the story. In other words, Killing Time #4 develops The Help as a character in a way that it doesn’t give us all the answers, but we slowly are finding out what The Help’s intentions are. He’s easily my favorite character in this book so far.

While I was a little cold on The Help last month, he has grown on me as well. I like how the narrative explores his backstory in depth and gives him some key character beats to hang on to. I also like how naturally he seems to fit into the story here.

Another character that I like is Nuri Espinoza. I don’t want to give away too much about who she works for and what her deal is, but I do want to say this about the character. When I read her first scene in this book, I noticed she was swearing a lot (although all the swears are censored), and because I took it too seriously, it annoyed me. I see too many of these censored swears in superhero comics these days–literally entire word balloons are filled with them sometimes! It’s a real pet peeve for me. However, soon I realized that Espinoza is swearing all the time, at anyone, no matter the situation, and she also slaps the shit out of someone. Espinoza is a hyper aggressive character and I see comedy in that. It’s very entertaining to me.

In general, I don’t mind Espinoza. In fact, I like that she acts as at least one answer to many of the questions filling the pages of this series. That said, Espinoza’s swearing got to the point where it made the text almost unreadable for me. I get that her character is just like that, but when half a speech bubble is filled with censored swears over and over and over again it’s physically hard to read. My brain wanted to skip the whole thing rather than try to sit and make sense of everything she was saying, which is a lot more work than I care to do when reading a comic I’m supposed to be enjoying.

But I still have mixed feelings about the story structure and the narration itself. The nonlinear approach doesn’t always work for me, because sometimes I don’t see what mixing up the timeline really adds to this story. Other times it totally works for me, for example when we see Selina sneaking into the kitchen of a restaurant. We know which restaurant this is because in an earlier scene we saw Riddler and Espinoza there talking, and because King repeats some of the words that Riddler and Espinoza spoke, we know this is happening at the same time. This is told in this order because it sets up a great action scene that wakes you up after a somewhat slower pace. It’s highly effective.

And yet the narration can work against itself. Sometimes it’s overly detailed, where Batman’s exact speed is being explained as he’s racing across the pages on his motorbike. In the same scene, we even get a line that says, “Batman is here. And he’s on his bike,” which rubs me the wrong way because it’s literally stating what we already see on the page.

The narration and time skips are a balance thing for me, and something that King has been playing with through this whole series. We’ve had a number of moments through it where the narration is way too obvious, such as issue #1’s use of Croc walking up the stairs and here with the bike moments. And others where it works very well, such as the build of the chase last issue and the tigers here. It works until it goes a little too far, then it’s almost distracting in its bluntness.

Overall, I would say that the narration is concise, because the narration boxes are pretty small and most of them easy to read. But I think that a lot of these could be combined into one and use way fewer words and still get the exact same point across. This way, the pacing wouldn’t be slowed down by drawn-out narration, either, because as it stands, some of the dynamic, fast-paced sequences are hindered by all the text.

Jumping back to the section with Espinoza, Riddler, and Catwoman, I wanted to mention how much I loved that particular fight scene. Visually you can tell that Catwoman is having a blast fighting in the diner, which makes reading it a lot of fun. It’s dynamic and fun, especially the way Marquez shifts from tight shots on characters, to a wider chaotic diner scene, and back gives you a real sense of movement and place within the action.

Recommended if…

  • You are a fan of The Help.
  • You want to see some amazing Bat-art by Marquez.
  • You are a fan of Catwoman and Riddler as a duo.

Overall: I, for one, was pleasantly surprised by this issue. I feel like I’m starting to get into the story, especially now that The Help seems to get an interesting character arc, and Selina and Riddler’s team-up is a lot of fun. The artwork is great all the way through. That said, this issue still has some shortcomings, particularly in the way that the nonlinear narrative is put together, and the narration can be too dry and/or detailed.

Score: 7/10

Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.