Batman #54 – Tom King, Writer; Matt Wagner, Artist; Tomeu Morey, Colorist
Ray – 9.5/10
Ray: Following the “Cold Days” arc, which saw Bruce Wayne exorcising his demons on jury duty, Batman #54, a done-in-one issue with art by legendary Grendel creator Matt Wagner, continues Tom King’s post-wedding pull-back to focus on one of the most important relationships in Batman’s life – his first partner and first son, Dick Grayson.
Dick has been briefly filling in as Batman until Bruce was ready to take over, and as usual, Bruce isn’t one for showing gratitude. He’s serious, prickly, and wants Dick to know very clearly that he’s fine. Dick isn’t listening, and King has some fun pitting them against D-list Bat-villains Crazy Quilt and Condiment King while Dick carries on a one-man banter. The Condiment King segment particularly amuses me, because apparently, Condiment King has quite the body count. How, exactly? This issue cuts back and forth between two periods – the current day, and the days immediately after Bruce took in a young orphaned Dick. The era where Dick didn’t even know that Bruce was Batman yet is very rarely explored, so that’s good to see.
Tom King’s run is always about emotional truth and the exploration of how people process pain and grief, so this issue is a great addition to that. I think a lot of people will be happy to see that Dick being adopted by Bruce as a young boy instead of a teenager is canon again, too.
The issue doesn’t shy away from just how difficult those early days were – Dick is a traumatized child, lashing out at the only people he can. A single, emotionally stunted man and his proper Butler aren’t exactly ideal parental figures either, so there’s a lot of fumbling. Ironically, the way Bruce eventually gets through to Dick is by no longer trying to be a responsible parent, and instead focusing on letting Dick heal how he needs to. The dialogue in this issue is among the best of the series – but there’s a bit of a pall over it based on the fact that we know Dick is getting maimed in some way next issue based on solicits, so it feels a bit like digging the knife in first.
Matt Wagner’s art looks great, but he’s been very vocal about not being allowed to use his choice of colorist. That’s a fumble on DC’s part that might keep this legendary creator from working with them again. Shame, because this issue is pretty close to being an all-timer.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.