Batman #59 – Tom King, Writer; Mikel Janin, Artist; Jordie Bellaire, Colorist
Ray – 6/10
Corrina: In Which Bruce Is Dumb
Ray: Tom King’s Batman is quickly finding itself in a very interesting spot, where I admire the quality and craft that goes into every issue while disagreeing more and more with the direction.
The end of the last arc hinted pretty heavily that Bruce was deeply unstable and was only getting more so, and this issue confirms that as Bruce continues to act like a man possessed. Not only does he break several more of his codes, but he blows up one of his most important relationships in the process. This is a Batman heading down a very dark path, akin to the one we saw in the Nolan movies. When we last left off, Penguin had clued Batman in about Bane’s elaborate plot against him and his world. The issue flashes back and forth between that story and Batman’s follow-up on that tip, but the scenes with Penguin move very fast. We apparently get the reveal that Penguin’s wife was killed, which is odd since we’ve never gotten any hint of Penguin having a wife before.
I preferred Corrina’s idea of Penny being his favorite penguin!
But where this issue really falls apart is in a brutal, relentless segment in Arkham. Batman storms in like a man possessed, intimidating the guards into getting out of his way and barging into Bane’s cell. Bane has apparently been catatonic since his beating at Batman’s hands early in the run and seems to have regressed back to a child’s mind. That doesn’t stop Batman from brutally beating him to try to get a confession – and when Gordon arrives to try to talk some sense into him, Batman decks him. That’s enough to make Gordon cut off his cooperation with Batman and hint that if he steps out of line again, Gordon will send the GCPD after him. So Batman’s now officially unraveled enough that his oldest outside ally views him as a dangerous threat. It’s all part of King’s single-minded destruction of Batman’s world, and I struggle to see where this is going for the next forty issues. It’s probably going to be a tense and effective story, but it’s not one I’m particularly excited to read.
Corrina: Come to the dark side, Ray. We have waffles.
Yes, King has great skills as a writer. Janin makes this issue look amazing.
I still hated it.
I differentiate comics I dislike by placing them into two categories.
One is easy enough. That’s the “just awful” books and I’m looking at you Titans and Suicide Squad. The second is trickier. Those are the books where it’s clear the writer is talented, sometimes they even produce work I enjoy a ton, but the bulk of their stories on a particular title has such a horrible take on a character or has a plot that meanders so much that, well, I hate it.
King’s run on Batman started well enough, with the arc featuring two new superheroes. (Where is Gotham Girl now? Anyone know?) But it started to veer off-course and break my suspension of disbelief by having Batman literally take on armies without being seriously hurt or killed. Then there was the take that was suicidal. Er, okay, not my thing but I suppose it might be a legitimate take on Batman. I was also less than thrilled with the arc that seemed basically there so Selina and Talia could fight, though at least that was about Selina, marginally.
“The War of Jokes and Riddles” utterly lost me, simply because it seemed a setup to show that, under certain circumstances, Bruce Wayne could kill. Not really a thing that needed to be said, right? Not to mention that neither Joker or Riddler was interesting and the arc was mainly about Kite-Man. Heck, Kite-Man got more overall screen time than Selina, who Bruce supposedly loves. (And Booster Gold got more screen time in the alternate reality he created than Selina, who was reduced to a murderous psychopath who could only say “meow.” Yeah, I’m not forgetting that one.)
But, then, everyone has received a more interesting story angle than Selina, who was subject to baffling decisions like “waiting” for Batman to confront the Joker like she was told. Because obeying is so totally Selina, right? We won’t even talk about the ridiculous reason Selina walked away from Bruce. C’mon. That’s plot-induced stupidity, not a character insight.
And then this issue.
Bruce is the Slytherin of Slytherins. What he does is plan and plot when he’s stressed. It’s literally his thing. That’s why there are all the jokes about Batman and prep time. Jason Todd hits things when he’s stressed, Bruce sets traps so tight and so intricate that no one can see him coming, never once considering he might be wrong.
That’s his proven response to trauma.
Going in to hit someone over and over and over? That makes Bruce so much dumber than he is. It’s not a sign of Bruce’s path to insanity, it’s a sign of bad writing. Bruce’s path to insanity is taking over Arkham, buying it, imposing his will on it, and then maybe beating the crap out of Bane to prove he can get away with it because he literally owns it.
Not whatever this is. My response to Batman hitting Gordon isn’t shock. It’s to throw up my hands to know this run is probably beyond redemption.
P.S. If Penny was really a penguin, that will at least amuse me. If Penny was some random wife we’ve never met who was fridged off-screen for this issue’s Penguin/Batman confrontation, that’s simply poor writing.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.