Batman #61 – Tom King, Writer; Travis Moore, Artist; Tamra Bonvillain, Colorist
Ray – 9.5/10
Corrina: Child Killer
Ray: In Batman #38, Tom King delivered one of the most disturbing issues of his run, the story of a young boy named Matthew who had experienced the same tragedy as Bruce Wayne. His parents, including a father who worked for Wayne Industries, had been brutally murdered. As the issue unfolded, it turned out that what looked like lightning striking twice had actually been a disturbing copycat murder plot engineered by the boy and his butler, Taylor – all so Matthew could live out his fantasy of becoming Bruce Wayne. Now, King and Moore return to one of Batman’s creepiest cases with Batman #61. The issue starts with a flashback to Bruce Wayne at the site of his parents’ murder, and the story unfolds as we know it – with some changes. Namely, what is Batman doing helping Bruce investigate his parents’ murder? And why is the culprit caught so easily, instead of remaining a mystery that haunts Bruce through his life?
All the major players are there, from Commissioner Gordon to Alfred, and the story seems to follow Bruce as he eventually finds his peace with his parents’ death, confronting their killer in prison. And that’s when it takes a horrible turn, as it becomes clear who this “Bruce” actually is and just how far he’ll go to live out his twisted fantasy. Matthew is unlike any other Batman villain, in that his obsession with Bruce is so strong that he’s completely disappeared into it. What’s more, the issue takes us inside his head and lets us live his creepy fantasy. By the end of the issue, he’s headed for Arkham, and that can’t be good as we know it’s currently run by Bane. This is the first part of the “Knightmares” arc that will put Bane’s plan into overdrive, and having an obsessed, psychotic child like this in his army will not make things any easier. Easily one of the darkest, most fascinating Batman stories I’ve read in awhile.
Corrina: I know it’s tempting for each creative team on Batman to want to go back to the beginning, the murder of Bruce’s parents. But, at this point, I have murder fatigue. Unless there’s a new angle for the flashback, like in last week’s Batman Annual, the panels that present the murder is likely taking up space that could be used better in the story.
I mention this because the intercutting of the Waynes’ murder with the creepy story of Matthew isn’t always clear in reading the issue. I know King likes to experiment with different types of graphic storytelling, as witness his work on Omega Men, but sometimes that experimentation interferes with following the story, which is the case this issue.
The idea of a child killer like Matthew is an interesting one, and creepy, as Ray said, but I’m not sure how far one can go with him as a villain beyond the one “I want to kill the supposed murderer of my parents” motive. I think he’s meant to be a reflection on young Bruce and, eventually, adult Bruce, and he’s being used to explore Batman’s overall psyche, but that would make him a prop, rather than a true character too.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.