Batman #69 – Tom King, Writer; Yanick Paquette, Artist; Nathan Fairbairn, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: Art is Music/Music Is Art
Ray: Batman #69 is the final story of Knightmares, and the second half of this bizarre arc has picked up the pace with some twist illusions and a great sense of tension. But for the first time in this Yanick Paquette-drawn issue, Batman starts to pull back the curtains and realize what’s been done to him. That takes him back to the woman who has dominated his mind this run – Catwoman. Her decision to leave Bruce, spurred on by Bane’s trickery, sent Batman down a dark path and made him vulnerable. Paquette illustrates the tricky nature of their relationship in a gorgeous segment involving him tracking her down and asking her to dance. There’s a lot of callbacks to the earlier parts of the series, and it’s fascinating watching Bruce struggle between what his mind is becoming aware of and what he wants to believe inside this comforting vision. I’m still not sure of King’s idea that Batman can’t truly love anyone, though – he continues to think Batman is a lot more unhealthy than I do.
There is a very unhealthy Batman in this issue, though, and it’s not Bruce. The other half of this issue is devoted to a sparring session between Bane and Thomas Wayne, and it’s easily the best stuff King has written in months. King wastes no time dispensing with questions – this is the Flashpoint Thomas Wayne, he survived “The Button,” and he’s not being controlled by Bane. Rather, he’s here to “help” his son escape the torments he experienced as Batman – even if he has to drive it out of him with force. The tug of war between the villain and the antihero is compelling, but when Thomas’ sanity starts slipping he’s far creepier than Bane could ever be. This is what happens when a Batman truly loses his mind. Compare this version of “Evil long-dead dad” with Mister Oz, and it’s not even close – Thomas is easily one of the most compelling antagonists added to the DCU in years. I’m thrilled this arc is over, because it means the big show is about to begin as Thomas takes the war to Bruce.
Corrina: The big star here, as has been the last few issues, is the art.
Paquette, who drew an excellent Batman/Catwoman in Batman Incorporated, surpasses that work here. There is a double page spread of Batman and Catwoman dancing across a street, on which there are drawn musical notes, while Catwoman’s costume slowly changes from era to era.
I suspect that if I could read the musical notes, they would match the song being used in the book. It’s amazing work from the entire art team. (And, I note, they’ve managed to add Thomas Wayne to the villainous silver-haired fox contingent of the DCU, where Slade Wilson tends to reside.)
The narrative is less interesting to me. For one, this does not seem like Bane at all. Bane has a sense of what he wants to accomplish that he believes is superior to Bruce Wayne. That’s why he wants control. It would have been interesting to see what his plans for Gotham are, why they might be working, and where they might be flawed. Instead, all we’re shown is two egomaniacs both convinced they’re smarter than the other. It’s the least interesting take on this weird relationship. Also, didn’t Thomas Wayne love his son? Yes, he wants the kid to give up being Batman but…is teaming up with Bruce’s greatest enemy and drugging him the way to go? So much for shades of gray and, instead, a descent into being an out and out villain.
Bruce’s view of the relationship doesn’t even indicate why he thought he loved Selina, even if he didn’t. That’s been one of my big complaints about King’s entire run, that’s he’s relying on stories written by other writers for the Bat/Cat relationship to resonate, and hasn’t written anything showing me why they were even engaged.
“Hey, I almost was a killer without you, let’s get married!” is not the stuff of romance.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.