Batman #72 – Tom King, Writer; Mikel Janin, Jorge Fornes, Artists; Jordie Bellaire, Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
Corrina: Could Work As a Wordless Issue
Ray: It’s been quite a week for Tom King, as first it was rumored that he had been abruptly fired off this title after the conclusion of the upcoming “City of Bane” arc. That was then clarified to him leaving the title at the end of 2019 and spinning it out into a Batman/Catwoman series to conclude his story. Then he was announced to be co-writing the New Gods movie, but that’s not this book’s issue! Reading the last few issues, it’s pretty clear why DC might have been getting a bit antsy with King on their #1 book – he’s doing a very slow-burn, psychologically driven story that works like a puzzle box and can leave people scratching for more information. That’s not an easy sell on your most iconic title, but I still find it a rewarding read. Batman #72 doesn’t pick up from last issue’s unraveling of Bruce’s mind leading to him slugging Tim Drake and instead pulls back to show the origin of Bane’s plan – and how it wormed into every aspect of Bruce and Batman’s lives.
Narrated by an unknown person – later revealed to be Thomas Wayne – questioning Bane and revealing what he knows, the issue shows the big fight between Batman and Bane that began at Wayne Manor the last issue, but how much of this is real and how much is in Batman’s head isn’t clear. It’s a brutal fight scene, kind of the reversal of what we saw in the earlier “I Am Bane” arc. But the brutal Fornes segments are interspliced with double-page spreads by Mikel Janin, calling back to the most iconic moments of the run. There is a LOT of narration here, as Thomas reveals every step of Bane’s plan back to the madman. It defies belief slightly occasionally, as Bane’s long game seems more fitting for someone like Ozymandias, it’s so intricate. But it’s a good use of Bane as a smarter mastermind villain, which is in line with his original characterization (if a bit exaggerated here).
The problem is, the issue ends with us largely in the same place we started, just knowing more. The non-linear nature of this run is a challenge to its issue-by-issue appeal.
Corrina: There is a ton of narration here and very little has to do with the artwork on the page. This is a technique that King has used well before, primarily in the attack on Bane’s sanctum earlier in this run.
The good is that it allows the artwork to shine, with the Fornes’ segments reminding me strongly of Sean Phillips work in noir stories, and Bellaire’s coloring adds to the throwback Golden Age feel of these segments. As I said above, these segments tell the story nicely even without the dialogue. And, as always, Janin’s double-page spreads are gorgeous.
And yet, the narration creates an emotional distance between what’s happening to Batman on the page. Bane breaks Batman’s back at the end of this issue–though it’s unclear if this is reality or not–and that should feel emotional, that should create a mood, but since the narration detaches the reader from what’s on the page, instead the moment fell flat for me. And it doesn’t truly explain why this Thomas Wayne choose this way to deal with his “son,” and I’m still shaking my head at the idea of a well-adjusted Batman meaning the end of Batman. I grew up reading a relatively well-adjusted Batman. He did just fine. In fact, Gotham seemed a much better place.
In a way, this whole arc feels like a meta-commentary on the fact that no matter where Batman goes, story-wise, he’s always going to end up back in the same place. Which, fair, but it doesn’t make for compelling storytelling.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.