Batman #74 – Tom King, Writer; Mikel Janin, Artist; Jordie Bellaire, Colorist
Ray – 9.5/10
Corrina: The Power of Blank Spaces
Ray: It’s rare that a writer can make an issue as brutally intense as Tom King can, where it feels like the noose is tightening around both the characters and the audience and turning every page leads to a sense of dread. The events of this issue don’t necessarily lend themselves to this, but as the issue goes on, Batman #74 becomes one of the most gripping issues of the entire run. As the story begins, Batman and his father, the dimension-displaced Thomas Wayne, are making their way through the desert and fighting the top guards of Ra’s Al Ghul. They dispatch the goons, and the conversation turns to the events of the most disturbing issue of the series – the one involving Bruce’s deranged favorite story as a child, involving animals eating each other while trapped in a pit. I was not a fan of that issue, and it seems like Thomas Wayne was just as disturbed as we were by his son’s fixation on the macabre. This issue, however, does a great saving throw about just why Bruce wanted to hear the story again and again.
After all, what is Batman but an instinct to save everyone? He’s been chasing that since he was a child and he couldn’t save his parents. His obsession with this story isn’t one with death, but with the ambiguous ending and his hope that maybe, just maybe, this time will end differently. It still paints a very disturbing picture of a young Bruce, but one that looks much more like a future Batman. The latter part of the issue has one of the best fight scenes of the run, as Bruce and Thomas find themselves in a situation paralleling the haunting story and Thomas discovers exactly how far Bruce will go to keep his mother’s memory from being destroyed. Mikel Janin’s art in the latter half of this issue is some of the best of his career and the desert setting is note perfect for the tone. City of Bane and the last big storyline of King’s run on this title is right around the corner, but when talking about the high points of this run, this issue is bound to be high on the list.
Corrina: I want to talk about the art.
I want to talk about how empty space is used perfectly. First, as the desert bleeds into the sky, forming a whole, isolating Thomas and Bruce until they seem to be the only two people in the world. (And their horses…) Then the brightness ends, as the two men descend into the underworld, a black maw in which parts of their selves are concealed. We’ve gone from light to dark.
And, finally, a single black-gloved hand is seen emerging from the pit to the open sky again.
It’s lovely symbolism.
The images are more on point for Batman’s emotional journey than the much-belabored children’s story that Thomas keeps yammering on and on about. I’m not sure that story even makes for a great metaphor. It seems a bit of a reach for me to believe that a child would want to hear it over and over again. I found my mind wandering and wondering what the conversation would have like if it’d been about, say, The Little Engine That Could or The Little Red Hen or The Gingerbread Man.
I suppose that’s a long-winded way of saying that while the dialogue clearly showed how unhinged Thomas Wayne has become, the metaphor of the children’s story doesn’t work as a symbol of Bruce’s need to protect others in the hope for that happy ending.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.