Batman #83 – Tom King, Writer; Mikel Janin, Artist; Jordie Bellaire, Colorist
Ray – 6/10
Corrina: Death Has Lost Its Storytelling Power
Ray: Tom King may have the strangest sense of pacing in the DC stable, and it alternates between fascinating and frustrating, especially in reading Batman #83. It’s been three months since we saw Bane snap Alfred’s neck, and it’s not been until now that we get confirmation – Batman’s closest confidant is dead.
King wisely keeps the opening pages almost dialogue-free, instead letting Mikel Janin’s brilliant art tell the story of Batman’s gruesome discovery. His combination of grief and rage as he wordlessly responds is one of the best segments of the series, and it’s written over by Alfred’s final letter to Bruce. Some of it is very good, with Alfred looking back at their long relationship and how he helped Bruce go from a broken, disturbed boy to one with a purpose – albeit one that was still slowly destroying him.
Alfred’s love for Bruce shines through here, but then there’s the big reveal – that Alfred sent word to Bruce that he was safe knowing he couldn’t get away and would be killed. This is another example of King returning to an odd repeated theme of “heroic suicide” that seems to be becoming a fixation.
Even if I hate the events here, I can admit that the first two thirds of this issue is brilliantly executed. I can’t say that about the back end. Bruce is led to his “father” by Catwoman, through a corridor of his allies, all likely mind-controlled by the Psycho Pirate.
I don’t feel like King has thoroughly explained just how Thomas went from a gritty street fighter in his original series to a world-class fighter who can take out an army of the DCU’s best martial artists. He also definitely hasn’t explained how he turned into a monster. I’m not sure if this is good writing or not, but I don’t think I’ve ever hated a character as much as I do Thomas Wayne in these last few pages.
That’s because he’s every abusive father I’ve ever encountered or read. His smug, sadistic satisfaction as he explains how Bruce got Alfred killed and how he hopes Bruce has learned his lesson isn’t just villainy. It’s the actions of someone so far removed from humanity that it’s hard to believe he’s motivated by love for Bruce. The next issue is a spotlight for Thomas, filling in the gaps, but I have a hard time seeing anything saving this character turn. And it really seems like Bane is ultimately a footnote to City of Bane.
Corrina: I’ve been quiet about this storyline for a few issues, simply because I had little to say that Ray wasn’t already articulating.
But I’ll point out the this story relies on a “shock death” that feels decidedly unshocking, given it will be undone with yet another crisis looming, and that dulls any emotional impact this might have. That’s something the creative team can’t really control, save that it was their choice to kill a character.
There were far more interesting storytelling choices inherent in actually letting Selina and Bruce get married than in killing yet another member of the Bat-Cast. Again. (I gather they decided killing Robins was kinda out, given the history of killing Robins.)
Maybe Bruce and Selina will eventually get married and we can see what this creative team can do with a basically positive premise, especially since that premise hasn’t been done to, well, death.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.