Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Tom King
Artist: David Finch
Inks: Danny Miki and Matt Banning
Colors: Jordan Workman
Letters: David Finch and Matt Banning
Release Date: 6th July 2016
This is not about reboots, rebirths, reimaginings. This is not another reevaluation of taking the mantle of the Bat from Snyder, Capullo et al. This is about Batman, and Gotham. Tom King and David Finch have each, in their way, both delighted and divided fans with their work in the New 52 (eg. Grayson, of which I was a fan, and Wonder Woman, of which I was not), so it shouldn’t be any surprise that this is a story and style that will likewise polarise. As well as a glut of great Rebirth titles, it’s up most particularly against the compelling Detective Comics for your Wednesday fix. But is it worth it?
A quick recap is warranted – in issue #1, Batman fails – or rather, is about to die rescuing a crashing plane. He is saved by 2 supers – caped heroes Gotham and Gotham Girl. It’s an interesting setup, and of course we immediately doubt their motivations, as sincere as they seem. They are very much Silver Age in their appearance, and setting the Detective a mystery to solve from the outset feels like an interesting way of approaching the not-origin refresh.
Appropriately enough, we get an opening fight with a villain who’s a match for a superman – Solomon Grundy. It effectively shows off the new heroes whilst ably demonstrating that Batman is simply a better all-round. It also sets thematic elements – circularity, inevitability, and the cyclical nature of the universe (or indeed, Universe). From a strong start, however, it begins to meander from the rather heavy-handed introduction of Hugo Strange (which, being a lover of all-things old-school, should’ve made me happier) and a contrived entry of Amanda Waller (just in case we forgot that the Suicide Squad movie, advertised on the cover, is about to come out) to a frankly baffling acceptance of the new heroes on Bruce’s part. Indeed, Duke (Thomas, now definitely not the new Robin, or at least not-robin) voices this: clearly, this is part of the mystery, but it feels a little flat. There’s further titbits – references to Ultra-Vision hinting at other Earth origin – but the pacing feels a bit off. That being said, the dialogue and characterisation is strong; King nails the voices, especially Gordon and Alfred.
Where this absolutely shines is in Finch’s art, and the rendering of the narrative. We’ve seen exciting panelling scripted by King before, in not only Grayson but Omega Men and especially Vision, both with the excellent opening fight and some superb transitions – Alfred’s sections are particularly entertaining. There’s so much to love in Finch’s character designs – I always felt his Wonder Woman veered towards cheesecake but I cannot stress how good Gotham Girl (in particular) is – tight, classic, ethereal. His Bat is lithe, an athlete, not a brute; it has grown on me, and I can see it becoming iconic, especially with Workman’s deft colouring. Other characters are likewise captured in effortless detail: Gotham has a touch of the Alan Scott about him, Strange is sneeringly superior, and more besides.
And it’s all wrapped up in a cracking Tim Sale cover, that brings a further sense of continuity to the newest bat-saga.
I can accept that this is a slow burn, but that’s a huge risk on the part of DC with the Bat. There are some exciting questions to be answered, and it’s possible that King will bring espionage and intrigue to the flagship title as Brubaker did with the Cap, but it feels a bit rough around the edges. Finch’s art sings, and I absolutely want to know where the story’s going – but, on many levels, it’s not quite there yet.
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The Writer of this piece was: Sam Graven
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