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Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Tom King
Artist: David Finch
Release Date: 15th February, 2017


BATMAN #17 marks the second chapter in writer Tom King and artist Dave Finch’s “I am Bane” story arc. Much like the rest of King’s run, he weaves in classic and modern elements of Batman continuity to build his own take on the mythology. Indeed, this issue incorporates many strands of the wider DCU, with a scene involving Superman being utilised to great effect. Fans of ALL-STAR SUPERMAN should pick up a very brief but fun nod to that story.  If anything, these nods to eras from bygone days are the main take away from this issue, with the proverbial hat being tipped to Morrison and McKean’s ARKHAM ASYLUM in particular.

Without stepping into spoiler territory, this issue is very much as odds with itself, with David Finch’s art once again jarring with King’s more deliberate and quieter take on Batman.  Finch is a good comics artist, however, he is not suited to a monthly book. Much has been made of his art style; flashy, over-rendered and built upon the foundations of early 90s Jim Lee clones. Here we get both the good and the bad of Finch. His pages are certainly slick, well designed and muscular, but his characters are often flat, struggling to provide the emotion and to break free of ‘Botox’ frozen faces with blank expressions. Finch’s Batman is certainly a beast, but one which pales in comparison to other artists like Capullo, Fabok, Sale and Lee.

With the commitment to bi-monthly shipping, there unfortunately aren’t many DC comics that deliver a consistent creative vision. The best most writers can do is tailor each story arc to its respective artists. With this in mind, Tom King’s BATMAN is the clear example of being able to deliver clear and distinct chapters, while contributing to an overarching whole. Each new arc feels like a completely new comic, adding small, distinctive building blocks to King’s overall tale.

The return of David Finch to the artist’s chair, sees the comic move away from the psychological and surreal drama of recent issues and towards a more traditional and action focused superhero comic.  In fact, this approach typifies much of King’s run thus far – an authorial take at odds with the flashier art teams and the more “goofy”, far-fetched elements of superhero storytelling. King has yet to strike the balance between more cerebral and unique tales, with the whiz bang that monthly superhero comics often dictate. Indeed, almost 20 issues in, and BATMAN is crying out for an artist like David Aja, Michael Lark or Matteo Scalera to really make the writing sing. If anything, BATMAN needs a consistent tone and style. Coming off the back of Snyder and Capullo’s consistently entertaining and innovative run and running alongside the excellent DETECTIVE COMICS, BATMAN feels more like an anthology title as opposed to the blockbuster flagship book it’s meant to be.

This is not to say that the comic is bad, it is not. This is a very entertaining comic, with small character beats, nods to the past and a definite trajectory of the story arc. Indeed, the final two pages will have any long-time fan of Bane punching the air.

If anything, this issue shows that perhaps Finch is not the artist for BATMAN. If this comic is to rise to the heights of THE VISION or SHERIFF OF BABYLON, an artist who really plays to King’s strengths should be found. BATMAN is a good comic, flirting with inconsistent bouts of greatness and suffering an identity crisis between being a glossy superhero comic and a unique, authorial take on the Dark Knight Detective

Rating: 3/5.


PREVIEW ARTWORK
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The writer of this piece was: Craig Gorman.


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