DC Comics is trying something new. In the wake of their Rebirth initiative, the publisher has rapidly expanded its content to include diverse new imprints such as Young Animal, Wildstorm, Jinxworld, Wonder Comics, Black Label, Ink, and Zoom. As their lineup expands, it can be hard to figure out what to pick up each week. That’s what our team is here to help with, every Wednesday, with the DC Round-Up!
THIS WEEK: How Tom King has taken the Batman apart s-l-o-w-l-y.
Note: the reviews below contain spoilers. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdict.
Writer: Tom King
Artists: Mikel Janin & Jorge Fornes
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Tom King has been all the buzz lately, hasn’t he? You know him from the Eisner award winning Mister Miracle, he was recently announced to be co-writing the New Gods movie, and just last week he wrapped up the critically-acclaimed (hey, I’m a critic) Heroes in Crisis event. But did you know that Tom King is still writing Batman?
Of course you did, because they just announced the Batman/Catwoman book that will follow it and continue the story. Buzz buzz!
An awful lot has happened in this story already, most of it pretty dark. Batman took on a couple of superpowered apprentices, which ended in blood and tears. He was shown a dystopian future and reminded how easily it could come true. He was near-married off in the almost-wedding of the century, and then watched as his son gets shot in the head in the middle of telling a joke. And the hits roll on. Tom King has been leading Batman down a spiraling freefall of rage and depression the likes of which we’ve not seen on this scale. We’ve watched a despondent Bruce Wayne struggle with right and wrong, question who he is, and release his anger. A lot of anger. Add onto that a series of uncontrollable nightmare hallucinations that rubbed the wound of his broken relationship with Catwoman and tested his sanity. And now he has finally come face to face with the man who engineered the whole thing — Bane.
I think Bane and Catwoman are tough characters to crack. About a year and a half ago, I reviewed a miniseries (by a different writer) that featured the two and I used some pretty harsh words. I said that it reminded me of a bunch of other forgettable Bane/Catwoman miniseries and called it “unnecessary”. Yikes. The funny thing is, this entire Tom King run is almost that exact same premise. Bane is a genius level brute with a hunger for power and a drug addiction, facing off against Batman and anyone else who gets in his way; Catwoman pops in and out, being all mischievous and unpredictable, stealing things. It doesn’t sound particularly exciting (and usually isn’t), but those forgettable miniseries didn’t have 85+ issues to really explore it, did they?
Tom King took the time to actually make Bane interesting. And Catwoman, and Bruce Wayne for that matter. It’s Tom’s strength as a writer — the slow burn. Balancing just enough humor, mystery, characterization, tragedy, and action to hold my interest and affect my emotions. He has had room to slow down and explore Batman in a more personal way than most writers get to. And he likes to write about trauma, which works pretty damn well with Batman. Sometimes a certain character in the right creator’s hands will just sing.
For all of his strengths as a writer, fan reactions to his stories have not been unanimously kind. I mentioned that he gets a lot of buzz; but remember that angry hornets buzz pretty loudly and Tom tends to kick up some nests. It’s because he has the audacity to change our characters. No, worse: to make us care about them, and THEN change them. We were mad at Tom King because he made us want the Bat/Cat marriage so much. And then the jerk STOLE it from us! The nerve.
But did any of us want to see Mister Miracle pull off his final great escape act before he had been ground all the way down into the dirt? Never. Did any fan really want DC to bring Wally West back and then only do “safe” stories with him forever? Of course not. Do we really want Bruce Wayne to marry Selina Kyle?
Yes, Tom. Yes we do very much. I hope he marries her and has little Robins and they run across the rooftops together. I hope he reunites with his healing son. I hope he takes Bane apart, excruciatingly, piece by piece. And I hope it takes a really long time.
Miss any of our earlier reviews? Check out our full archive!