REVIEW: Batman #80, the Bat-Cat return to Gotham does not disappoint

By Alex Batts — This week sees the ‘City of Bane’ story arc shift its focus back to Gotham. The last two issues have served as an interlude of sorts that built up and solidified the relationship between Batman and Catwoman. Now, we return to Gotham, and with us, Batman and Catwoman return to their city as well. Tom King is joined by artist John Romita Jr., inker Klaus Janson, colorist Tomeu Morey, and letterer Clayton Cowles for this issue.

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REVIEW: Batman #78, ‘every panel of every page is stunning’

By Alex Batts — Up until this point, the City of Bane story arc has been pedal to the metal, full force insanity. This week’s Batman #78, however, puts on cruise control, sending readers on a semi-vacation with Batman and Catwoman. It’s a welcome break in pace, which keeps things interesting. Tom King is joined by frequent collaborators Clay Mann and Tomeu Morey on art duties, with Clayton Cowles on letters. This interlude — I’m not sure it’s officially called an interlude but I’m rolling with that — does something similar to the Kite-Man interludes in The War of Jokes and Riddles arc, in that both serve as a break from fast-paced high octane action while also lending it all an incredible amount of emotional weight.

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REVIEW: Batman #76 is a fantastic continuation of City of Bane

By Alex Batts — Batman #75 set the stage for the story arc City of Bane, and this week’s Batman #76 is all about highlighting the stakes and dire situations Gotham and the Caped Crusader are facing. The creative team of Tom King, Tony S. Daniel, and Tomeu Morey continue to escalate the desolation inside Gotham, where Bane is ruling virtually uncontested. There are two main narratives in this issue, with another short third narrative that shows the stakes and helplessness the rest of the Bat-Family feels.

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REVIEW: Batman #75 marks the start of new arc, CITY OF BANE

By Alex Batts - The end begins. With the release of Batman #75 this week , the final story arc of Tom King’s Batman epic gets underway. City of Bane is the beginning of the end for the journey the Caped Crusader has been on since issue #1 back in 2016 at the start of DC Rebirth. Though this won’t be the final story King tells with the Dark Knight (see Batman/Catwoman, a 12-issue maxi series launching in January 2020) it is the bombastic finale to his run on the main title. King is joined by longtime creative partners Tony S. Daniel and Tomeu Morey on main art duties, with Mitch Gerads contributing a brilliantly illustrated 8-page epilogue/prologue of sorts following the main cliffhanger ending. Rounding out the team is consistent Bat-letterer Clayton Cowles.

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REVIEW: Batman #74, a raw and emotional battle between father and son

By Alex Batts — Batman #74 brings about the close of “The Fall and The Fallen”, the current story arc running in Tom King’s epic run. This arc started in issue #70, with Batman awakening from his nightmares and fighting his way out of an Arkham Asylum under the control of Bane. It led to a slugfest, and ultimate beatdown of Batman in his own home, by the master strategist, Bane. The last chapter is a globe-trotting tale following Thomas Wayne and Bruce as they trek through the deserts of Khadym in search of the Nain Pit, a secret Lazarus Pit belonging to Ra's Al Ghul. 

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REVIEW: Batman #73 has giant implications for Tom King’s run

By Alex Batts — “The Fall and The Fallen” story arc continues in this week’s issue of Batman, and while at first glance it might not seem like that much is going on, the developments seem likely to have gigantic implications for the final chapters of writer Tom King’s run on the title. Batman #72 saw Batman beaten and broken (again) at the hands of Bane, while his father Thomas stood idle, brooding. This issue picks up with the Wayne duo in the desert, Bruce unconscious and being secured to the back of a horse, while Thomas nonchalantly sings the classic….

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REVIEW: Tom King’s Batman #69 is a gorgeous ending to an audacious story arc

By Zack Quaintance — This is it, everyone, the six-part largely separate Knightmares story arc has now come to an end. This has been an audacious set of stories, each illustrated by a different artist and designed to explore a different part of Batman’s psyche, revealing as they did that our hero was suffering some form of torture. Remember those old campy and elaborate death traps Batman always got stuck in back in Batman ‘66? Well, this arc has been like that, but the booby trap is Batman’s own…

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REVIEW: In Tom King's Batman #66, a major new artist rises

Batman #66 is due out 3/6/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — The ongoing Knightmares story arc—which picks up here after a two-issue interlude that doubles as a Heroes in Crisis tie-in and a crossover with The Flash—is a tough one to review, at least on a monthly basis. The main trouble is that it’s really hard to contextualize the literal nightmare torture state our hero is trapped within without knowing what the payoff will be. We’re even lacking some basic info here, like who’s doing this to him (we can maybe safely assume it’s his father from the Flashpoint timeline), how long he’s been trapped, and, perhaps most importantly, why?

This all makes it a bit tricky to gauge whether this story is working on a larger narrative level. With that in mind, I think it has to then be evaluated on the past merits of this run written by Tom King, as well as on whether it provides an entertaining individual reading experience. Let’s start with the latter: I think this issue most certainly does entertain.

This issue is entertaining for two main reasons, and we’ll start with the first one since I have a bit less to say about. This is the most we’ve seen writer Tom King portraying Catwoman since Batman #50 ended with her leaving Bruce at the altar/on a rooftop, worried as she was that a content Batman would be bad for the world and for Gotham. This issue sees the as-of-late underutilized Question interrogating her about the Bat-Cat relationship and, in a broader sense, her wedding decision.

If there’s one thing King has excelled at throughout this run it’s writing big Bat-Cat moments (with Batman Annual #2 standing out as the pinnacle of this run to date, with the possible exception of the Cold Days arc, which could be the best multi-part Batman story of the past decade). I for one have always found Catwoman the more interesting and less explored member of the pairing, and what this issue does (even if it’s not real real) is give us her more interesting perspective as she drags out a sultry cigarette like a character in a Golden Age Hollywood movie. It’s a great premise.

What makes this issue really pop, so to speak, is the artwork. Jorge Fornes is a superstar artist waiting to happen, and, more precisely, a perfect fit for illustrating noir stories within the extant DC world. He doesn’t quite fit with the publisher’s house style, but he’s squarely within the lineage of the sorts of cartoonist they like to tap when they deviate from the photorealistic, think Shawn Martinbrough’s Detective Comics run with Greg Rucka, or Phil Hester and Ande Parks work on Green Arrow with Kevin Smith and later Brad Meltzer.

It’s the type of Bruce Timm-esque cartooning that really accentuates the classic designs of the characters, we get so many glorious scenes of it here, bet it Catwoman tangling upside down in front of a diamond from a wire, or The Question leaning in with intensity splayed all over his (or her) expressionless facade. It’s truly special work, and if Fornes hasn’t already been tapped for more noir DC Universe cartooning, well that’s a missed opportunity.

The last point I want to make is that in the context of the longer run, this faux reality Knightmares run asks readers for a pretty sizeable leap of faith, and I think that’s just fine. It’s the kind of ask the writer and his collaborators have earned after 66 issues, all but three of which I’ve liked (The Gift) and most of which I’ve absolutely loved. It’s an experimental take on Batman, compared to traditional depictions, and this is nothing if not an experimental arc. I say let them tell the story, give them the benefit of the doubt, and let’s talk again in six months.

Overall: Jorge Fornes steals the show in this issue as Tom King’s experimental dream-state arc of one-shots resumes. In addition to Fornes drawing some of the best noir DC scenes in recent memory, we get King exploring the Bat-Cat relationship yet again. This story might not be actually happening, but the quality with which it’s being told is 100 percent real. 9.0/10
Batman #66
Writer:
Tom King
Artist: Jorge Fornes
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

TRADE RATING: How Mister Miracle by Tom King & Mitch Gerads Defies Escapist Entertainment

Mister Miracle by Tom King and Mitch Gerads is out 2/13/2019.

By Brandon Evans — The collected edition of Mister Miracle by Tom King and Mitch Gerads released this week, giving us all the change to read it collected in its entirety. I, like many others, first read this book at a pace of pretty close to once a month, with a few agonizing delays. Although, in retrospect, I think this periodical format may have added to the experience, helping me to better sympathize with Scott Free, aka Mister Miracle himself, who is unsure of his circumstances and surroundings, just like I was unsure what was happening in the overall narrative of the story at each chapter’s conclusion. That disorientation felt right in a way, given that Scott as a protagonist is unsure what the days he’s experiencing mean to the story of his overall life, or anti-life.

I could easily write a piece all about the qualities that make this 12-issue maxiseries so amazing, but I’m hesitant to go through that boom tube because I’d hate to spoil the series for the fortunate souls who get to read it with fresh eyes. To them I say just be ready to look at the mythic components of the Fourth World with a surprisingly fresh perspective—the Life and Anti-Life Equations are explained in such a simple, yet profound ways—you’ll see. It’s really hard to understate how well Tom King writes these concepts and characters. He shows us the atrocity of war and the toll it takes on those who are on the front line, via the graphic violence in the fire pits of Apokolips juxtaposed with the family lives it interrupts. Thanks to the beautiful art of Mitch Gerads, a conversation about redoing a condominium is entertaining and thrilling, even at the expense of many unfortunate parademons. Gerads grueling adherence to a mostly nine-panel uniformity is impressive, and after awhile you realize how strong his sequential storytelling is. His art pairs incredibly well with the story, a union enables the book to be, dare I say, miraculous.

Mister Miracle does something that is unusual for the comic book medium, it takes the idea of escapism entertainment, and inverts it. Instead of a man trying to escape the monotony of normal everyday life, we see a superhero and celebrity escape artist doing his best to escape his life. A cliched phrase that the tired and bored often use is, “I’m dying to escape this place.” Well, what Tom King literally gives us is an escape artist who attempts dying at the start of the story to escape his life of escapism. While we as the readers are trying to get into his world, Scott is actively trying his best to get out, to get a piece of our normal lives. It is on the epic battlefields that Mister Miracle truly looks bored, but when changing diapers, he seems…happy.

Scott Free is arguably every new dad trying to be better than his father as he battles falling victim to the same impossible choice his own father did. Will Scott give up his son to a life of torture on Apokolips or will he damn every fellow New God to continue the endless war that has been plaguing Scott and Barda their entire lives? This story culminates in Scott making the impossible choice. There are no easy answers in life, and Scott’s actions show that he understands this. Fortunately, he isn’t alone. The series features Big Barda too, Scott’s wife, and in all the ways that Scott fails, Barda picks up the slack. She is the strength to his weakness, the reason against his insanity, but most of all Barda is the decisive confidence to his indecisive insecurity. Any fan of Barda will love her strength in this book, watching Scott benefit from it as he battles his depression and makes his eventual escape.

From Mister Miracle by Tom King and Mitch Gerads.

The reason that King and Gerads’ Mister Miracle is such a touching tale is because it is the very embodiment of us, the reader. We’ve grown up to find lives not as the superheroes or celebrities we so desperately wanted to be when were children, but as parents and normal people we swore we’d never become. We endure the scars of perceived—or actual—childhood traumas and live in a world that we don’t exactly recognize every day. While we may not see the embodiment of our doubts and/or depression in quite the same way as Scott—Darkseid is.—we do contend with our own doubts, worries, and fears.

As a new father, myself, it has been clear to me throughout that Tom King and Mitch Gerads really infused this book with their own very personal insights into the heroic business of parenthood. Raising children is exciting and scary, but at the end of the day, far more important than interstellar wars on Apokolips, or any other planet for that matter. Though we may throw ourselves head first into those conflicts, we know the best things are at home with our wives, children, families. Those are the things that keep us going. We can’t forget the problems we face, even when we are on the couch playing with our young children. The dread of the real world is there. We can never really deny that Darkseid is, we merely use it as a footstool and focus that much more on our own little New Gods.

If you’re looking for a comic book that is truly grown up, then this collected work belongs on your shelf.  

Brandon Evans is a freelance writer and comic book lover from St. Louis, MO. He is currently working to find his way into the comic book industry. You can find him on Twitter as @writingbrandon

REVIEW: Tom King’s Batman #63 enlists Mikal Janin for Bat-Cat wedding redux

Batman #63 is out 1/23/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — There’s a very familiar feeling to the start of Tom King’s Batman #63. Mikel Janin, King’s primary collaborator from July’s infamous Batman #50 Bat-Cat wedding issue, is back providing the artwork. Moreover, what’s actually happening on the page is familiar too. Bruce is on a rooftop in a tuxedo as the sun comes up, just as he was during the wedding, flanked by Alfred and a tipsy officiant. There’s a quick cut to the goodbye letter Catwoman left on his pillow, and then our hero steps to the edge of the building prepared to jump off...we’ve seen all this before.

Before he can go fully over this time, things begin to change. This time Catwoman is there, telling him to wait. This time things are different, better—until they suddenly aren’t. Thus is the premise of Batman #63, the third part of the ongoing Knightmares story arc for this title (and before you protest about spoilers, everything I just described happens on the first page of this very compressed issue, which is an idea we’ll return to a bit later...).   

Knighmares continues to be an arc of unreality. Readers don’t know what’s real and what’s not. The last issue saw Batman battling Professor Pyg, who at the very end removed his mask to reveal himself as Damian Wayne, Bruce’s estranged son and Robin. Essentially, Batman #61 planted the seeds that Batman was trapped in some sort of hallucination via the Bruce Wayne murder kid character (which I’m pretty ambivalent about, but that’s another thing all together…), Batman #62 confirmed it, and now Batman #63 builds on the concept further, doing so by replaying what so far has been the headling moment of Tom King’s Batman run—the wedding.

I won’t go too far into specifics, but this issue uses John Constantine as a mechanism for both tormenting Bruce (telling him this happiness is fleeting) and giving some narrative clarity to the reader. Constantine (whose own reality we are left to wonder about for most of the proceedings) keeps telling Bruce what we pretty much know, that this is all fake and will end badly. This is all setup in the start, and I don’t want to go too far into the plot what happens. What I do want to talk about, however, is whether this issue and this larger arc is good.

Let’s look at where the arc started, or, to be more precise, what it started after. In Batman #60 Alfred is assaulted in the Batcave by Thomas Wayne, Flashpoint Batman, who we knew was in this reality and assisting Bane from the last panel of Batman #50. He also gets the jump on Bruce, leaving us to wonder what happens next. What does happen next? Well, we’re plunged into the fakery of Batman #60. In some ways, this arc is one meant to stall, to keep us wondering what’s up with the Flashpoint Batman without giving us too many answers.

In other ways, it’s meant to give the creators a chance to delve further into the psyche and humanity of Batman, which is what this run has been about from its very first issue. King knows that cliffhanger has fans on the hook, and now he’s basically saying let’s slow down (in entertaining and relevant ways) to look at the emotional effect on our hero. King has done this previously with other lesser-known superhero characters, mainly Mister Miracle and The Vision. Mister Miracle in particular played with perceptions of reality, with a case to be made that any action in any of was happening entirely in Scott Free’s head.

Given the prominence of the character, King doesn’t seem to have (or maybe want) that same luxury with The Bat. As such, he ends up giving us more compress Knightmares (as it were) and tipping his hand sooner. Does it work? I absolutely think it does, and on the whole I enjoyed this issue and its functions within both the longer story arc and run. Basically, a little bit a clarity about what’s actually happen goes a long way, bringing what the writer is trying to do into focus and engendering us with the trust and patience we need to stick with it. This lack of clarity, in my opinion, has hurt portions of a couple of other recent Tom King comics: the ending of Mister Miracle and the beginning of Heroes in Crisis.

Someone like David Lynch might get all the rope in the world to confuse the daylights out of us, but David Lynch is making arthouse cinema. In superhero comics, it’s almost always the case that writers most artful form-bending inclinations are best served by being reduced just a bit in the service of accessibility. It’s like if you were baking a cake—experiment with ingredients all you want, but you’re still going to need the sponge and taste and texture that make what you set out to do recognizable. I think Batman #63 most certainly delivers in that regard.

One last note: I think Tom King’s voice and stylistic flourishes work better with some characters than with others...Constantine is without question a good fit for King, and I’m suddenly intrigued to read more of his work featuring this character, even if it’s just a cameo here or there.

Overall: A little bit of clarity about what’s really happening goes a long way in Batman #63 mixing with the Bat-Cat wedding redux motif to result in the strongest issue of this arc so far. Also, Mikel Janin’s impeccably-clean linework is always welcome on this title. 8.5/10

Batman #63
Writer:
Tom King
Artist: Mikel Janin
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as
BatmansBookcase.