Sunday, 29 January 2017

Batman, Volume 1: I Am Gotham Review (Tom King, David Finch)

As one dynamic duo, Tom King and David Finch, take over the main Batman title, another dynamic duo appears in town: Gotham and Gotham Girl, two Superman/Supergirl-types out to help Batman in his war against crime! But this fresh-faced pair are about to discover how dangerous the shadows in the city can be even with the Dark Knight at their side… 

Under Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, Batman unfortunately wasn’t good for a while so I’m glad to say that with a new creative team on board, the relaunched series is firmly back on form - I Am Gotham is a great beginning to Tom King’s run! 

King opens the story explosively with Batman diverting a downed commercial jet away from downtown Gotham. Action-packed describes the book as a whole as we move from one exciting set-piece to another, from one reveal to the next, so the reader’s never bored with what’s happening. The main Batman title is usually the more sensational and superhero-y - Detective Comics is the one where Batman puts on his deerstalker and investigates nuanced street-level crimes - and King fully lives up to that expectation here. He also nails Batman’s character and gives him some damn cool moments like during the climactic confrontation when he gets up and snarls “I am Gotham,” - yeah! 

Like Scott Snyder’s first Batman book, The Court of Owls, King introduces some new characters into Batman canon with his first book. However, Gotham and Gotham Girl aren’t the most compelling characters - though I didn’t dislike them either - especially as Superman-types are hardly original, but they were fine as part of a larger problem Batman has to deal with. 

The story developed well with King setting up intriguing future storylines at the same time - they look like they’re going to be remakes of previous sorta-well-known but crappy Batman books though with King in the driving seat I’m hopeful he’ll find a way to improve them for contemporary readers. I wonder what happened to the “three Jokers” storyline teased in DC Universe Rebirth #1 - will King get around to that later, will someone else write it, or has that idea been abandoned? I wouldn’t mind if it was the latter! 

I also liked how Batman reached out to others when he felt out of his depth, showing he’s learned to ask for help when he needs it and that he’s not alone - a holdover from Scott Snyder’s Batman run. And speaking of Snyder’s Batman, it looks like the New 52 stories are still in play - Rebirth hasn’t wiped out that canon and there are references to Zero Year, the Court of Owls, Joker and Bloom. Under King, Duke, the new Robin, is starting to grow on me, and I was pleased to see Alfred miraculously has his hand back - I hated what Snyder did to poor Alfie in Endgame which felt like pure shock value more than anything. 

I’m not the biggest fan of David Finch’s art but I liked what he did here. It was more restrained than usual, more focused and looked a lot cleaner. The Regan/All-Star Superman homage page was great though the Gotham Girl outfit looked a little corny. Largely though I was very satisfied with the art. 

Easily the worst part of the book was the handover issue that opened the volume, co-written by Snyder. Calendar Man is reimagined as this weird mutant-type dude who literally dies at the end of winter and is reborn in the spring into a new body? Ugh, it was terrible! What a stupid idea - thank goodness Snyder left when he did before he did more damage! Mikel Janin’s art in this issue though was spectacular, very sharp and clear, appropriately big-screen movie-type illustrations to match the dramatic action. 

I’ve never been a fan of either Tom King or David Finch but, credit where credit’s due, these guys created a fine Batman book here - a career best (so far) for both, I’d say. I love the energy in this book the most. Batman feels reinvigorated and I was excited reading a Batman comic in a way that I haven’t been since Zero Year. Batman, Volume 1: I Am Gotham is a great Batman story and an excellent start to a series that hopefully maintains its quality going forward - I Am Entertained!

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