Saturday, 15 April 2017

Batman, Volume 2: I Am Suicide Review (Tom King, Mikel Janin)

Batman needs Psycho Pirate to undo the mental damage he inflicted on Gotham Girl – except he’s holed up on the island prison of Santa Prisca, Bane’s domain! For his daring kidnap mission, Batman must assemble his own Suicide Squad, an unlikely assortment of characters including the Ventriloquist, Bronze Tiger, Jewelee and Punchee, and Catwoman. Will he succeed or will Bane once more break the Bat?

Rebirth has been a stream of disappointments except for Tom King’s Batman so I’m pleased to say that the second volume continues the title’s high quality, going from strength to strength.

I’m impressed with how King is taking really obscure DC characters and bringing them to the forefront of their flagship title. The continuing focus on Psycho Pirate? That dude’s never had this much attention or respect before! But also deep cuts like Silver Age characters Jewelee and Punchee (sorta like Joker and Harley decades before they were a thing) and Bronze Tiger – whaaat?? But they fit perfectly with Batman’s heist plan. I also like how Bane’s different in this one: no mask, no tights, no Venom, and he’s still super-menacing and deadly.

Like his first Batman book, King knows how to grab the reader’s attention right from the start and deliver on their expectations for what a Batman book should be with lots of big-screen action from the aerial dogfighting going into Santa Prisca to Batman taking on scores of Bane’s armed guards. The heist itself was a pleasant surprise in that King seemed to be going down a fairly standard route and then turned it around unexpectedly at the end – I love when my guesses turn out to be wrong! Each team member has a part to play and everything clicks superbly. Batman’s plans should be this complex and unpredictable – full marks to Tom King for his excellent plotting!

I have some minor critiques. Jewelee and Punchee’s inane chatterbox dialogue was quite annoying – I can see why they never remained a permanent fixture! The inner reflective, at times ponderous, nature of the narration between Batman and Catwoman felt a bit sludgy, a bit slow, particularly in contrast to the often fast-paced action. And the script is a little repetitive at times, one character echoing another in the same conversation, which feels mindless rather than suave. They’re definitely minor criticisms though and all the important things like characters and story hit the spot.

I didn’t expect King to focus so much on Batman and Catwoman’s complicated relationship either (and I was a little wary too, not being a huge fan of romance in Batman which is almost always corny as fuuuck) but it turned out to be one of the best parts of the book. I liked how King played on the dark side of Catwoman - she’s on Death Row for allegedly killing 237 people! – which seemed possible because she’s always walked the line between good and evil and might go full-villain under the right circumstances. Like the heist, King keeps the reader guessing with what really happened.

While most readers can guess the answer to whether or not Catwoman’s going to Blackgate forever, King still manages to make the story seem strangely poignant, almost convincing you that this is the final chapter in Batman and Catwoman’s story, selling the tragic lovers angle completely. Even the stuff about the sky and diamonds shining sounds silly and sentimental on paper but really works in the moment. This is one of the few times I can remember where romance in a Batman comic felt believable.

This book also has the best art I’ve seen yet from both Mikel Janin and Mitch Gerads. Janin’s art on the Bane story was very dramatic, gothic even, possibly because it reminded me a lot of Jae Lee’s spooky art, while Gerads’ twilit pages and focus on Bruce and Selina’s faces during their “last” chase across the rooftops was beautiful.

Tom King’s Batman remains THE Rebirth title to be reading and Volume 2: I Am Suicide is a great continuation of his increasingly epic storyline. It easily captured and held my attention for the entire book and I found it to be a really entertaining read – and I say that as a picky reader in general but especially when it comes to Batman! Highly recommended to any and all Batman fans. I Am Satisfied – more!

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