Written by: Tom King
Art by: David Finch and Matt Banning
My first time through with Batman #4 left me feeling disheartened. It felt like another step backwards for the series. After re-reading it, I’m more optimistic about it now, though it’s still not without its faults. The story is unfolding in a manner which I never saw coming, which sounds like a real compliment for any story writer, but Tom King’s lack of on-page appearances for almost any villains through four issues, despite introducing multiple, feels strange — no pun intended.
Hugo Strange and Psycho-Pirate have both been openly involved since the second issue, yet nearly all of their actions have happened off the page between issues. Batman’s intent on monitoring and assisting Gotham and Gotham Girl is clearly the focus, the story arc’s title says as much, but their hokey names and costumes seemed to once be an allusion to the superheroes of yesteryear. At this point, though, King is taking them seriously, and expects readers to do the same, apparently, which is no small task. So many characters in the Batman mythology exist to reveal different sides of the Dark Knight himself. The Gotham siblings have always come across as extensions of this same purpose. Through their actions and how Batman responds we are meant to learn something about Batman. In this case, I think we are beginning to see why and how he is uniquely suited to be the city’s guardian. We see that not even two super-powered, nearly omnipotent beings with goodness in their hearts can perform the job that Batman performs. In that way, the story in issue #4 is a success.
A Suicide Squad namedrop felt like overt product placement for the movie that “just so happens” to release days after the issue hits stores, but the story content surrounding it was still worth while enough to not be too distracting. Just like he did in the premiere, King is using his personal knowledge of government agencies and how they operate to paint a somewhat militaristic view of Gotham and its goings-on. It’s a new look for the Bat, and while I’m still getting used to it, I haven’t been displeased with the arc so far. My only hope is that the payoff surrounding the new heroes in the city is a big one, and this issue at least leaves us believing it will be.