Written by: Tom King
Art by: David Finch, Matt Banning, Sandra Hope, Scott Hanna
In Batman #5, Tom King reaches the conclusion of his debut arc as Batman scribe. It’s been an up-and-down first few issues, with some really promising moments interspersed with some questionable pacing and character decisions. It was nothing if not unique, though, and this latest issue pushes onward to the next set of issues that hopes to continue bringing something new to the mythology.
When a series has been around for as long as Batman has, retreading of familiar plot points is bound to turn up. In that way, King’s first arc came along and ultimately concludes admirably. The introduction to true meta-humans in Gotham and Gotham Girl bring up plenty of questions regarding what kind of symbol the Dark Knight truly portrays. He inspires others to rise up, like we’ve seen of the Bat-family countless times, but when this sibling pair of superheroes takes up the task of protecting the city, they forget they have only the same motivation to do so as the Bat. What they lack, however, as it becomes dramatically clear in this fifth issue, is the proper training. Bruce Wayne spent years away from the city he loves to build both his body and his mind to peak condition. He’s the world’s greatest detective, a master martial artist, he’s a tech-savvy righteous savior. Gotham’s new heroes were born on superhero third base, you could say. They possess Superman-like abilities without any real knowledge of how to use them. All that comes to an impressive head in the second half of this issue, and that’s what it does well.
Where the issue fumbles, unfortunately, is the first half. There were several moments of comedy on display in the first pages, and none of them felt well-timed. There we were, building toward a dramatic finale of hero versus hero, yet the dialogue throughout the first ten or twelve pages was offering up one-liners and visual humor like someone forgot the context. Those bits were disappointing, but again, salvaged by a great back half. Still, no matter the thematic brain food provided by way of Gotham and Gotham Girl, their overall look and names will forever seem out of place in this version of Batman — in modern Batman.
Characters like theirs made sense decades ago, but I can’t shake the feeling of them being out of place. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop to explain these hokey names and get-ups, but unless I’ve missed it, it appears there was no other shoe. These are simply the characters king wanted to use. Set to the backdrop of a slightly more militarized Gotham, these Saturday morning cartoon characters just don’t fit.
Overall, King’s fifth issue stands as a symbol of his first arc overall. It’s inconsistent, with glimmers of both excellence and mediocrity, and mostly rests in the middle somewhere. I’m looking forward to more from the new series, but even if you don’t unfairly compare it to his predecessor Snyder’s brilliant debut run, it’s hard to argue he will be running uphill for a while until he can get Batman back on track.