3 out of 5
Man, Tom King’s Batman is a mess so far. Maybe it’s the responsibility of establishing his own tone post a fan-favorite several year run by Scott Snyder; maybe it’s the pacing woes imposed by having to do a crossover – the upcoming Monster Men – so soon into taking over a landmark title. Maybe whatever. The title is still at a point where it’s searching for an identity; thankfully, Tom King has proven his track record on a sampling of other titles such that I think we can comfortably assume the writing will mostly be sound – and it is – it just remains to be seen if that will be applied to an affecting story, or merely a distractingly entertaining one. (‘Merely’ being damned relative there, since what makes a good AAA comic certainly varies from person to person, and even eeking out something of popcorn value can be worthwhile in an editorial-mandate-heavy universe.) While we’re waiting for that – hopefully given some confirmation one way or another on the next non-crossover arc – it’s a bumpy ride.
King rushed in a lot of backstory and last-minute exposition regarding his sudden heroes Gotham and Gotham Girl, and attempted to smooth the transition to Monster Men by including some light in-story references to the same. His take on Batman – collected bit chatty – is clear, but his intentions are not. And then comes this “epilogue” to his opening arc, which repeats everything on a micro level: Batman ruminating on how his past has shaped him; new Robin-in-training acting as Oracle; Alfred as a jocular but wise source if wisdom; and the ailing Gotham Girl as the catalyst for all of the above, now in 12-step recovery mode after the last issues’ occurrences. The final page seeds the transition to more bad guys, but this too was a seed that had already been mostly planted. Plus: Fill in (but excellent) art from Ivan Reis and Tom Workman-esque lettering from Deron Bennett, though honestly I preferred Bennett’s letters because he allowed some more traditional conventions with the sound effects – smartly not aping Workman there – and it synced better with King’s un-grandiose style. All of this speaks to a placeholder issue to align scheduling, and I wonder if it was planned. If so, the delay is well handled, but King should’ve used this issue not as an epilogue but to expand the pacing on his opening; if not, see above approving Tom’s baseline talent: it’s a good issue.
Either way, though, it doesn’t add anything to the world, or really clarify what kind of book King wants his Batman to be.