After a solid opening chapter to this Suicide Squad arc last issue, writer Tom King and artist Mikel Janin deliver a seriously flawed second instalment in Batman #10 that nearly derails the momentum achieved by the tense, creepy and lean previous issue.
This is an issue that makes some pretty substantial mistakes, the initial one being having the issue barely reference the opening chapter at all. We see Batman heading into action against Bane, assaulting his HQ, facing impossible odds and quickly getting captured. This leads to a confrontation with Bane and Batman placed in captivity.
Now, obviously this is all part of Batman’s plan in some way, but King chooses to structure his issue around a narration performed by a character who is barely in the issue and whose story has almost nothing to do with the action. He also chooses to have Batman spend the bulk of the issue repeating the same ultimatum to Bane. Over. And Over. And Over. Both devices land with a great big clunky thud. Neither feels appropriate to the situation, or within hooting distance of anything real people would actually say. Even charitably giving Batman some slack in the “saying badass stuff” department, this doesn’t work at all.
Then there’s the fight with Bane and Batman’s subsequent captivity. Bane once again attacks Batman’s back, but admits that he isn’t capable of doing it as easily as he once could. But the resulting panels don’t show the injury really affecting Batman. If he had a window into Batman at all maybe we could get some sense as to how incapacitated the fight with Bane left him, but all we get is the unconnected narration and Batman’s mantra, so no help there. Then Batman does a…thing….to, I guess repair his back, which wasn’t seeming to bother him? I guess?
Look, I love Tom King, I think he’s a huge new talent in comics. And this issue feels uncharacteristically off for him. It does kind of feel like he’s trying for something ambitious or unusual in Batman #10 that he doesn’t pull off at all. The issue feels artificial and unformed, with ideas that sound cool but don’t come across as such, but rather make Batman seem insane and his plan seem pretty dodgy. The previous issue had the makings of a lean, mean, man on a mission vibe that really could have been compelling, but this issue squanders that momentum.
The saving grace of the issue is Mikel Janin’s art. Every panel sings with some great stuff. Whatever narrative coherence the issue has is down to his clarity and control. Whether it’s a scenes of Batman facing down ever-increasing foes, the atmospheric fight with Bane, or the close-ups of Batman’s grim and determined face, the issue is really great to look at and Janin contributes so much to the storytelling, that he manages to tip this book over into the enjoyable column.
In the end, Batman #10 winds up being a disappointment after such a strong start. I still have faith in King and Janin to deliver a strong arc overall, and hope this is nothing more than a blip. 5.5/10