Tom King’s run on Batman has been controversial to say the least, but reading it as a whole (all 85 issues of it) will throw up problems. For example, the first issue of Batman: Rebirth is awful, awful stuff read now, and not even average as I thought at the time. However over the run, King gets to redefine not just Batman, but Catwoman and Bane in a way that future writers now have more to play with which is why it depressingly looks as if it’ll be ignored or skimmed over in future.
King’s entire run is essentially building up to City of Bane, a ten-part story that wraps everything up, and there’s a lot to wrap up.
Over the course of King’s run, we’ve seen Bane scheme to destroy Batman once and for all. As this storyline starts, Bruce Wayne has been broken. Defeated by his father Thomas, the Batman of the Flashpoint reality saved by the Reverse Flash and Bane, Bruce Wayne is expelled from Gotham leaving it under the control of Batman’s rogue gallery, who are themselves controlled by Bane thanks to the Psycho Pirate who can control anyone.
City of Bane details Batman and Catwoman taking Gotham City back from Bane and the villians. There’s lots of fighting, and lots and lots of characters standing on rooftops spouting exposition done in the most tedious ways, but it is a way to work out what Batman is by pitting him against a twisted shadow in the shape of Thomas Wayne. Eventually of course Batman and Catwoman defeat Bane and Thomas, while expressing their love for each other, which is just one of the way King changes the Batman dynamic along with the murder of Alfred by Bane.
You rarely get runs of 85 issues or more by a writer these days. Most go in for 12-24 issues, enough for a trade or two, tell a story and get out so King being allowed the time to tell his story is admirable of DC. Though sales figures probably dictated that King curbed his planned 100 issue run, and even with the 85 issues there’s a hell of a lot of padding.
King’s problem is his storytelling is sometimes poor for superhero comics, so instead of dynamic, exciting pages which move the action on there are just pages at times of characters standing around talking spouting exposition for panel after panel. Rob Leifeld of all people pulled up this point on Twitter the other day.
And you know, Liefeld has a point. Superhero comics have swung so far towards cramming pages full of dialogue, they’ve forgotten they’re comics, so storytelling is being lost because writers are forgetting, or are unable, to trust artists to let the story be told by pictures. King would be a better writer if he wasn’t trying to be a third-generation Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman.
King though has done something amazing in today’s climate which is produce a vision for one of DC’s big money-earners which wasn’t just pandering to a decreasing hardcore of fans who see Batman as a flawless character who can do anything. King resets Batman as a flawed character but now accepting his limits but knows he has support when he needs it. He’s become a bit more human by being allowed to love.
An 85 issue run is an achievement and although King’s run won’t have changed comics for any much the better or worse, he’s told a Batman story at times massively entertaining, at times awful and at times frustrating but it has been interesting which Batman in the comics hasn’t been for some time now. King now moves onto other things, including helping adapt Jack Kirby’s New Gods for the screen so his comics work could take second place to his new career in film but he’s now a writer who is one to keep an eye on just in case le learns to curb his faults and become a vastly better one.