What I thought of Batman #9

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DC’s Rebirth cranks onwards towards the depressing Batman versus Rorschach battle which is coming as this two year (!) event rides towards Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons book, Watchmen, becoming part of the mainstream DC superhero universe. We’re not going to have any resolution to the various plot threads til 2018 which even by DC or Marvel standards, is an astonishing crossover.

I’ve found the Rebirth even to be at the very, very best patchy. At worst insultingly cynical with comics of such poor standard that I wonder if there’s anyone at DC who knows how to edit or write, comics. As for imagination there’s a dearth of that as DC continues to look back and give you the past repackaged rather than present a new vision for the future. This brings me to Batman, currently written by Tom King who is by no means a bad writer. In fact, for mainstream superhero comics he’s quite good. This latest arc, I Am Suicide, is based round Batman recruiting his own Suicide Squad to break into Arkham Asylum where dark things are afoot involving Bane and the Psycho Pirate.

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Batman recruits his team from the criminals of Arkham, which includes old enemies like the Ventriloquist.

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There’s also a massive hint for the return of the Legion of Super Heroes.

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This Batman is a sociopath filling Arkham with the criminally insane while being utterly unaccountable to anyone for his actions. His moral compass is essentially, fucked, as in trying to protect the city of Gotham, he’s creating the conditions for such mentally ill criminals to exist and thrive.

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There’s the odd allusion to The Killing Joke yet King doesn’t explore the connotations of what he’s putting on the page. This is a Batman willing to break the law, any law, to get what he wants and he’ll threaten anyone he likes, and use the criminals he wants to get it. Now King may well explore this in future but in the supposed bright new DC Rebirth Universe you’ve got a neo-fascist Batman who as a billionaire, can do what he likes. The democratic implications alone should mean that if the DC Universe is supposed to be like ours, then Batman should be locked away so he pays for what he’s done.

As said though, that moral exploration doesn’t happen. It’s just Batman walking through Arkham putting together a team of which we’ll find out more about next issue, but I do hope King realises just what he’s doing here and it doesn’t end up being a pallid rehash of what’s come before.

Still, bet we can’t wait for Batman vs Rorschach, assuming the concept doesn’t make you cry and despair of course?

What I thought of Batman #1

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DC’s Rebirth event kicks on with another Batman #1, ┬áthis time written by Tom King and David Finch, a pretty good superhero comic artist. The mysterious two characters behind Batman and Commissioner Gordon are rumoured to be Nite Owl and Silk Spectre from Watchmen. Yes, that was a little bit of sick that came in your mouth as you read that but at least now DC are giving Bill Finger a co-credit for creating Batman.

As for the plot, Batman and Gordon are talking about stuff that’s happened in previous comics so those coming to this expecting a fresh start should look elsewhere or just wait til a plane gets hit by a missile.

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This launches into another example of Batman being able to do anything, something that started as a bit of an in-joke in Grant Morrison’s JLA book 20 years ago ┬ábut is now the case it seems that Batman rather than being a detective fighting injustice can do anything, and frankly, that makes Batman bloody pointless because the point of Batman is that he’s an ordinary person. The more extraordinary he becomes you make him Another Superhero.

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This isn’t dismal stuff. King shapes a well done action tale and Finch’s art is good solid superhero art with some excellent storytelling, an art missing from many of DC’s crop of artists. However we’re introduced at the end to the mysterious pair from the cover as Gotham and Gotham Girl. They’ve got Superman level super powers and there’s your cliffhanger for next issue…

Batman #1 isn’t the worst of the Rebirth titles I’ve read. It’s just average, sometimes thrilling, sometimes cliched, superheroics. That isn’t always a bad thing but this seems trapped in a limbo between the New 52 DC and whatever this ‘new’ DC is, but I do wish they’d drop the idea of Batman as a genius that can solve everything. It’s dull if we know that all the time Batman is going to win so make him vulnerable again and let him lose.

That however, is probably not going to happen in the shiny new revamped, even more corporate DC Comics…