Of all the Rebirth titles to date, none gives me more pause than Tom King and David Finch’s Batman. My feelings on the caped crusader go back and forth like a never-ending game of ping pong: one week I love it, the next I’m reminding myself what it is I liked about the Dark Knight in the first place. This most recent issue falls into the latter category, sadly. With limited to no plot progression, an extremely messy narrative, and an all too familiar "origin story," the third chapter in Tom King’s inaugural arc "I am Gotham" sadly falls flat on its cowl. The biggest plot point, if you can call it that, is that we are given a glimpse into the origins of Gotham and Gotham Girl. In a very clever/not-so-clever re-imagining, the issue opens with a young boy and his parents walking arm-in-arm down Park Row (Crime Alley). As they veer into a dark alleyway, for god knows what possible reason, lo and behold they are set upon by an armed assailant! The mugger takes down father with a swift punch to the stomach, then turns towards the mother and grabs for her gold necklace (ringing any bells yet?). Then at the last possible minute, when you’re about to throw up/gouge your eyes out after having read what you believe is yet another Bruce Wayne/Batman origin story, who shows up but BATMAN! Because guess what: this isn’t a re-telling of Bruce’s origin, it’s actually GOTHAM’S! That’s right, his parents were attacked in the exact same way, for the exact same reasons, on the exact same street! Also like Bruce, Hank Clover (spoiler) uses the incident of his parents attack as the catalyst to rise up, help others and be a force for good in his city. Now I understand and appreciate the nostalgic irony but come on, seriously? It’s not enough that the character has a completely derivative character name (Gotham?) but now his origin is just a carbon copy as well? Let’s flex a little more creative muscle guys; expand the character scope. Yes, we get that you’re building towards Gotham wanting to Talented Mr. Ripley Bruce but could you do it in a less obvious way?
Another problematic aspect was Tom King’s poorly strung together narrative. The whole issue felt like he was trying to channel Scott Snyder and the attempt to do so results in a script that’s confusing, bloated, and hard to follow. There’s an entire monologue toward the end where Hugo Strange speaks in strangled parables and paradoxes - to be frank, it just doesn’t make any sense at all; I’m still not sure what he’s trying to say and I’ve read it four times over. Also, the whole "piss and smoke" metaphor from Gotham’s father in the opening monologue really irked me. It just screamed out Scott Snyder but in a really blatant kind of way (also, did anyone else find it weird how Gotham’s parents hadn’t aged a day in nearly ten years? Whoops…).
I hate bitching. I hate bitching about Batman more than anything but Tom King just…irks me so far. I feel like the annoying kid in the classroom who's constantly yelling out to the substitute 'you're doing it wrong, you're doing it wrong!' but these problems go way beyond nitpicking and fanboying. It's clear to see there are some intrinsic problems in the scripting that have to be addressed immediately. King and Finch need to take a bold step out from the shadow of Snyder and Capullo, stop worrying about what came before and focus on their task ahead. Right now for better or worse Tom King is Batman; let's hope he starts acting like it soon.
[su_box title="Score: 2/5" style="glass" box_color="#8955ab" radius="6"]