Monday, 25 September 2017

Batman: I am Gotham (Rebirth) Review

Batman Volume 1: I am Gotham (Rebirth)
Writer: Tom King
Artist: David Finch
Collects: Batman (2016) #1-6, Batman: Rebirth #1 
Background Information:
DC gets very precious about Batman. It must be awful for the rest of the superheroes knowing that no matter what they do, they'll never be loved as much as papa WB's miracle child. It's only Batman that gets the hot new writers. Only Batman gets the weekly series. Only Batman that gets to beat up literally everyone else in the universe. Well, now Tom King has signed a permanent contract with DC, and guess who gets the grace of his widely-praised pen. Superman? Don't make me laugh!
So now the man behind the much-gushed-about Vision takes the caped crusader and while I Am Gotham is certainly good, it would be a strain to call it original

"But T Vulture," Tom King protests with all the calm logic of a paranoid chimpanzee, " I'm the best thing to happen to Batman since two-for-one funerals. How could you not worship at my feet in the hope of my blessing?"
"Excuse me Mr King, but isn't the new antagonist basically Superman? And haven't we seen Batman fight Superman so many times that stale becomes an understatement, and we've now moved on the term "fossilised?"
"No, no, no," explains King as he pulls at his collar. "For starters, my character's name is Gotham and that's a completely different word. So there!"
"Is he super strong?"
"Can he fly?"
"Yeah, but..."
"Does he fight a billionaire?"
"Does a have a blonde female sidekick who wears a skirt and is related to him?"
I'm not exaggerating either. Gotham is basically what happened if Frank Miller got his way and Superman just realised that Batman is the most super-cool guy on the planet. Now he wants to help Batman with his sidekick... urgh... Gotham Girl.
That's another thing, Tom. Are so many possible super-hero names taken that we now have to call heroes after the town they came from? And if so, doesn't that limit them to defending their that town? For crying out loud; I can imagine the scenario if this guy ever joined the Justice League. Sorry guys, but if I go fight in Metropolis I lose the copyright. I guess Darkseid wins after all.
Thus far I've made it sound like I don't like I Am Gotham, but really, I don't. There's an interesting degree of psychology that's woven into Gotham and Similarly-Named-Girl so that the whole mystery around how they came to be becomes quite intriguing. On top of that, Gotham not being weak to a certain green McGuffin means that Batman really does have to use his wits to defeat him this time. Without spoiling too much, it doesn't go to well and this is where Tom King really highlights the main thing that has always made Batman feel realistic... well comparatively. There's a real sense of Batman being out of his depth despite the stakes feeling nowhere near as high as they did in Scott Snyder's run.
That said, though, it's not like King ignores Snyder completely. Right from the opening of issue #1, King references the major moments in the New 52 such as the Court of Owls and Zero Year. Batman even has a new sidekick in the form of Duke Thomas, an African American kid that Batman can use to prove to people on the internet that he's not racist. Though not in the field yet, Duke is highly likeable and his interactions with Gotham Girl are pretty heart-warming. He feels like a distinct person which, considering how each Robin has offered a take on "young sidekick" that many in the industry have tried to ape, is quite a feat.
Another thing that King does very well is action. He has this ability to put Batman in peril in such a way that I found myself thinking that this was it: they were really going to kill off Batman. That's something I almost never feel when reading comics and it was great to be taken to edge of my seat once again. David Finch's detailed-yet-dirty art style helps to convey this detail perfectly to such a degree that even though you first see Gotham and Gotham Girl looking very Superman-and-Supergirl-y, you still feel tense around them.
As much as I like the book, though, I'm not sure I can recommend it. As I mentioned before, the main villain is essentially a Superman clone and we've had this so many times. Between this, The Dark Knight Returns, the Injustice games and comics, last year's Batman v Superman and Hush I think I can safely say DC need counselling, or at least Tom King needs to go and get into a fight with his significant physical superior just to get it all out of his system. Batman and Superman fights are fun, but so is eating a whole cake. Eating six whole cakes makes you a diabetic, and that's essentially what Tom King has done here.
As much as I'm not ready to recommend this Particular volume, I do recommend that you follow King's Batman run. He's got a lot of talent for pacing and tension and what are you going to do anyway? Read something else? HA!
This one gets three out of five diabetics.

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