Having made a name for himself from The Sheriff of Babylon for Vertigo and The Vision for Marvel, Tom King began writing for the main Batman title for DC Rebirth, which although can be seen as a shining light for the publisher following the mixed reception towards The New 52, presented the tough challenge of following the brilliance of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s brilliant run. Although his first volume “I Am Gotham” is a good start, King may have stepped up his game in exploring what makes the Bat and his enemies tick in “I Am Suicide”.
Batman Vol. 2: I Am Suicide (DC Comics)
Following the events of Volume 1, “I Am Gotham” in which Gotham Girl has been emotionally collapsed by the Psycho-Pirate, who has been taken refuge in Santa Prisca under the ruling of Bane, Batman must form his own Suicide Squad, consisting of dangerous inmates from Arkham Asylum, among them his one true love, Catwoman. King continues the overarching story with the Psycho-Pirate still as the overall driving force, but the core of this volume is the psyche of a trio that have a complicated relationship with each other: Batman, Catwoman and the man who broke the Bat.
Since his inception during the Knightfall storyline and given his tragic backstory, there has always been a silliness to the character of Bane, largely from his look with the Lucha Libre mask. Following recent interpretations where creators have tried to reinvent Bane, what this creative team does is up the ante and present Bane in the most terrifying manner yet. From its first pages, showing Bane’s prison upbringing since childhood to then reveal himself as a full-grown naked man sitting on a pile of skulls, both Tom King and Mikel Janin present the villain as a devilish equivalent to Batman, in terms of how a family tragedy can define a person, for better or worse.
With the title “I Am Suicide,” the word “suicide” has a few meanings, not least of which is Batman leading a team on a suicide mission. Sadly, there’s not much to say about this squad, as they consist of seemingly odd choices, and the question arises of whether or not Batman really needed this team to achieve the mission. For most of this arc, we see Batman single-handedly fighting his way through armored guards to reach his goal, stunningly drawn by Mikel Janin who uses a series of intricately detailed collage images. While the action is happening, King uses many captions for the inner monologues of his central characters, which allows the writer to deconstruct Batman, in terms of why he dons the cape and cowl to cope with the death of his parents. Now granted Scott Snyder explored this during his Zero Year arc and how he redefined the character was truly heartbreaking, and King never quite achieves that same effect, but he is putting his own spin on who Batman is, just like many creators have since 1939.
Concluding this volume is the two-parter “Rooftops,” which centers on the relationship of Batman and Catwoman (the only member of Batman’s Suicide Squad that ended up mattering) and the mystery behind her 237 murders. When it comes to the Bat and the Cat, their love is a conflicted one as given they are both two opposing sides of the law, they understand one another and any time they do confront each other, it’s more about sexy thrill-seeking than good versus evil. Having collaborated with King on The Sheriff of Babylon, Mitch Gerads’ moody visuals are appropriate to this near-actionless tale, which evokes aspects of Batman’s history from the Golden Age to Year One, as well as the interactions of many obscure characters from Batman’s rogues gallery.
It is often the case that any subsequent writer on the main Batman title is learning from his betters, and yet Tom King manages to step up his game with an action-packed plot that is constantly growing; but what works best about this volume is the characterization of its hero, his lover and his back-breaker.
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