Batman #61 takes the audience for a ride into the dark bowels of madness. Readers unacquainted with the insane young Mathew Warner (Call him Bruce) may not fully understand the issue until its inevitable reveal, but fans that have remained faithful to the title since issue #38 will be aware of the narrative amalgam at hand. Warner arranged his parents’ death in a demented recreation of the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne. The boy who wants to be Bruce Wayne returns in this somewhat ambiguous one-shot with ties to a deeper plot.
Writer Tom King weaves a nebulous account that toys with readers’ expectations. The story follows a young Bruce Wayne fresh off the murder of his parents and the ensuing investigation by… Batman? With an anachronistic tale taking place, readers are left to glean what they will of the events that unfold. The juxtaposition of the two main characters presents a mirroring effect.
On the one hand, we have Batman edging ever closer to the criminal responsible, on the other we have a fledgling Bruce Wayne coming to terms with his loss, seeking his brand of justice. The issue closes with a brutally violent climax that provides an answer to the two Bruce Waynes while presenting more questions for what lies ahead. A second reading of the issue makes much more sense.
For befuddled fans waiting for the response to Batman #60’s colossal mystery, the wait continues. Writer Tom King tweeted that the series will consist of six one-shots, building on the revelation in the previous arc. Interestingly, the other Martha Wayne’s pearls from the murder scene factors considerably into Batman #61’s investigation. Peter Tomasi and Doug Mahnke’s Detective Comics #994 introduced pearls embedded into corpses post-mortem as early as last week. It remains to be seen, but fans may be rewarded for diligently following several Batman-related comics. The connection is undeniable.
King’s choice to string readers along seems odd at first but pays off reasonably well in the end. Admittedly, the approach isn’t universally appealing. Batman remains in costume in every page; audiences are never exposed to an adult Bruce Wayne, which only further confounds the plot. I agree with the decision, by never clarifying the young Bruce’s place in the timeline audiences are aligned with Mathew Warner’s perception of reality, however odd that may be. The issue didn’t provide any significant developments; according to King’s tweets the one-shot sets the foundation for the “Knightmares” story arc, but the audience is left woefully unaware of the comic’s influence. Until that time, the issue still has its flaws; lacking any real action, and the ramifications of Warner’s actions are not evident.
Artist Travis Moore is always a good choice for any Batman book. He captures the emotional weight of each moment, often in the character’s eyes and facial expressions. Just take one look at the final panel of page twenty in the issue, Mathew’s sadism is reflected in his eyes. In another brutal panel, the blood-letting feels extreme, almost nauseating to an admirable point. But that is the exact emotion the ruthless scene was meant to induce. I look forward to Moore’s continued contributions to Batman’s mythos.
For the time being Batman #61 is a strong, yet dubious, beginning to the Knightmares arc, with promises that have yet to be fulfilled. My interest is piqued, but the issue will assuredly become forgettable.