“Knightmares,” the current Batman arc, has gotten a mixed reaction. Although, let’s be honest, that goes for most of Tom King’s Batman work. If you’ve been disappointed by this arc so far, I can’t say this issue successfully changes course.
Usually I save the discussion of art for later in reviews, but I’d like to gush about the art before critiquing the story. Jorge Fornes’s art is very reminiscent of David Mazzucchellis’s ’80s style, especially during Batman: Year One. DC has been milking that similarity as of late, and this issue goes out of its way to flashback to Year One. The heavy linework, noir shadows, and striking composition is masterful, especially with Dave Stewart’s often muted colors. It’s easy to get sidetracked by the beautiful sheen, yet the most impacting element of Fornes’s work is the way he’s able to elicit such complex emotions from his characters faces.
However, the story is where the problems arise. The basic gist of this issue is that the Question, the Ditko creation that inspired Rorschach, is interviewing Catwoman about Batman (who’s mentally strung-out and in danger).
Tom King, like his Batman predecessor, falls into a rising trend when dealing with the Caped Crusader: the worship of icon. Scott Snyder and King’s work, especially lately, hammers in the idea that Batman is a legend–an icon–that cannot be stopped. No problem is too big. No foe too large. And that’s not a bad thing. Inherently. The problem arises when the constant meta jabs are disruptive. Its repetition becomes irritating, lacking depth, and it shatters the illusion of stakes.
Instead of delving into the mythos and symbolism of Batman through mind-bending journeys and subtlety like in Grant Morrison’s run, here we have constant, blunt monologues. Here’s one example from Catwoman: “We train our whole lives, use our tragic beginnings and our fortunate accidents. We kick, we jump, we fly, we save the day. But none of us. Not a one…is him. No one else is…Batman.” Now imagine that masturbatory treatment for most Batman comics on the shelves, and most of this issue. Tiresome is the operative word.
I’m not wanting to promote anti-intellectualism, discouraging writers from attempting to make grand statements and thematic points for us to consider. My issue is with the presentation and content. Yes, we know Batman is special. What else do you have to say? Not much else, apparently.
I mentioned repetition earlier. That applies for the structure as well. King has been attempting to capitalize on Batman and Catwoman’s hectic relationship for some time, going so far as to have entire badly paced issues going through their history. Well…are you ready for yet another? Because #66 is a rehash of that with a sprinkling of the Question.
Speaking of the Question–the dialogue between the two vigilantes is grating on top of the self-satisfied soliloquies. The phrase, “I left a note” is used at least five times, which I’m sure some will interpret as a genius motif, but is repetition masquerading as insight.