It’s a big week for Batman, with not only a brand new movie but a brand new six-issue series from Tom King and David Marquez. Batman: Killing Time features a robbery with Catwoman, the Riddler, and the Penguin teaming up in a narrative that plays heavily with time. It’s the kind of comic that messes with a narrative so dang well it feels incredibly new, even though it’s utilizing familiar characters.
The story in this issue is simple, although it feels much more complex because scenes take place at different times depending on what page you’re on. Essentially a robbery is taking place, Riddler and Catwoman have a big plan, Penguin is involved, and Batman fights Killer Croc for much of the story. As if the reader is a detective, though, it’s your job to hold in your mind when scenes take place and how they relate to each other while also paying attention to the actions of the characters in each scene.
This comic feels tuned to perfection, right down to how scenes play out in relation to each other, the use of time to add context or keep readers in the dark, and how every page is framed. Marquez employs a widescreen view through much of the book with layout structure shifting, but many pages focus its character at the center of the panel that stretches across the page.
Don’t skip the captions, or you’re going to be incredibly lost reading this issue. Every page starts with key time context in the top left caption, be it “earlier, at 4:37 P.M.” or “A week ago…” It’s a compelling way to draw the attention of the reader, help them keep all these jumbled scenes in their mind, and effectively help the story make sense.
A screenwriting teacher once told me flashbacks are lazy writing, but here King appears to be playing with time in a way that creates surprising reveals due to the order in which we learn things or in other cases pay much closer attention to the details. In this way, King creates a different comic reading experience which enhances the anxiety and thrill of the story as it plays out.
Marquez’s art is absorbing, sometimes spectacular, and detailed to the point of sending the reader into gleeful clapping. There is just so much to hold up to your friends, linger on, and draw you in. Framing is key, like in one scene where we see only a fishbowl and Penguin’s hand come into frame and pluck a goldfish out over four panels. It ends on an extreme close-up of Penguin’s sharp bloody teeth gnawing on the fish creating a sense of shock and unease.
Layouts are mixed up well too, from 9-panel grids to full-page splashes. The eye is moving around a lot of the time, while in many others your focus is dead center with ancillary details to the left and right adding realism and detail about how Croc lives or Commissioner Gordan keeps his office.
The colors by Alejandro Sanchez are great as well, from the lighting on a leather shoe in the rain to the subtle glow of a computer besides Gordon. The glint of light on Croc’s scales may take the cake, though, as it creates a sense of slimy wetness or at least a sheen on his scales that makes him far less human.
Letters by Clayton Cowles are as you would expect as there are no fuss or wild swings, but it’s clean as heck and gets the job done. There are some interesting “Crakk” sound effects that almost have an edge to them that adds to a violent scene and in impressive “Pow” that goes minimalist with color as it’s only a black and white outline.
Batman: Killing Time #1 is clever, suspenseful, and chock-full of moments that’ll linger with you. King, Marquez, and Sanchez have crafted something that feels avant-garde as it lures readers in and never slows.
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