Tag Archives: Batman #1 (2016)

A Batman: I Am Gotham Review – What Did You Expect?

Batman, Vol. 1: I Am Gotham, coverTITLE: Batman, Vol. 1: I Am Gotham
AUTHOR: Tom King
PENCILLER: David Finch, Ivan Reis
COLLECTS: Batman #16
FORMAT: Paperback
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $16.99
RELEASE DATE:
January 11, 2017

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The announcement of Tom King taking over Batman was a big deal. At the time his phenomenal run on The Vision was still in progress, and the critics (myself included) were buzzing about him. In addition, he’d already worked on some of the Gotham City characters via his time on Grayson. So hopes were high for him. But coming off the commercially, and often critically acclaimed run that Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo had just completed, expectations may have been even higher.

What King, David Finch, and this new Batman team give us is fine. At times it’s even good. But the waters are muddier than we’ve seen from previous Batman runs. We spend a little too much time hyping a future story and there’s a connection to the Suicide Squad that often feels forced. But if you’re patient, there’s some good character work in here, with both established characters and the ones we’re meeting for the first time.

I Am Gotham introduces us to the super-powered brother-sister duo of Gotham and Gotham Girl. Inspired by Batman, they make their debut saving the Dark Knight from a plane crash. Batman takes them under his wing, but soon learns they have demons that will result in blood being shed in Gotham City. All the while, sinister plans are in motion to spill even more blood…

Batman #2, Gotham, Gotham Girl, David FinchLike many of Batman’s supporting characters, allies and enemies alike, Gotham and Gotham Girl are almost skewed versions of Batman himself. After young Hank Clover and his parents are saved from a mugging in Crime Ally by Batman, he and his sister Claire become obsessed with bettering themselves so that they can help others. We later learn they’re connected to Amanda Waller, and she’s using the Hugo Strange and Psycho-Pirate to keep them under control. That connection works out fine, but it’s ultimately unnecessary. All we need is Psycho-Pirate, Hugo Strange, and Strange’s accomplice, who we learn about in the closing pages. So why have Waller in there at all? It’s obvious, isn’t it…?

Suicide Squad is a big priority at DC right now, and rightfully so. Case in point, the upcoming Justice League vs. Suicide Squad crossover. These issues started coming out in August, the same month the movie was released. So Waller was obviously dropped in here for that reason. It’s fine, but disappointing when you look at it from that angle. What’s more, DC is still pushing Suicide Squad via Batman, with the Dark Knight forming his own version of the team. The story is even called “I Am Suicide.” We get it, guys. We get it.

The story also starts hyping “Night of the Monster Men” far too early for my taste. That arc doesn’t start until issue #7. This book starts hyping it in issue #2. I’m all for long form storytelling. But not at the expense of your current story. It feels more like padding than anything else.

One of the themes I Am Gotham touches on is the nature of Gotham City, almost personifying it as a character in the story. What it is, what it does to people, etc. Snyder and Capullo also did that, with more success than King and Finch have here. But in all fairness, they had 50 issues. This team has six. So it pales in comparison. King also doesn’t say much of substance about the city. At least he hasn’t thus far in his Batman run. In the pages of I Am Gotham, the theme essentially goes no where.

Batman #1, 2016, David Finch, upside downI’ve been a critic of David Finch’s for awhile now, and I make no apologies for that. I think all his renderings of women look the same, and absolutely everything he does has that dark and gritty feel to it, even when dark and gritty isn’t what the story calls for. As such, he’s been put on a number of books in which his work often feels terribly mismatched. Wonder Woman and Justice League of America come to mind.

But that’s not to say Finch doesn’t have his place, and it’s on stories like this. The Gotham City he brings us, along with inkers Sandra Hope, Matt Banning, Scott Hanna, and colorist Jordie Bellaire is fittingly dark, illuminated by the glow of city lights and flames. Characters like Batman, Jim Gordon, and even Alfred, have a fittingly grizzled texture to them. He even pulls off a nice visual gag, as we get to see Alfred don the Batsuit.

I was justifiably concerned about how Finch would draw Gotham Girl. She’s basically a skinny blonde in a tennis skirt, after all. Thankfully, during the second half of the story when the masks comes off, Finch is much better at drawing Claire. Once we can see her eyes, Finch gives her a very nice vulnerability and we start to care about her.

Things get more expressive in issue #6 when Ivan Reis tags in on pencils. The issue largely focuses on Claire, and how she’s coping with the events of issue #5. It’s about how you’d expect, especially considering what she’s gone through with Psycho-Pirate. But facially, Reis conveys her emotional highs and lows very nicely. There’s a particularly great image of her toward the end of the issue, as she’s tucked into Batman’s chest. Guest colorist Marcelo Maiolo offers some nice consistency with Bellaire’s work, while still making the issue his own. As such, things are a little brighter. But we still see shades of Bellaire’s color palette. Most notably in the sky, and some of the city lights.

Batman #6, Ivan Reis, Gotham GirlOn its own, I Am Gotham is an okay read. But it’s clearly a first chapter. Based on subsequent issues of Batman, it’s tough to tell where the story is going. Considering the role she played in this book, one might think Gotham Girl would be center stage going forward. That’s not necessarily the case. She’s in “Night of the Monster Men.” But the story isn’t about her, per se. She serves as Batman’s motivation for the current “I Am Suicide” story, but that’s the only role she plays. Solicitations for upcoming issues have a lot of talk about Bane and Catwoman. Granted, the current issues with Mikel Janin are better than what we got here. But I get the sense that King is going for a natural progression, where the events of one story naturally flow into the next. Instead, this all feels somewhat disjointed. That’s disappointing. Thus far, King’s Batman run has been interesting. But coming off the hype and momentum that Snyder and Capullo’s run had, and especially when you consider what a masterpiece King’s run on The Vision was, this feels like a step down.

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A Batman #1 Review – Batman Begins Again

Batman #1, 2016, David FinchTITLE: Batman #1
AUTHOR: Tom King
PENCILLER: David Finch
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: June 15, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Let’s not kid ourselves. Tom King, David Finch, and this crew have their work cut out for them with Batman. In so many ways, this DC’s flagship book. It’s certainly one of their biggest cash cows. Top that off with the fact that we’re coming out of the Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo era, and there’s a lot to live up to.

But, you know, no pressure…

The new Batman era kicks off with a hijacked missile and a commercial airplane flying over Gotham City. When the two meet, countless lives are at stake and our hero is put to work. As always, Batman is ready to lay his life down for “his” city. But when two new heroes emerge, the game may change dramatically. Gotham may not be Batman’s city anymore.

Batman #1, 2016, David Finch, upside downI can’t say I was overjoyed to hear David Finch was returning to a Bat-book. He’s definitely got his critics and nitpickers. Having been one of them, I would know. But Finch is at home in the dark, grim, and shadowy corners of comic books. This is the case because so much of what we get from him is dark, grim, and shadowy. Even if the story or the characters don’t call for that at all (Justice League of AmericaWonder Woman, etc), that’s what we get from him. That’s why it puzzles me when Finch gets assigned to the more colorful heroes, and not something like Hellblazer or Swamp Thing. But if you must put him with one of the big guns, Batman is the best choice for obvious reasons.

Our art team also compliments Finch better than previous ones did. Inker Matt Banning and colorist Jordan Bellaire aren’t as quick to plunge things into sheer blackness. There’s a much better balance between dark and light. The city lights pop in contrast to the often dark and dreary sky. But the color palette for Batman himself is also dim enough that you believe it. As for Finch’s pencils, he may win or lose me depending on how he draws this new heroine. I’ve previously said Finch only knows how to draw one woman. All his women have the same face. The same skinny waist. The same big boobs. If he can find a way to draw her (and any other lady that pops up in this series) so she looks like someone other than Superhero Barbie, I’ll be impressed.

Batman #1, 2016, David Finch, I'll Save ItThis looks like it’s going to be about super-powered heroes trying to take Batman’s spot as guardian of Gotham. Midway through the issue, he even dismisses potential involvement from Superman or Hal Jordan. He caps it off with the line: “This is my city. I’ll save it.” This is an interesting route for Tom King to take, seemingly casting Batman as the underdog when so many readers already believe Batman can kick Superman’s ass. But a super-powered duo operating in Gotham could play into the idea of the city as its own unique character. How does Gotham react to its new saviors? And how does this transform the city’s criminal element?

There’s also a line (or at least part of a line) late in the book that’s really nice, albeit subtle. As Batman seemingly staring death in the eye, he tells Alfred: “I prepared messages for the boys in case I…” The boys. I like that. Like a father referring to his sons.

The buzz around this story has a lot to with what Gotham City deserves. What kind of hero does it deserve, is Batman the hero it deserves, etc. At this point, I’m just hoping King and Finch can give The Dark Knight the kind of series he deserves. I’m not sure we’ve got that yet. But King has earned his shot. So let’s let him take it.

Image 1 from adventuresinpoortaste.com. Image 2 from author’s collection. 

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