REVIEW: Batman #32 is out now — and here are 13 QUICK THOUGHTS:
Look, I could have posted this a couple days ago when DC handed the story to USA Today, but I like to avoid spoilers as much as possible. I’m old-fashioned like that.
So with the eagerly anticipated Batman #32 by Tom King, Mikel Janin and June Chung now out, here’s my 13 QUICK THOUGHTS review:
1. Selina says yes. This is a big deal.
2. As I’ve noted before, this is uncharted territory for Batman. We’ve seen alternate versions — most notably Earth-2 Batman — get married but we’ve never had the main version go this route. The storytelling potential here is substantial — and I have a separate 13 QUICK THOUGHTS about why this is a good thing over here.
3. Beyond that, though, the Bruce/Selina dance has been one of King’s strong suits. I didn’t like the whole Catwoman-as-mass murderer feint from earlier in the series because, in part, it was unnecessary. But the through-line of their relationship has given this Rebirth run the heaviest share of its emotional weight.
4. And it has been a run rife with personal stakes. King deserves a lot of credit for looking at Batman from an uncommon perspective: neurotic and vulnerable. Over nearly 80 years, we’ve seen Batman as dark, light, funny, happy, determined, hyper-capable, fatherly, relentlessly grim and even cruel. But I can’t recall a time when a writer spent as much storytelling capital on the internal cost of being Batman in such a nuanced way.
5. At the same time, I have to admit I’m not entirely comfortable with a Batman who’s filled with this much self-doubt. Part of what makes him so appealing is his unyielding confidence. I also had a hard time believing Batman would open himself up to Gotham Girl like he did back in Issue #24. But it’s refreshing to see a talented writer take a different view rather than keep churning out the same ol’, same ol’.
6. So even if it doesn’t always work, it certainly does with the Bruce and Selina storyline. These are two characters who have known each other since Batman’s earliest days and King is building upon about eight decades of work by the likes of Bill Finger, William Dozier, Len Wein, Frank Miller, Tim Burton and Ed Brubaker. And his approach is innately adult: This is a relationship that’s often complicated, weird and at times counterintuitive. But in King’s hands it’s also meaningful, soulful and sexy in a very grown-up way. You don’t often see this level of humanistic sophistication in mainstream superhero comics.
7. Beyond the Bruce and Selina framing device, my favorite parts of The War of Jokes and Riddles overall involved Kite Man. I would buy a Kite Man mini. But then, I’ve always liked Kite Man. (Or Kite-Man if you prefer.)
8. For what it’s worth, I don’t agree with the idea that Batman would take an active part in the War of Jokes and Riddles itself, even from a strategic standpoint and even if we’re talking about a younger, mistake-prone version of our hero.
9. On the other hand, the climactic scene where the Joker gets the last laugh was terrific and a bold addition to Batman’s history.
10. Side note: My lord, Mikel Janin makes Bruce and Selina look good, doesn’t he?
11. Why can’t I warm up to the modern Riddler? Actually, I know why. He’s got no style. The platonic ideal was Frank Gorshin’s timeless, tripwire TV performance. For the better part of 25 years, most writers have moved away from that version toward a cooler, more calculating model. I think it’s because the knock on the Riddler has been that he’s a lesser version of the Joker. I get that but I disagree and Gorshin proved it.
12. That said, Janin makes him thuggishly hot.
13. Back to Selina and Bruce. I admit it: I got teary when she said yes. Now, will they actually go through with it? I think that’ll be as much fun to watch as what we’ve seen so far.