Writer: Tom King / Artists: Mikel Janín & Jorge Fornes / DC Comics
Team-ups have always been my favorite narrative tool. One of the reasons for that is that a good ensemble can bring infinite variables into play and give a story a lot of potential.
In Batman #71, we see the return of (most of) the Bat-family as they come to Bruce’s aid when he needs them the most. The reunion isn’t complete as two of the most important members, Dick/”Ric” and Jason, aren’t around, but it’s still quite a joy to see everyone else on one rooftop.
The biggest takeaway from this issue is that we’re in uncharted territory for Batman. For once, he’s a completely unreliable narrator due to the events he’s been through. This is a bold move, to say the least, because it shows that the reader can’t trust a single thing they’re seeing and it’s not even clear how long this has been the case.
One of the most appealing and comforting things about Batman stories is that they always give off the impression that Batman/Bruce has control over whatever situation he’s thrown into. Outside of access to billions of dollars and a mysterious ability to avoid years of tax fraud, Batman’s superpower essentially is his ability to establish control. So taking that away from him is a little off-putting and makes me feel like I’m walking into a fog without any idea of what’s ahead of me.
But that could ultimately turn out to be a good thing if King can stick the landing and we get back to the Bruce Wayne/Batman we had in the first half of this run.
The decision to take Batman out of his element has significant consequences; let’s examine how we got to this point in this issue.
Batman #71 tells two stories on a parallel path. On one side, we have Batman walking out of the Batcave to find Bane and Thomas Wayne waiting at his dinner table with Alfred standing by. The sight is jarring and the moments of tension are built up well as we watch him slowly make his way to the dining room. This, of course, leads to an altercation that calls back on Batman and Bane’s years of history.
The other path follows the Bat-family meeting with Bruce after someone, Thomas Wayne?, altered the Bat-signal so that it displayed a red Batman sigil into the sky. For those who know what this means, it’s go-time. Everyone that can gathers and comes to Bruce’s side. Only to find out that he’s not his usual self. With Commissioner Gordon frustrated with Batman perceivably going to the “other side” of morality and conflicting stories, something isn’t adding up.
The issue ends with a pretty powerful moment. It’ll be interesting to see how far Batman has to devolve before he recuperates and becomes the man he’s known to be.
King recently conducted an interview with The Hollywood Reporter where he specified that his plan was essentially to break Batman down for 25 issues (50-75) and go from there. So we’ve still got quite a bit of tumbling left to do.
I’m mostly excited to see what King has in store that will “change the character for a generation.” Typically, a creative team’s run is isolated and pieces of the story are reset when they’re done. It doesn’t sound like we’ll be getting that this time around. So buckle in, because it sounds like whatever is coming is going to stick.
Reading Batman? Find BNP’s other reviews of the series here.