I’m Batman  (Batman #81 Comic Review)

Batman #81

Writer:
Tom King

Pencils: John Romita Jr.

Inks: Klaus Janson

Colors: Tomeu Morey

Artist for backup: Mitch Gerads

Letterer: Clayton Cowles

Batman and Catwoman are now in Gotham city, at full force, no longer hiding in the shadows. Thomas Wayne had Damian captured, Bane had the city, and the rogues gallery controlled the police force. Gotham Girl, acting like the new Robin, has clearly been breaking down and seems to be on a crash course toward self destruction. The biggest change this arc has made on the status quo (besides the takeover of Gotham which is a fairly common Batman trope) has been the death of Alfred. In this issue many of these threads finally start coming together in meaningful ways.

Story
A minor spoiler, but it happens almost immediately, Damian does not die. Thomas Wayne cannot find it in himself to kill Robin, and even calls him “family.” Lucky for Damian his real family shows up and the extended Bat-Family shows up to rescue him. Since Batman and Catwoman have returned to Gotham, it opened the door for Batwoman, Signal, Tim Drake and the like to attack as well. Half of the comic deals with the family taking on the Flashpoint Batman while the rest is Batman’s narration of how he rebuilt himself in order to take on Bane. The stories play as a duality to everything going on, at times bleeding together. There is also a fairly large reveal on the origins of Gotham Girl, and it ties the entire Batman run (from issue #1) all together. Without spoiling more, the fight between Thomas Wayne and the Bat-Family is resolved and leaves the issue with a clear story moving forward. There is a backup story at the end of the book, and it seems to have nothing to do with the main story and simply a teaser of things to come (or maybe a tie in to this week’s Justice League)

Tim’s Thoughts
This was a really interesting issue. Tom King works best when he can go into the weeds and play with the typical comic book format. The core of this book is just some fight scenes, but he uses Batman’s narration to reveal important parts of the story and give the reader meaning to what has been happening for the last 81 issues. He is able to write and balance the entire Bat-Family in a really intriguing way. Their debate on how to handle Thomas Wayne was fun to read and helped develop each hero in their own unique way. It was King’s smart choice with layering the story that made this issue memorable. Often writers lean too much on action, or lose the reader with exposition (King himself has fallen into this trap). In this comic one is not sacrificed for the other and they play perfectly against one another, even when working counter to each other. This is some of Tom King’s best written work in recent issues since his take on Knightmares. 

The art by John Romita Jr. is already something that most know if they are a fan of, or not. Personally, I find his work is excellent in very particular cases. Last issue JRJR really was in his element working with the rogues gallery, as his style lends itself perfectly for the colorful villains of Gotham city. However, this comic focuses more on the heroes than the villains, and I find his style doesn’t capture the same dynamic energy with the Bat-Family. Romita’s style has a strange element that makes people look slightly off kilter, this works great for Two-Face not so much for Batwoman. None of the work here is horrible by any stretch of the imagination, it just doesn’t gel with the way I picture some of our protagonists here. But JRJR can draw the hell out of action scenes and every punch feels weighty and grotesque. His characters bruise and bleed in ways that make everything feel so kinetic. Overall, the art here only has minor issues of complaint from me that may not bother a vast majority of readers. 

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Summary
A great issue of Batman all around. If you like Tom King Batman, this is some of the best. City of Bane is a really interesting arc, and it seems to be heading toward something truly great. Seeing this is the final stretch of King’s run, it is one hell of a way to go out.
Good
  • Some great Tom King writing
  • Story is layered
  • Everything looks and feels energetic and kinetic
Bad
  • Some of JRJR's designs for the heroes aren't the best
9
Amazing

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