Following Selina Kyle leaving Bruce Wayne at the altar Tom King has gone with an unexpected direction to explore the fallout by having Bruce be part of a jury for Mr. Freeze’s trial. This is a situation we’ve never seen Bruce in as the trial has forced him to go against the evidence Batman found to make Mr. Freeze look guilty. With this “Bruce Wayne vs Batman” angle King has created a lot of questions as to how Bruce will be moving forward as Batman. With the trial now coming to a close will Bruce find out what direction Batman is meant to take? Or will he continue to be a lost soul? Let’s find out with Batman #53.
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Lee Weeks
Colorist: Elizabeth Breitweiser
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: After returning from a break Bruce asks Missy if she is wearing a cross. Missy says she does as she believes in God and wonders if Bruce has a problem with that. Bruce says he does not. Missy asks Bruce if he believes in God. Bruce responds by saying he used to.
Bruce talks about how his father was Christian and how they would go to church and talk as his father wanted Bruce to come into the belief of God on his own. But when his parents were killed Bruce says he put aside any belief in a deity or anything his father thought had saved him.
Bruce then talks about how he left Gotham City to search for something to put his faith in and ended up traveling the world. When he didn’t find anything Bruce came back to Gotham City to have something find him.
He then talks about how this city is for monsters and demons but they now have a man dressed with a bat symbol on his chest to protect and save them. Bruce then says when his parents died he sought out transcendence and found Batman.
Missy wonders if Bruce’s basic argument is that Batman made a mistake in the Mr. Freeze case because Bruce thinks he is God. Bruce says if she defines God as someone who determines life and death than he is making that arguement.
Bruce then asks who in the room would be dead if Batman wasn’t around. Everyone in the jury room raises their hand. Bruce says that this is why they all have to see Mr. Freeze as guilty because they all worship Batman as his will being law.
Bruce says that like everyone he always trusted Batman as being right because he is the World’s Greatest Detective.
Bruce then asks if anyone has read the book Job. He talks about how in the book when Job got a little angry after his farm and children were taken from him why God did that. God answered “I created mountains and the miracles. And you’re questioning me. You. Who are you?” Bruce breaks down a bit when he asks that same question to himself.
Missy asks Bruce if he is okay. Bruce admits he was hurt recently. He says before that for years he put his faith in Batman to be good enough to protect them all and after years of missing it he was finally happy. He then admits that recently everything fell apart for him and when he screamed for Batman’s help he has still been left waiting.
Bruce says that Batman is not a God. He can fail and try again but cannot comfort them when they lost what they love because Batman punches people in the face. Bruce goes on to say right now they have God-like power over Mr. Freeze’s freedom believing that they are correct about their decision. Because of that Bruce believes they must make a decision that is beyond a reasonable doubt but because there are doubts in the evidence since Batman is not a God but a person wearing a cape and cowl. Bruce then pleads with everyone to not turn Batman’s mistake to render a verdict that sends an innocent man to his damnation.
Everyone on the jury leave the room and go out to make their final verdict.
Sometime later Bruce reveals to Alfred that the jury found Mr. Freeze not guilty. Bruce then says he is going out and request his original suit. Alfred is surprised by this. Bruce reveals he does not want to wear the suit he was wearing while he was with Selina Kyle. Bruce admits that he is lost and needs to remember who he is.
Later that night Batman is seen on the rooftop in his black and grey costume. End of issue.
The Good: For these three issues after the failed wedding we’ve seen Bruce Wayne of all people question who Batman is and if he is correct in his methods. Under a different circumstances this could’ve been just another story but that is not what “Cold Days.” Tom King made this story one of the most important chapters in his Batman epic as Bruce moves into the next phase of his life.
In continuing what the previous two issues did, Batman #53 was the culmination of Bruce finally admitting that something emotionally traumatic happened to him. Up to this point Bruce has masked his sadness by trying to show he was staying focus on what Batman did wrong in this case involving Mr. Freeze. Bruce revealing to the rest of the jury members in the room felt like he was finally letting this all out of his chest.
Even though Bruce did not say exactly what happened with Selina Kyle leaving him at the altar that was not important. Because what was important is for the first time Bruce let down his guard around someone that isn’t part of his inner circle at the Batcave. The facade of the millionaire playboy philanthropist was completely dropped. The reaction to getting a glimpse at the real Bruce Wayne elevated the conversation that was being had about who Batman is.
What made Bruce’s entire argument was how he brought up Batman reaching the level of a God in the eyes of everyone. For a long time Batman has been seen as someone whose conclusion must be taken as truths. Whether it was the Batman Family, Justice League or public Batman’s findings in his investigation were treated as what always being correct. That is something that has become well earned as he has lived up to the title of “World’s Greatest Detective.” But that does not mean Batman can’t be wrong and Bruce arguing this after realizing his own mistake in the Mr. Freeze case during the trial was a big character moment.
Bruce bringing this up to everyone in the room creates an interesting opening for how Batman’s future cases need to be taken. With Bruce being the one that brought up how Batman’s word can’t just be taken as Gospel it means that he has to rethink his own methods as a detective. This reanalysis of who Batman should be as he still holds the title of “World’s Greatest Detective” creates an interesting angle for King to explore now that Batman has returned to his old black and grey costume design.
Speaking of which, King did a fantastic job explaining why Bruce is going back to his old black and grey Batman costume. In trying to put the pain he went through behind him it only makes sense he is looking to get rid of anything that would make him think of Selina. It’s something we already saw Alfred due over in the Catwoman series when he mailed Selina her costume back to her. Now with Bruce going back to his old Batman costume we now must question if it also means we are going to see a darker and loner Batman again.
Helping to elevate the story in Batman #53 was Lee Weeks artwork. Especially with how talking heavy this issue was Weeks was able to bring out the emotion in King’s dialogue with strong character reactions. Both from Bruce and all the jury members, you could see how draining this conversation was on everyone. It added to how Bruce made everyone realize they just can’t make a guilty verdict because they believe Batman is always right.
The Bad: As with the rest of the issues in “Cold Days” the one problem with the story structure was that we never got inside Mr. Freeze’s head outside the first issue. Instead we are told by Bruce or someone else what Mr. Freeze was thinking when Batman found him in his full gear or why the evidence pointed at him. The overall story would’ve been more poignant if we got a scene or two where Mr. Freeze was just talking to himself about how he knows everyone thinks he is guilty.
Overall: The way Tom King explored the pain Bruce Wayne was dealing with the sadness he felt after he was dealt serious emotional blow made Batman #53 a strong conclusion. This emotional weight in King’s story is made even better by the great artwork provided by Lee Weeks. Now with the ending King created a lot of intriguing avenues to explore who Bruce wants to be as Batman moving forward.