Batman went through a bit of a rough period creatively as Tom King stretched out the “Knightmares” story to be a few issues too long. On top of that the momentum of “Knightmares” was disrupted by a solid, but ill-timed, crossover between Batman and Flash. All that said, with Batman #70 Tom King was quickly able to recover all the momentum that was lost with a strong one-shot story. Now Batman is out of the nightmares machine and showed Bane and his rogues gallery he is going to unleash his own set of vengeance. That means things will only get bigger and more dangerous. For who this will be is the big question. Let’s start finding that out with Batman #70.
Writer: Tom King
Artists: Mikel Janin and Jorge Fornes
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: In the Batcave a frustrated Bruce Wayne gets alerted to an intruder.
Sometime earlier Commissioner Gordon loses it when he sees who he thinks is Batman (but is really Flashpoint Batman Thomas Wayne) changing the Batsignal with a red light bulb and turning it on. Commissioner Gordon orders “Batman” to get off the GCPD rooftop.
Back in the present Bruce struggles mentally to deal with the intruder. He finally decides to put on his cowl and heads up into the mansion.
Flashing back to sometime earlier Commissioner Gordon gets back into his office and finds his daughter, Barbara Gordon, waiting for him. Commissioner Gordon tells Barbara about Batman coming up to the GCPD roof, changing the light bulb to a red one and turning the Batsignal on. Barbara questions the red light and leaves before Commissioner Gordon can say anything more.
Back in the present Batman walks through the library and hears someone telling him they are waiting for him.
Flashing back to the past Batgirl calls Red Robin(as I will call Tim Drake for this issue since Damian is also present moving forward), Robin (Damian Wayne), Huntress, Batwoman, Orphan, Ric Grayson, Duke Thomas and Red Hood. She tells them all that they need to meet with Batman together. Everyone except Batwoman (who is in the middle of an investigation in another country) Ric Grayson (who continues to be the douchebag shell of Dick Grayson) and Red Hood (who is still on bad terms with Bruce) agree to meet join Batgirl to meet up with Batman.
Back in the present Batman gets to the dining hall where Bane and Flashpoint Thomas Wayne welcome him as “Bruce.”
Flashing back to the past Batgirl and the family meet with Batman on a rooftop ready to join him on his latest mission.
Back in the present, Bane tells Batman to have a seat. Batman continues to stand and says he will break Bane’s back. Bane tells Alfred to serve Batman some food. Batman immediately slaps the tray of food out of Alfred’s hand.
Flashing back, Batman asks about the others that did not show up. Batgirl gives an update on all of them. Batman says that is fine because they are enough. Batman goes over how Bane has control of Arkham, held him captive for weeks and that an alternate universe version of his father has join forces with Bane. Batman finishes by saying after tonight Gotham City will be there’s again.
Back in the present Batman throws the dining table to the side. He and Bane meet in the center of the room. When they do Batman punches Bane in the face.
In the past, Batman is shown leading the Batman Family to Arkham Asylum.
Back in the present, Bane pays Batman back with a punch that knocks him completely out. When Batman regains consciousness as Alfred calls out for him.
Flashing back, Batman aggressively enters Arkham Asylum and orders Bane to show himself. One of the Arkham Asylum staff members calmly asks Batman what he is talking about.
In the present, Alfred says he knows Bruce wants to fight and he helped him fight because he understood that Bruce would triumph. Alfred then admits that because he has known Bruce for such a long time he knows that for the first time Bruce has lost.
Flashing back, the Batman Family stand on a rooftop together. Batgirl tells Batman that they found no record of anyone getting out of their cell and saw that Bane was comatose after Batman’s beating. Batman states that Flashpoint Thomas hurt Alfred. Batgirl reveals that Alfred said that he never got hurt or saw Flashpoint Thomas. She goes on to say that Alfred is worried about the state Batman is in ever since Catwoman left him.
Red Robin speaks up and says he knows Batman is in pain because they’ve all been in a similar stop. Red Robin asks Batman to let them help him. Batman says he does not need help. Red Robin says he knows Batman loved Catwoman.
Batman yells at Red Robin “YOU DON’T KNOW A DAMN THING!” He then proceeds to punch Red Robin much to the rest of the Batman Family’s shock.
Back in the present Alfred tells Bruce that he needs to admit that Bane broke him. End of issue
The Good: Batman #71 is a frustrating issue to read. As part of Tom King’s greater narrative for this series Batman #71 will be a strong issue when part of a collection. But on its own Batman #71 suffers from the structure King decided to go with for this particular chapter of his epic run.
When it comes to his Batman run King continues to nail how he is deconstructing Bruce Wayne’s character. The slow descent as Bruce continues his fight over the fact that Bane has truly broken him emotionally is fascinating to watch. King creates such a compelling narrative around his run that even as you feel sad for Bruce you can’t help but want to see things unfold.
Adding to how special King’s run has been is that it does come across as though we are swimming through uncharted waters with the character. We have seen Batman go up against just about every type of threat. From fighting friends to deranged criminals to even Gods, Batman has been through it all and has always found a way to survive and continue to push forward.
This time it is completely different. There is no skill or gadget that Bruce can come up with to overcome how Bane has gone about breaking him. Because the way Bane has accomplished what he has done to Bruce is by going straight to Bruce’s emotions. He has played Bruce emotionally from the very beginning. Bane is the one that pushed Bruce and Selina to finally confront their feelings and possibly go through the wedding only to find a way to take that all away.
And the most fascinating part of all this is seeing how Bruce just cannot allow himself to admit that Bane has broken him. Since Batman #50 we have seen Bruce fight against this idea by diving into his cases. That has only made things worse for him and those around him.
That is proven once again with the events of Batman #71 as Bruce’s obsession with proving what Bane is up to is clouding his best judgement. Every decision he makes is something we don’t expect Batman to do. It is completely out of character to see Batman lead his entire team in a direct assault on Arkham Asylum through the front door. That is a very un-Batman thing to do.
This all just goes to prove what Alfred tells Bruce in the present day after Bane knocked him out true. The fact is Bruce is broken and he needs to admit it to himself in an honest manner. What made Alfred being the one to tell Bruce this even more effective was the way King wrote the dialogue. It was all calmly said by Alfred. There was no show of concern or anger. Instead this was Alfred just being honest with Bruce about what is truly going on.
The way King wrote Alfred stood out even more when compared to how the Batman Family dealt with Bruce. Unlike Alfred, it has been shown that Batgirl, Tim Drake, Damian Wayne, Signal, Orphan and Huntress have only been around Batman for short periods of time. They have not been there to experience what Batman has been truly dealing with the last few months. King wrote all of their dialogue to fit that narrative without pushing things too far that they have been in the total dark.
With Dick Grayson not around at the moment it was great to see Barbara step up in the leadership role of the Batman Family. Out of everyone in the group Barbara has been around the longest to see how Bruce has changed as Batman. It felt right that she was the one to assemble everyone and showed the best understanding of where Bruce is right now. In doing so, King sets up the possibility for Barbara to play a bigger role later on in his run, especially if we are stuck with Ric Grayson for a long time.
It was also great that the other character to speak up with Batman was Tim. Like Barbara, Tim is someone with the credibility to speak openly to Batman about various subjects, including love. So when Tim brings up the failed wedding with Catwoman you could feel it cut deep. That was something that hurt Batman emotionally and made his snap have much more impact than if it was anyone else in the group.
With how King has now had Batman completely lose it in front of the last of his allies this creates the question if Bruce is now alone. The reaction of Batgirl, Signal, Orphan, Robin and Huntress showed that this was the eye opener they did not expect to have. It could be the thing that pushes all of them away. And if it does, it’ll position them all in a third party role, which would be interesting to see along with Batman and Bane’s respective plans.
Though I’m still not a fan of this art-by-committee, Mikel Janin and Jorge Fornes deliver good artwork for there half of the issue. They have a style that fits with the tone of the story that King is trying to tell. They both hit on how the there are several major moments throughout Batman #71 that fans will want to remember in future issues.
The Bad: Batman #71 it was hindered by the narrative structure King used for this issue. Going back and forth between the present and past was already going to be tough to keep track of what was going on. King’s choice to make the switch between past and present with every other page was not the best.
One of the reasons why this was problematic was that this caused neither the confrontation with Bane and the Batman Family adventure truly gained momentum. Just as the reader got invested in the past scenes involving the Batman Family we were immediately taken back to the present, and vice versa. With the emotional tone King wanted to hit with Batman #71 there needed time to allow the investment to be built for these scenes. That never happened since King could help but switch back and forth constantly.
Going with this route also made it was tough to recollect everything that happened and what characters said. In particular, the appearance of Commissioner Gordon was diminished because he only appeared at the beginning and then never showed up again. With how we keep going back and forth with the past and present he became a forgettable character. His entire role was to push Barbara to change into her Batgirl identity. Which is the complete opposite of what his presence should be given how Batman and Commissioner Gordon’s relationship has fallen apart.
The other character that suffered because of the narrative structure King chose was Flashpoint Batman. Thomas Wayne might as well should have not even shown up because he did not factor into the confrontation between Batman and Bane. He was just window dressing. King could’ve have easily had someone like Penguin or Two-Face stand behind Bane and the scene would not change. That is extremely disappointing given how King established Flashpoint Thomas Wayne as a major threat in Batman #70.
As great of artist that Janin and Fornes are individually their respective styles don’t compliment each other. They have radically different art styles. These different art styles made it feel as though we were reading two different comic books. Making things worse was that Janin tried to adjust his artwork to be more of a match for Fornes. This just ended up causing his artwork not to be as memorable as it has been when he is the sole artist working with King.
Overall: Batman #71 had all the potential to be an excellent chapter in Tom King’s run. That unfortunately didn’t happen. The structure King chose caused this issue to never gain any sort of momentum due to the constant shifts between past or present day scenes. Luckily Batman #71 was saved by the strength in how King has executed Bane’s plan to break Bruce Wayne in a way that is both sad and fascinating to read.
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