Review by Frank Plowright
In 2017 this hardcover collection followed very hot on the heels of the two paperbacks it combines, beginning Tom King’s lengthy run on Batman. It’s a strong start to what became a polarising run.
Clear from the off is that King is humanising Batman again, drawing him back from computer level infallibility and the all-powerful grim robot he’s gradually become since the 1980s. Seeing Batman once again with human feelings is welcome, if not universally well received. An opening poser of Batman having to stop a plane crashing into Gotham is a thrilling start. It’s a potential disaster way beyond Batman’s skill set, and the superheroes who might be able to stop it are off-planet, so what’s the solution? It’s clever, and another step into a different type of Batman story. That’s not to say King ignores the comforting, and a succession of second tier villains are smacked down in style.
A characteristic of this Batman run is the superb art. There are no poor pages here from artists who’re technically adept and have a phenomenal visual imagination. The viewpoints David Finch uses to show that plane coming down accentuate what’s already a thrilling concept, and both he and the other primary artist Mikel Janín have numerous ways of making Batman look iconic no matter how many times we’ve seen him in action before. It’s perhaps to be expected that artists can deliver the big moments in comics, yet here it’s necessary that they can also contribute intimacy and subtlety, a test sailed through. That Ivan Reis isn’t even the second best artist used is proof of artistic splendour.
Looking backwards from a point where King’s run was done and dusted, it’s apparent how far ahead he was laying the groundwork for his finale. Numerous aspects both large and small play a part seventy chapters down the line, yet King incorporates them smoothly. New superheroes with Superman-level powers might appear to have no place in Batman’s world, but they slot seamlessly into what King’s producing, as does the Psycho-Pirate, a villain who’s previously avoided Gotham. He also introduces clever narrative devices such as an entire chapter devoted to Catwoman explaining herself, yet she’s never seen. Other stylistic tics will wear threadbare through repetition, but are fresh and interesting here.
Credulity is stretched in places, and this will become a problem with King’s writing, some motivations melodramatic, but as yet it’s not too intrusive. It makes this first deluxe edition a fresh and exciting view of Batman and his world. If you’d prefer to test the waters before committing to a hardcover edition, this combines I Am Gotham and I Am Suicide. Book 2 combines the following two trade collections.