Written by: Tom King
Art by: David Finch
Publisher: DC Comics
Batman #5 promised to deliver a big fight between Batman and Gotham (Guy) and it delivers on this promise, with some high flying, punch throwing, Justice League cameo-ing action. Unfortunately for all the action present in the book, the important emotional punch, comes off as a soft left hook of missed potential. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are a number of great ideas present in this comic book. In fact in this issue alone there are three or four great concepts thrown in. The reveal of the consequences of the Gotham twins powers for example are intriguing, as having powers is literally killing them, and yet they still decide to fight crime and be like their hero Batman. If this reveal were introduced earlier, it may have lent more characterization to Gotham Guy and given this big battle some stakes. However, in execution the reveal is presented all to conveniently, as a random dialogue insertion, that ends up being crucial in arriving at anticlimactic end of this issue.
On the topic of anticlimaxes, Gotham’s fall is too quick, too predictable and most importantly falls flat because of a lack of meaningful characterization. The main idea that this issue tries to hit is great in theory, as it focuses on Gotham (City) as the sort of villain in Gotham’s (Guy) eyes and throws Batman in as part hero of Gotham Guy and part champion of Gotham City. The problem is that five issues in there isn’t a whole lot to Gotham’s character, other than being saved as a child by Batman. His sister, on the other hand has emerged as an interesting character and one of the best things about this book, as a result of her vulnerability and interactions with Alfred and Duke. It sucks because Gotham was never really given an opportunity to be interesting and so this big final battle comes off as lacking in stakes, even with the inclusion of the Justice League and Bat-Alfred.
Thankfully, the art by David Finch continues to be a bright spot, something even more impressive considering that this book ships twice a month. This is a giant fight issue after all, and Finch’s big, bombastic style lends itself well to the mega explosions, POW! inducing punches and overall action movie feel of this issue. His Gotham Guy is fittingly dark and brooding, and is a sharp parallel to Alfred’s Goofy, moustachioed bat-form. Finch’s pencils sells the idea that Gotham is too far gone to be saved, and this subtle nod creates an opportunity for emotion, that is unfortunately wasted by the script.
This issue also suffers from a lack of a clearly defined villain, as Psycho Pirate and Hugo Strange, the characters responsible for Gotham Guy’s rage, have only appeared in a page or two of the series. As someone who is a fan of Psycho Pirate as a character, his lack of page time is jarring and downplays the emotional stakes that should be high in this issue. It’s frustrating because the pieces that Tom King put into play are solid and he has a track record of stellar writing, that have ultimately been wasted on set up. This setup seems to be building toward the upcoming Monster Men crossover, which Psycho Pirate and Hugo Strange should feature prominently in, but that fact, and even the promise at a great crossover, is not enough to justify the downright pedestrian start to this series.
Five issues in and Tom King’ and David Finch’s Batman series reads very much like a highly skilled athlete who just can’t seem to put it together in the Olympics. The book is a good looking one, with plenty of great ideas, but the execution and questionable characterization turn it from a potentially great book into a missed opportunity.