Writer: Tom King
Artist: Lee Weeks
The court case concludes with Bruce Wayne’s extremely long monologue, spanning the entire issue. Bruce Wayne is trying to cope with heartbreak, while also recalling the night his parents were murdered and how he dealt with that trauma. He uses his experience with pain as he tries to paint a picture of a broken Batman for the jurors. He tries to explain to them that Batman is no God, he is very much human and, as a human, very much prone to mistakes. It’s an interesting point, one only diluted by the fact that, well, Bruce Wayne IS Batman.
Doing this review will require me to go in some spoiler territory so if you don’t want things spoiled, you should skip to the Verdict. You have been warned.
The way King has structured this book is exceptional. As said, the issue is one big monologue delivered by Bruce Wayne. There are some Christian motifs, as Bruce draws a parallel between Batman and Job, from the biblical Book of Job. As Bruce is doing his thing, the book jumps between different moments of his life. Lee Weeks handles this wonderfully with his clear lines and some great lighting and contrast. The colouring by Elizabeth Breitweiser further amplifies the art, making the book feel uniform despite the vastly different settings used for the various flashback scenes. It has a noir flair to it, which works really well with the story. There are some subdued, yet striking splash pages that are a real treat.
King offers some really great character deconstruction on Batman. He asks a tough question – can one man really act, without a fault, as judge, jury, and executioner? It offers some serious food for thought and shows some serious self-awareness on Bruce’s side.
… And that self-awareness is what really shatters the ground under this issue. The previous issue was an exceptional book, probably my favourite in King’s run. It had great art (same as this one) and King was setting up a mystery, hinting that there might be more to the deaths of the three women. Unfortunately, he decided to throw that out of the window and just focus on Bruce’s emotions. This is the summary of this story:
Bruce is afraid he might have screwed things up because he was emotional and he’s doing his best to avoid feeling guilty for potentially sentencing an innocent man.
He somehow manages to convince the jurors to proclaim Freeze not guilty. There is no explanation what happened to the victims, no conclusion to the case. They just vote and Bruce dresses his old Batman suit, black trunks and all. He wants to go back to his roots. Granted, the case might be resolved in the coming issues, but that remains to be seen. It doesn’t change the fact that the absence of resolution is a letdown.
But let’s get back to the self-awareness issue at the core of this issue. Making a character self-aware of their problems is a great thing to do and opens possibilities for some great and serious character growth. Naturally, you would expect that character to try and change their ways, try to become a better person, but Bruce just takes his old costumes and goes into the night. Because his main takeaway from this isn’t that a single person can’t be a judge, jury, and executioner. It’s that he needs his old suit because this one reminds him too much of Selina.
There’s always the possibility that I misunderstood this issue, or maybe it’s King building up to something bigger, something that will pay off somewhere down the line and leave us feeling stupid for ever doubting him. But my job is to review the issues as they come and this one, on its own, is a letdown. Especially considering how the previous two issues had such an amazing build-up and exciting premise. Hopefully, the final page is an indication of a return to more simpler times.
King might be building up a larger narrative, something that will pay off somewhere down the line and leave me feeling stupid for ever doubting him. But my job is to review the issues as they come and this one, on its own, is a letdown. Especially compared to its predecessor.