I’ll be honest, I missed Scott Snyder writing Batman stories. I never thought All-Star Batman #1 was going to be as good as it was, but what else should I expect from Snyder. He pushes Batman to the limits. I get tired of Batman sometimes, because I know his stories inside and out. He is my second favorite character from DC comics behind Dick Grayson. Zack Snyder’s vision of Batman in BvS wasn’t my favorite, but I do respect the choice to divert from the norm. I still don’t think Batman should be killing, and he shouldn’t be throwing around lame jokes in the aftermath of a fight with Superman. Anyways, Scott Snyder knows how to explore different corners of the Batman universe that seem to the core, a true Batman story. I didn’t think any more could be done, but of course, I was wrong. The first issue was fantastic and I will be buying every one after the fact. This leads me to my skepticism of Tom King’s current run. I have enjoyed it no doubt. My favorite issue being #3 because it added depth to Gotham and Gotham Girl. But the overall direction of the plot to me was a bit predictable. I knew from their inception that Gotham and Gotham Girl were going to go down a dark path. Of course, it didn’t come in the first few issues. King painted them as do-gooders who idolized Batman. At first, I thought they were up to no good, but in time, they proved themselves. The villain during this arc has been Hugo Strange. Also a psychopath known as the Psycho Pirate, master of emotions. In issue #3, at the end Gotham and Gotham Girl check out something happening near a warehouse. Hugo Strange is there. He introduces them to the Pirate and says he is a master of emotions, even theirs. From there, issue 4 involves the downfall of our once great heroes. Gotham ‘s mind has been corrupted. He kills soldiers at the beginning of the issue. He then has a psychotic episode where a man commits suicide next to him. Gotham continues to utter the phrase, “I can fix this.” Batman arrives and lets him know he actually can’t fix it, but make it worse. Batman finds out that the men Gotham killed were a part of Amanda’s Waller’s Task Force X, or famously known as the Suicide Squad. Except one man lived. He saw Gotham when he took his mask off. The soldier then went to kill Gotham’s parents. Gotham, still mentally shaken up kills the man. He tells Batman that this city only bleeds. No one can save it. He leaves hell bent on destroying Gotham, the city that always bleeds. All of this was a little expected to me. Gotham goes from admiring the city, to hating it. For these reasons, I wasn’t too excited for this fifth issue. I figured Batman and Gotham have a fight, Gotham breaks out of it, and realizes what happened. They continue helping Batman and maybe get a spin-off series. I would’ve enjoyed that. Boy was I wrong about the conclusion to King’s “I am Gotham” story.
The issue starts off with an epic moment in DC history. Batman is left back where Gotham left. Gotham is in the city now, so Batman asks Alfred to do stall him. Alfred does something I don’t ever remember him doing. He dawns a freaking batsuit! He’s in the batmobile talking to himself. He’s reflecting on Thomas Wayne entrusting Bruce to him. He talks about how he can’t wait to help Bruce grow as a man, because Bruce is such a well-mannered child. Alfred mentions how Bruce will spend his days playing board games and reading books. Caring for him will be more of a pleasure than a chore. As Alfred is driving towards Gotham, the speed of the car is dramatically increasing. A complete contrast to the life Alfred thought Bruce was going to live. It’s a well written moment. Alfred has such a big head, so he looks hilarious in the suit. He stalls Gotham long enough though. Batman shows up and the two begin an epic fight. Duke, Batman’s new partner, is watching from security cameras when Gotham Girl comes behind him. She has been at the Batcave retrieving treatment from them. She repeatedly tells Duke how scared she is. During the fight, Batman lands the bat plane on Gotham. It’s a pretty cool scene. Nothing changes though. Gotham is determined to destroy Gotham. He won’t stop. So Batman does the unthinkable. He calls in the Justice League! Batman realizes that Gotham’s power adjusts to who he’s fighting. He asks Duke to figure it out. Duke is still hugging Gotham Girl. She is alone and scared. They find comfort in their similarities. He tells Gotham Girl he is scared too. A moment that may be overlooked in this issue, but I enjoy their growing relationship.
The last part of the issue, is definitely the best part. The next two pages are phenomenal. Gotham Girl begins to explain to Duke how their powers work. She tells him that they bought them. What does that mean? I’m not even sure, but we’ll definitely get an explanation later on. They bought their powers with their lives. Meaning they could trade in their normal lives for a few hours of super abilities. She tells Duke that the best, or worst part was they could choose how they wanted to live. Normal for decades, Superman for a few years, or a god for a few hours. To sum it up, Batman couldn’t beat him. Throughout the entirety of Gotham Girl’s narration, Gotham is beating the smithereens out of the Justice League. The pages look fantastic. He handles each of the members easily. He even stands toe-to-toe with Superman! The panels of them battling are stunning. I was definitely jumping out of my seat reading this. Gotham will not stop.
The next part of this issue is one of my favorite Batman moments of all time. I know that’s a bold statement, but hear me out. This story has been about the city of Gotham as most Batman stories are. There has been excellent writing on what this city is. How it makes Gotham and Gotham Girl feel, and why they became superheroes in the first place. King has blended an origin story well with solid elements of a Batman story. We’ve seen a story about what it takes to save Gotham unfold. Batman has been trying for years to find a solution. He’s just a man though. A man who’s talented in every aspect of life, but still, no powers. Gotham swooped in ready to save the city he loved. Batman no doubt knows he can’t fight crime forever. As Bruce Wayne, he can do more with his influence (he should anyway. One of Batman’s biggest flaws to me. All that studying and education and doesn’t use his money.) He wanted Gotham to be the one to take his place. Do what he couldn’t. Save the city he couldn’t. The moment was amazing because Batman voices his frustrations with his career. The fight is coming to a close. Batman realizes Gotham won’t stop until the city of Gotham is destroyed. Batman is selfless. Most heroes are, but Batman is prepared to die at any moment to protect people. More than most. It’s what makes him legendary. He tricks Gotham into killing him by explaining to him that Gotham was just brick and concrete. Blaming the city for the death of his parents and freeing the Pirate was silly. All of those things were caused by him he says. He says, “You want to kill Gotham?! For being weak! For being afraid! For failing again and again and again. I am Gotham. Kill me!” Craziness. It hurts to read that because Batman is basically saying his career has been filled with failure. Time and time again he has failed to keep the city under control. Criminals running rampant, comrades killed, and a brutal, never-ending cycle. It’s what makes him such a tragic hero sometimes. He isn’t dumb. Batman doesn’t need haters worldwide to tell him he doesn’t have powers. He’s aware of his shortcomings and it pisses him off to no avail. The art here portrays that pain beautifully, as Batman rises up from the rubble. During all of this, Gotham Girl flies off to go and stop her brother. She grabs him just before Gotham kills Batman. Gotham Girl overcomes her fear the Pirate instilled in her. Duke radios Batman as they fight and tells him, “Gotham Girl, Batman. She’s brave. She’s nothing but brave.” Gotham Girl narrates the end of the story. Her fight with Gotham is vicious. At the end, she ends up killing him. She talks about how she married Duke years later (okay, DC! Loving the interracial action here!) She said they’d come down every year on the anniversary of her brother’s death. They’d come to remember this is where it started. The origin of Gotham Girl, and the death of Batman. Those lines are how you end an arc. I don’t know what she’s talking about, but I’m excited for the future. I’ll take any new character I can get honestly. It’s an absolute shame we lost such a great, evolving character like Gotham. It truly sucks. He was a good man who was corrupted by a villain. A tragic story, but definitely a good origin story for Gotham Girl. I hope they expand on her and her powers. Well done, King. I shouldn’t have doubted you. I highly recommend everyone pick this series up. Whether you haven’t read a single issue, or you want to start from scratch, this Batman series is solid. Will it end up on Snyder status? I don’t know, the Court of Owls and Joker were legendary. I think a solid villain would put this series over the edge. The comic said Gotham Girl Year One is next. Is the focus shifting to her? Is DC planning on killing off the Batman forever? Will she be the heir to Gotham city? I don’t know, but I can only guess it will get more and more exciting.
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