REVIEW: BATMAN (Vol. 3) #13
AUTHOR: John Bierly (Follow @JOHNBIERLY)
DATE: December 29, 2016

SYNOPSIS: “I AM SUICIDE” conclusion! Batman and the remains of his team come face to face with Bane and the Psycho-Pirate in a final battle at Santa Prisca—and learn whether this was truly a suicide mission!

Though issue 14 will be an epilogue between Batman and Catwoman in Gotham City, the main story of "I Am Suicide" concludes in BATMAN #13. And while many of this arc's elements have bamboozled me, at least they were interesting, and at least they seemed to be building to something crazy. Issue #13, however, is largely hell-bent on resetting (almost) everything it set out so boldly to challenge and change.

It's difficult to discuss this without getting into spoilers, so now is the time to turn back if you don't want to know this issue's secrets.

Still here?

Okay.

When this story arc began, I was excited that Batman's handpicked Suicide Squad (which he assembled to help him liberate the Psycho Pirate from Bane's Santa Prisca stronghold) didn't include any of the usual suspects, especially after the success of the SUICIDE SQUAD movie this summer. Rather than cashing in on their newfound notoriety, writer Tom King seemed to be pulling a Batman by choosing the best bad guys and gals for the job. Punch and Jewlee. Bronze Tiger. Arnold "The Ventriloquist" Wesker. And...Catwoman.

Catwoman?

In my review of issue #11, I talked about being disappointed by what seemed to be the real reason Batman chose a bunch of random, obscure villains -- they were expendable. In a moment of (seeming) betrayal, Catwoman (seemingly) slashed all of their throats but Wesker's, adding weight to the mystery of the 237 murders that allegedly landed her in Arkham Asylum. I wondered then if it were all just an elaborate ruse. Issue #13 proved me right.

I know. I know. I'm trying to have it both ways. No, I didn't want most of Batman's team to be expendable, but at least their apparent slaughter made the story interesting. Issue 13 doesn't waste any time revealing that Punch and Jewlee are quite all right, which leads to plenty of prattling about sushi, Wi-Fi, puppies, and Pennsylvania's best Pilates. Bronze Tiger's fine, too.

And, of course, Catwoman didn't really betray the team. After Batman gets manhandled by Bane for a few pages, he orders Catwoman to "break his damn back," resulting in her kicking Bane with a "KKKRAKKA!" I guess that's a break? He drops to his knees and spends the rest of the issue on the floor, holding his lower back, so at least she dislodged a vertebra or two.

As the plan comes together A-Team style and Bronze Tiger wonders aloud how such a convoluted plan could resolve so impossibly and easily, Catwoman smugly reminds him:

"It's not impossible. It's Batman."

If you say so.

After warning Bane to stay put on his skull-laden island paradise, Batman, Catwoman, Bronze Tiger, Wesker, and the captive Psycho Pirate sail back to civilization on a bubblegum raft blown by mewling maniacs Punch and Jewlee. Batman and Catwoman even make out in front of everyone for a little bit before Batman decides, "We can't."

And then there's a final page where Bane, who was way more interesting without Venom, demands that his lackeys bring him...VENOM!

Not even an early conversation between Amanda Waller and Alfred packs any zing, which is especially disappointing after all the memorable dialogue Alfred's been given in these pages.

The artwork remains beautiful, with June Chung's gorgeous colors complementing Mikel Janín's handsome pencils and inks. From the cold confines of the Batcave to the warm reds and golds of Bane's inner sanctum, nothing here could possibly look better than it does. Bravo to all involved!

As for the story, I never want to see Punch and Jewlee again. I couldn't care less about Bronze Tiger. Arnold Wesker was just starting to get interesting until Bronze Tiger punched his lights out, and Pyscho Pirate never once seemed dangerous or even important. And Bane, whose lack of Venom made him into something more compelling than a human caricature, seems doomed to revert right back his drug-fueled physique.

And what about Catwoman's 237 kills? Surely we'll learn more about those in issue #14. Or maybe they'll just go on a double date with Punch and Jewlee while Bronze Tiger beats up Arnold Wesker in the parking lot. Stranger things have happened.

I've read King's early issues several times each. They get better every time, and I hope these will improve with another read, too. Perhaps there's a greater genius to the plot that I'm missing. This arc didn't grab me, but I remain excited about King's past, present, and future contributions to the Batman legend. As Goyer and Nolan so successfully did in BATMAN BEGINS, King knows how to show us the heart of Bruce Wayne without compromising the power of Batman. And that's my kind of writer. - John Bierly

GRADE: B

John Bierly still can't believe he
gets to write for BOF.
Check out JOHNBIERLY.COM to read about the other things he writes about.


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