REVIEW: BATMAN (Vol. 3) #1
AUTHOR: John Bierly (Follow @JOHNBIERLY)
DATE: June 16, 2016

SYNOPSIS: “I AM GOTHAM” Chapter One.

No one has ever stopped The Caped Crusader. Not The Joker. Not Two-Face. Not even the entire Justice League. But how does Batman confront a new hero who wants to save the city from The Dark Knight?

Superstar artist David Finch returns to the Dark Knight alongside writer Tom King for this five-part storyline.

In January 2011, writer Scott Snyder and artist Jock took off and nuked me from orbit with their debut issue of THE BLACK MIRROR in DETECTIVE COMICS #871. And when the New 52 began, Jett gave me the honor of following Snyder (and his new art team ably commanded by titanic talent Greg Capullo) to the new BATMAN #1. I reviewed every issue Snyder wrote, and I will cherish that experience always.

So, when news arrived that Batman would begin again with another #1 via DC's "Rebirth," Jett let me know that I was once again welcome to follow Snyder to his new title, ALL-STAR BATMAN. With Snyder referring to the book as "my LONG HALLOWEEN," I was tempted. But, as I told Jett at the time, I knew in my bones that my days chronicling Snyder's stories had come to a natural end.

I had two reasons for this.

The first was that I felt I'd kept the reviewing of Snyder's magnificence to myself for long enough; I wanted Jett to have a chance to write about Snyder's building of the Batman mythology, too.

The second was that reviewing Snyder each month had become one of the most difficult writing gigs I've ever had, because I long ago ran out of new ways to say that his stories were among the best ever crafted for The Caped Crusader.

And there was actually a third reason. In the words of Yoda, "There is another."

Tom King served his country for seven years as a counter-terrorism agent with the CIA before becoming an acclaimed author after the birth of his first child. When whispers arose on the wind that he was a contender for taking over BATMANSHERIFF OF BABYLON series (from DC's Vertigo imprint) and dove right in to the dangerous mystery faced by King's character Chris Henry, a former Florida cop training a new police force as a military contractor in Baghdad in 2003 on the heels of the Saddam Hussein regime's defeat.

It was fantastic, so I also checked out his VISION series for Marvel. While any other writer might have played it safe when handed the reins to a character that had just gained renewed mainstream popularity via AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, King chose instead to get deliciously weird with it, crafting a strange and fascinating and often unsettling story about how human frailties can wend their way into even the most advanced machines.

And now King is unleashed on BATMAN.

And friends, let me tell you -- he was the right man for the job, and then some.

In some of the tightest, liveliest, and smartest Batman/Gordon rooftop dialogue we've gotten in a long time, we learn that the GCPD has intercepted two out of three surface-to-air missiles stolen from Fort Marshall by Kobra terrorists.

(My only complaint on these pages is that I'm disappointed to see Gordon smoking again; I know his time as Batman is over, but I'd hoped he'd have hung on to some of the good habits he'd formed under the cowl.)

Their conversation ends when a tragedy begins. But tragedies in Gotham are answered by The Batman, and answer this one he does.

What transpires over the remainder of King's cool, confident debut is a constant escalation of awesome, with the action getting bigger and deadlier and more dreadful by the page as Batman must constantly one-up his efforts out of thin -- and in thinning -- air.

As King peppers the emotional and adventurous writing with references to everything from BATMAN BEGINS to THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, penciler David Finch (with inks by Matt Banning and colors by Jordie Bellaire) blasts big, energetic action across the pages with brilliant visual nods to iconic imagery from DR. STRANGELOVE and THE TWILIGHT ZONE.

I love this Batman! King builds on Snyder's literal rebirth of Bruce Wayne to create a Batman who reminds me a lot of how Arnold Schwarzenegger played Conan in CONAN THE DESTROYER. He doesn't walk around acting like he's Conan, because he doesn't have to. Everyone in the movie knows he's Conan, and he knows he's Conan, and we know he's Conan. This is a Batman who values his comrades, knows when it's right to ask for help, and knows when it's time to step up and do it himself. In a situation where Han Solo would say, "Never tell me the odds," Batman literally asks, "Tell me the angles." What he does with those angles is maximum Batman; mathematics has never been so exciting.

And then there's the ending, which vaults everything into a new stratosphere of "WHAT?" Outrageous! And outstanding.

Welcome to Gotham City, Mr. King. Scott Snyder was the hardest act to follow, and you've succeeded in a big, bold, and beautifully batty way. - John Bierly

GRADE: A+

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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