SYNOPSIS: “AFTERMATH”! In the wake of Bane’s attack, Batman must face the destruction left behind and follow through on his promises to Gotham Girl and Catwoman by making the most crushing sacrifices yet.
In addition to being my favorite (mostly) one-and-done stories since Scott Snyder, Brian Azzarello, and Jock teamed up for issue 44 of the previous volume, Tom King's BATMAN #23 also features one of the biggest laughs I've had from a comic book in years. (It's a character referring to himself in first person, followed by another character doing the same. Amazing.) And like #44, if feels like a timeless tale that's destined to appear in some kind of "Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told" collection someday.
It begins as many Batman issues do, with a murder in Gotham City. But this murder brings Swamp Thing to Gotham and into Wayne Manor, where King steps back and lets Mitch Gerads's handsome artwork say more than any words could. As Swamp Thing tells Bruce Wayne a deeply personal story while they sit on opposite couches in the study, Alfred sweeps up Swamp Thing's leaves (and other swamp-borne leavings) while listening with stoic sadness to a conversation he's heard far too often in these walls. There's a two-page spread here that's seriously an all-timer.
Several detective moves and one utterly wondrous exchange later (in which Swamp Thing tells Batman how he knows something and Batman...reacts to it), the heroes find themselves in a confrontation that goes from zero to WHAT?! in just a handful of panels, culminating in an ending that took several double-takes before I realized that yes, that was it. It's going to be controversial, and that's what I love about it.
I love how emotionally King continues to write Batman, without ever making him seem vulnerable. I often reference Andersen Gabrych's "I feel everything" line that Bruce once spoke to Selina (in DETECTIVE #800) to the point that you're all probably getting sick of hearing it, but that's "my" Batman, and King is speaking my language.
Gerads nukes the artwork from orbit, doing his own inks and colors on top of unique pencils. He makes the pages feel both grounded and otherworldly; he lets Batman and Swamp Thing exist in the same panels without every making it feel as if one of them doesn't belong there. Letterer Clayton Cowles makes me hear how Swamp Thing sounds and remains an unsung hero of this book.
You'll either love or hate how this one wraps up. I loved its guts for doing what it did. - John Bierly
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.