Batman #11

by Nick Liu on November 16, 2016

Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mikel Janin
Publisher: DC Comics

Tom King’s “I Am Suicide” arc reaches its midpoint in Batman #11.  Last time, the Dark Knight infiltrated the heavily fortified island nation of Santa Prisca in order to extract Psycho Pirate from the hands of Bane.  I use the word “infiltrated” lightly, since Batman basically crash landed the Batwing onto the island, got his ass handed to him by hundreds of armed soldiers, and had his back (almost) re-broken by Bane.  

Batman #11 starts off with a flashback - Batman chasing Catwoman across the rooftops of Gotham, having just found out about her international killing spree (check out #10 for details!)  This flashback showcases a tender moment where we get to see just how vulnerable these two can be when placed into an untenable situation.  Back in the present day, we watch as Batman and his team begin to set their plan in motion.  For those who aren’t up to speed, Batman’s infiltration squad consists of Suicide Squad alumni Bronze Tiger, Punch and Jewelee; along with Ventriloquist and Catwoman, all freshly extracted from Arkham Asylum.  As with all plans that include Batman and a group of mentally unstable supervillains, nothing ever seems to go quite as expected, and things start to fall apart rather quickly near the end.

One aspect of this issue that I found particularly jarring is the way some of the character speech is written.  One of King’s favorite tools is the usage of repetition to drive home a particular sentiment or feeling.  Used properly, it becomes a theme for the issue, something substantial for the reader to latch onto and reflect on regardless of what’s happening on the page.  In Batman #11, however, the use of repetition feels blunt and heavy-handed.  In the aforementioned flashback, Batman and Catwoman speak in short, terse sentences that they parrot back and forth to each other.  It’s an interesting stylistic choice, but in my opinion it makes the characters feel less realistic and more reductive than I’m comfortable with.  Not to mention, Batman and Catwoman call each other pet names, literally ‘Bat’ and ‘Cat’, that seem a little out of character for both. I do, however, have to respect King for his willingness to take risks with some of these more established characters.  Although it might feel unfamiliar and jarring, it’s still nice to be able to see a new take on these old faces and think about them in a different way.

Regardless, the art in this chapter is stunning.  If there’s one reason to rush off to your LCS, it’s Mikel Janin’s incredible work in this issue.  One artistic theme in this arc is the usage of yellows, oranges and browns.  If you look closely, you might notice that each progressive issue uses more and more of this palette.  We see these colors in Gotham’s sunrise sky during the flashback, on the dunes of Santa Prisca, and in the dingy, dimly lit chamber where Bane resides.  Like the yellow outline on Batman’s chest, these colors represent warning, danger, and action. Some of the scenes - like the incredible two-page spread featuring Wesker and Selina, or the very final page - are especially striking, with exceptional use of particulate textures and watercolor shading.

Batman #11 offers a thoughtful, fast-paced plot that is intriguing enough to captivate and please, even though it might feature some awkward characterization and poorly executed dialogue.  On the art front, Mikel Janin continues to showcase some of the best work he has ever done, and that’s high praise considering his exceptional run on Grayson.  I continue to look forward to seeing where this arc is headed.  Surely nothing is as it seems?  If you’re looking for a cerebral plot that you can really dig into and muse over for the next couple weeks, you could do much worse than Batman #11.

Our Score:


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