Spoilers ahead for this week's Batman #2.
Tom King and David Finch's Batman #2 revealed three of the villains behind the new creative team's first arc, firmly establishing the comic book in the greater DCU while setting up September's "Night of the Monster Men" crossover event in the Bat-universe.
On the issue's final pages, readers learned that Hugo Strange is working in conjunction with General Lane, most commonly an adversary for Superman, and Amanda Waller, who's best known for working with the Suicide Squad.
After readers are shown an imprisoned character referred to as "Roger" (a character King told Newsarama is a villain), the issue ends with Lane saying to Waller, "Congratulations, Miss Waller. You've finally saved Gotham City."
In an issue that featured Jim Gordon back in his job as police commissioner, the new Gotham and Gotham Girl struggling to live up to Batman's standards, and Alfred stealing the show with his dry wit, readers were also given more clues about the mystery underlying King and Finch's first storyline.
And although King said this first part of his planned trilogy should finish up by Batman #6, there are some seeds being planted now that won't completely pay off until #22.
Newsarama talked to both King and Finch about their work on Batman, what this week's revealed villains mean, and what's coming up next.
Newsarama: Tom, having now read the issue and knowing there are other people behind this besides Hugo Strange. Is this more of a conspiracy thing?
Tom King: This comes from getting together with Geoff Johns, Dan DiDio, Jim Lee, Scott Snyder and the whole crew, deciding that Batman and the DCU have to be tied closer together. That was it — we need to show readers that this is a universe where the stakes are real and we're not just a bunch of writers working alone.
So when I was working my first arc, I wanted to bring in villains and characters that weren't necessarily from the Batman universe. And I could overlap it and it could — and now, for sure will — have impact on all the books in the line.
So you see at the end of this issue, there's the classic Batman villain Hugo Strange. He's talking to a mystery villain who is not a Batman villain, but is from the wider universe. And behind him is Amanda Waller of the Suicide Squad and General Lane from the Superman universe.
It's just the idea that Batman doesn't live in a Gotham where Metropolis doesn't exist. This is something that takes place in a huge universe. And these stories will affect all that will happen in that universe.
Nrama: This issue also had a "Morrison Room" in the Wayne mansion. That was your doing? I don't remember ever seeing that before.
King: [Laughs.] Yeah, I named it. I had a Morrison Room.
I unsubtly stole — there's a beat in this issue where the superheroes are looking for Batman using X-ray vision and they can't find him. That's a quote from a Morrison JLA beat that I've always loved about Batman — the idea that Superman with his X-ray vision couldn't see Batman sneaking into something.
But I wanted to make it somewhat more apparent that I was stealing from one of the masters.
Nrama: That's great.
David, I think one of my favorite panels in this — probably not the same favorite panel you might have, because there's so many fun scenes in this, particularly that Solomon Grundy fight — but I love the panel where you see Bruce Wayne dancing and he's embracing a beautiful woman, but the Bat-signal is in the background, and you see his head facing the signal as he says "I have to go." That panel just speaks volumes about who he is.
David Finch: Thanks. It's funny because I drew the whole book and then doubled back and did that page, because I didn't want to draw it.
It's, like, so not — if there's a type of page that I absolutely, totally struggle with, that's it.
So when I got to it, I just decided to take a breath, and stop, and make it as good as I possibly could and not worry about it too much. So I appreciate that. Thank you.
Nrama: Yeah, it worked for me. I also noticed that, in this issue particularly, that although there are some full-page pin-ups that show off your work, overall, there seemed to be more of a feeling in this issue that the art takes a backseat to the storytelling — or rather, your art really works to focus and forward the story. We talked last time about your evolution as an artist. Do you think that's been part of the process?
Finch: Yeah, I think so. I feel like I can't draw half the time when I'm working right now, like I don't know what the heck I'm doing. How did I do this before?
I've gone through years of my career where everything feels really automatic, and it's really not feeling that way. And I think it's because I'm really trying to stretch a bit.
You know, take a page like the dancing page we were talking about. Instead of finding a way to cheat through it, because I don't want to do it, I'm trying to just really embrace it and make it as good as I can.
That page also benefited from having Danny Miki, who is an absolutely unbelievable inker. It's hard to call him an inker — he does a lot more than just ink. He really adds so much. A large part of why that page is so good is Danny.
Nrama: Tom, you…
King: Wait. It's absurd that he feels like he can't draw.
Nrama: Oh, yeah, I totally agree.
King: I can't stand by and listen to this!
I object, sir! I object!
Nrama: Maybe we should just admire his modesty.
King: Yes, we can. He's very modest.
Nrama: But Tom, you talked before about how Gotham and Gotham Girl couldn't see Batman, and you also had this scene where Batman had to jump in and help the two characters fight Solomon Grundy. Jim Gordon's attitude toward the two characters was also pretty telling. We talked, after the first issue, about how my Batman is questioning whether he's the hero for Gotham City, but I feel like this issue makes it clear that he is.
King: I think that's something that's obvious to us, but I'm not 100% sure that's obvious to Batman. I feel like, if someone said to Batman — like, he took the vow, and he said I'm going to stop crime and I'm going to save the city — and if someone said to him, look, if you retire right now, Gotham City will be a better place, and if they could prove that. He's the smartest guy in the DCU, and if he said, yeah, you're right — if I retired now, I would make this a better place — I think Batman would retire the next day.
I don't think he cares about himself as a distinct being or that he has to be the one who does it.
Whereas all of us, we know that Batman has to be the one. He's the one who does it. But in his heart, he's one step ahead of us. So I think Gotham and Gotham Girl make him question that idea. Is he the best person for this job?
And I don't think he's going to find out that answer for himself until issue #22. It's what the whole arc's about.
Nrama: Wow, OK, that's a long way away. So we're talking about the long game here, but anything you can tease about what's coming up next? Maybe not Batman #22, but say, #3 or #4? Obviously, this ties directly into the "Monster Men" crossover that's coming up in all the Batman books.
King: Yeah, we're at the very start of the first trilogy, which will end with issue #5 and #6. So you'll have a complete story by issue #6. The Gotham/Gotham Girl story will wrap by then.
And that will explode into our first crossover, where we can just bring in the rest of the Bat-family in the Monster Men event.
And if you're interested in the Monster Men story, it starts here. It starts at this issue. It starts with "The Monster Men are coming."
And the tease? The script for issue #5 gets really big and really crazy. The city's going to burn and Batman's going to be the only one who can put that fire out.
Nrama: Can you answer this question: Are Gotham and Gotham Girl connected to Hugo Strange and Amanda Waller?
King: I cannot answer that question. I wish I could.
Nrama: I wish you could too, but we'll leave it at that. Anything else you want to say about Batman?
King: Just thank you for solving that mystery. I was really excited when I saw that.
Nrama: So you weren't mad about the identity sort of being spoiled?
King: Not at all. Of course, there's kind of second part to that mystery. The great villain of this — the villain that's in the background of everything — has not been revealed. Hugo Strange is not the answer to that question. There are more than one villain involved, obviously, including someone you wouldn't normally associate with Batman canon. But yeah, Hugo Strange is another pawn on the table, and there's someone manipulating that pawn.