Written by Tom King
Art by David Finch, Sandra Hope, Matt Banning and Jordie Bellaire
Lettering by John Workman
Published by DC Comics
‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10
This week’s Batman #4 would have been a stellar third issue - but four chapters in, DC’s A-list icon is already feeling the strain. Though exploring an interesting dark mirror version of Batman in the meta-powered Gotham, writer Tom King is starting to fall into the trap of decompression, taking way too long to say anything of real interest. Artist David Finch, backed by the inks of Sandra Hope and Matt Banning, and the solid colors of Jordie Bellaire, is also starting to slip a bit, despite opening this issue with a stunning splash page of the aftermath of Gotham’s rage. Despite a well constructed start, Batman #4 is starting to show the cracks in Batman’s Rebirth-era foundation.
After months of build-up, Gotham has finally snapped and now it is up to the Dark Knight to bring him to heel. That said, the months of build up is the real problem for Batman #4. Though Gotham’s turning on his mentor isn’t exactly the most shocking turn of events, one can’t help but wonder what too Tom King so long to get there. This sluggish plotting proves to be the title’s undoing this month as King spins his wheels after the violent opening. All throughout Batman #4, Batman himself is playing catch up with the rest of the plot as he engages in an exposition-heavy showdown with Gotham only to head to another even more exposition-heavy encounter with Amanda Waller, who has set Hugo Strange and the Psycho-Pirate loose on Gotham City.
It is this sort of drawn-out storytelling that made Scott Snyder’s latter arcs some divisive reads, and now Tom King has succumbed to that same kind of long-winded approach. If Gotham’s snapping would have been folded into last month’s origin for the pair, it would have made the plot even more thematically rich and given it true emotional stakes, but Batman #4 just ends up feeling like a whole lot of build-up to a mediocre villain. This isn’t even touching on King’s half-fridging of Gotham Girl, who spends the entirety of this issue weeping and repeating the same terrified dialogue. King seems much more focused on the relationship and contrast of Batman and Gotham and while that is interesting, there is no reason that it could come at the cost of the title’s only female character.
Meanwhile, David Finch’s artwork has lost some of its luster here. Opening with a horrific yet gorgeously rendered double-page splash of a room full of Gotham’s victims, the usual dynamism of Finch’s pencils steadily dwindles from there. While I never really have a problem with a panel grid, Finch just seems to be simply laying out each page with no real visual flair, with not enough variation in his grids to make each page pop. The only time these page look lively is during a bitingly grim recreation of one of the most famous scenes from All-Star Superman, which Finch renders almost note for note with a vertical panel of the man on the ledge to the left and four block panels to the left. However, this scene and the opening splash are the only real sparks of style that Finch displays, leaving inkers Sandra Hope, Matt Banning, and colorist Jordie Bellaire to do much of the artistic heavy lifting with tons of moody colors and fine detailing work.
As a fan of Tom King’s prior work and the "Rebirth" era Batman so far, issue #4 is a real letdown. With its laborious scripting and an ill-conceived turn for Gotham Girl, Batman #4 is the very picture of a misstep for a title that had just started to really shine. Couple that with David Finch’s haphazard layouts and you have an experience that is likely to be one of the more disappointing reads this week.