Written by Tom King
Art by Mikel Janin and June Chung
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
Published by DC Comics
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
With Batman #9, one of DC’s flagship title overtly deals with the idea of rebirth. Opening with a sequence detailing Bane’s formative years, artist Mikel Janin puts us right next to the man who broke the Bat, as he recalls years being tortured in the prison of Santa Prisca.
And while Bane’s memories are harrowing and fraught with shadows and terror, this sequence also sets the tone for Tom King’s sophomore arc. People suffer all the time; the darkness is ever-present. To live again, you’ve got to fight against the suffering and the despair. And with Janin’s return, this book certainly seems to be have been given new life, even as King continues to portray the crushing weight of Batman’s important, impossible crusade.
Following the comparative interlude of "Night of the Monster Men," King and Janin return to their main story, as Batman readies himself for yet another plunge into darkness.With Gotham Girl still suffering from Psycho Pirate’s mental manipulation, Batman vows to bring him back to Gotham - and decides to create his own Suicide Squad from the inmate population at Arkham Asylum to help him do it. The exterior of Janin’s Arkham is a marked contrast to his stark interiors - outside, the rain pours, it thunders in the distances, the outlines of Gotham are visible, but the detail is gone. For Gotham Girl to be reborn, Batman needs to head into the ominous dark. But this decision also makes the corridors and rooms of the asylum all the more interesting. They’re drenched in an eggshell white that, when compared to that establishing two-page spread, is a blistering difference.
This is no doubt down to colorist June Chung, whose work here has multiple layers. On the most obvious, it allows Batman to be contrasted to his surroundings. Arkham is where the rogues of Gotham go for a spell before someone breaks them out. They’re the worst of the worst. But here Batman is the one bathed in black and skulking the corridors. It’s a subtle thing to do with blocking, as the colors depict Batman as the dominant character. He’s the darkness allowed to roam free. But from a story perspective, it also helps to define the characters in the more hectic moments. There’s no background to pull your focus from the characters in the scene. Janin has always been an artist who can display action cleanly enough, so you can not only feel the movement, but understand how the character is reached that stance. By removing a background, this is just more apparent.
This issue is one that’s primarily set-up, it allows for a couple of diversions which will please the readers anticipating the grander "Rebirth" plot, but it’s framed around getting the team together. What makes this issue work better than a standard comic where characters join forces is that there’s a thematic richness based on the actions taken in King’s first arc. Batman’s trip to Arkham is supplemented by knowing that this is a last hope. He’s not making a Suicide Squad because it’ll shake up the status quo, but because he’s already lost his vigilante protege, Gotham - he can’t lose Gotham Girl, as well. While Janin’s artwork has given new life to Batman as a title, King quietly pushes ahead with his ominous themes. Bane might have been the one to cripple Bruce Wayne, but it’s Tom King who might push the Bat past his moral limits.