Batman I am Gotham Review By Deffinition
Batman I am Gotham kicks of Tom King’s Rebirth Run in proper fashion. After the disappointing first issue I didn’t have high hopes for the writer. Following in the footsteps of Scott Snyder was always going to be difficult and that introduction didn’t exactly deliver on the standard that I expect from a creator on one of DC’s flagship titles.
However, there’s always room to learn from you mistakes and it will be interesting to see if King can deliver in his first full multi issue arc with the Caped Crusader.
His baptism on the Bat.
Can it deliver and make good on his dismal first go or is this book doomed to disappoint?
That’s what I’m here to find out, so with my disappointing intro (puns) out the way, let’s dive right in and get started with: I Am Gotham.
Opening on Batman saving a plane going down over Gotham this book packs a real punch. Whilst heroes like Superman, Green Lantern and The Flash all have abilities that would make this situation a breeze it becomes another matter entirely for The Dark Knight. Showcasing how the Caped Crusader would handle disastrous scenarios it depicts a Batman willing to sacrifice his own life for the good of others.
Spider-Man: Homecoming clearly took several cues from this scene and whilst that film was influenced by it, it didn’t better it. Here it has so much gravitas that it’s hard not to get fully wrapped up in the drama on the page. Acting as one of the greatest introductions to a Batman storyline ever we believe it is Bruce’s end (we even get a ‘Good Death’ line, see TDKR). That is until the new heroes of Gotham emerge.
The new heroes, Gotham and Gotham Girl (that’s not a joke, that’s their real names), may have the shallowest pseudonyms imaginable but that doesn’t mean they possess no depth.
Batman should’ve have died in the opening. He knows it, Alfred Knows it, Gotham Knows It (not the character). The new team saved him and thus he has developed an inferiority complex.
Realising that should he die, Dick and the rest of his successors would follow suit. It dawns on him just how helpless he is as a hero due to the existence of Superman. Similar to Night Owls realisation upon seeing Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen, Batman has become obsolete. He has worked for decades, honing his skills and these two newbies come along and instantly do what he can’t.
Whilst in the past Batman would have been stubborn and kept his distance, he realises that the City’s well-being is more important and thus drafts them into the fold. That’s when Strange things begin to happen.
People are Strange…
Operating in the background, Hugo Strange has his sights set on Gotham, Gotham and Gotham Girl (congratulations if you know which one is which). Learning of their origin we see how similarly it mirrors Bruce’s. Attacked in an alley, the two heroes were almost victim of a mugging gone wrong. Luckily Batman was there to save them. Enamoured by the Dark Knight the two decide to dedicate their life to helping Gotham in whatever way possible.
Their naivety makes them easy targets.
With the aid of Psycho Pirate, Strange is able to control the new Dynamic Duo and has them wreck havoc on the city.
It’s brilliant to see the villain return and whilst this isn’t as psychological of a tale that the antagonist is normally present in, it still packs a punch. Strange is an imposing figure. His wild smile showing flashes of madness, it was the first time that I really felt afraid of the villain. Played for laughs in Strange Apparitions and mocked due to his height in Monster Men, this feels like the first true formidable version of him. I absolutely love this retelling and his control over Gotham (not the hero) makes him more dangerous than ever before.
The hero Gotham Deserves
Having a mental breakdown, Gotham (not the city) goes on a rampage destroying Gotham (not the hero FOR F…Sake they never should’ve have called the character that).
It raises the stakes because after feeling defeatist from almost dying in the plane crash, Batman no longer believes that he can take on Superman-level threats. This doubt really ramps up the tension in the closing issue and as much as it is about getting on the horse, the core value that Batman will never let Gotham (not the hero) fall, no matter the cost, is what drives the drama.
In one of the books many hilarious sections we see Alfred suit up to take down Gotham himself. Upon the appearance of Batman he cowardly scurries off and it’s minor moments like this that really speak volumes to King’s wit. Throughout the story he add humorous lines that take away from the severity of the story. Whilst they were never too apparent in Scott Snyder’s Run, here they really lighten the book up and make it a more enjoyable read overall. Think of it like Connery’s Bond vs Moore’s. The storylines are almost beat for beat the same on paper but it’s the portrayal that makes things different.
Tonally I actually side with King over Snyder. He has more of a mass audience appeal and it was in this chapter that I really got the confidence that he was the right man for the job in terms of Rebirth.
Whilst we don’t get much resolution to the Hugo Strange story (that would be done in Night Of The Monster Men), we finish on a human tale with Gotham Girl having to end her brother, diving into madness and lonlieness in order to save the city. Batman is the only one who understands this sacrifice and drafts her into the family. Whilst it’s a touching end it still enforced the point that Batman is useless when dealing with some problems.
Enlisting help from the Justice League (on top of Alfred) he really feels useless throughout most of this Final Battle. Which is a shame, this was really an opportunity for him to cast aside the doubt from the opening. Doubt that will now either go unresolved or be continued.
Either way that doesn’t make for a fulfilling conclusion. Ending on the confirmation that even the normal citizens of Gotham can still tackle the superheroes would have perhaps finished the book with a sense of hope. Instead of a slightly downtrodden one. Which is a shame as this could’ve have been a complete ‘rebirth’ of Batman’s faith in his abilities.
I Am Gotham is a brilliant opening arc for Tom King, it diverts enough from the Batman mythos but still has a lot of characteristics to make it one that fans will love. Whether it’s action of sentimentality, King seems to be able to handle it and the art within this story elevated it above many of the Rebirth titles. It’s hard to find flaws with this story, perhaps it doesn’t pack the grandiosity that modern Batman stories are known for but what it lacks in scale it makes up for in character defining moments.
Enjoyable from beginning to end this is a great book for veterans and newcomers to sink their teeth into and that’s why it gets a solid…