“I Am Suicide” is over – and let’s be thankful it is. What was billed as the return of Bane versus Batman’s Suicide Squad turned into a messy, convoluted affair. If you haven’t read it, it’s Michael Bay’s The Rock padded with the logic of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. But at least Mikel Janin’s artwork was a high point, right?
Now, in Batman #14 – the first issue of the two-part “Rooftops” storyline written by Tom King and penciled by Mitch Gerads – the Caped Crusader tackles his greatest adversary yet: romance. Following the Santa Prisca mission, Batman and Catwoman are back in Gotham City, with only a night to spend together. While it might sound like the premise to any Backstreet Boys song, the story’s much more than just Fifty Shades of Bat.
On the rooftop, Batman reveals the deal he made with Amanda Waller to get Catwoman’s sentence reduced. Batman wants to take her in, but Catwoman asks for one night with him and what he’d like to do. Naturally, like any hot-blooded man, he takes her on a punching spree throughout Gotham. Together, they smash formidable rogues such as Clock King, Magpie, Signal Man, Copperhead and the indomitable Condiment King.
After their knuckles tire from cracking skulls, they do something Catwoman wants: steal The Victoria Cat artifact from an apartment. Surprisingly Batman goes along with it, even if he’s supposed to be a crime-fighter. Right before the apartment explodes, however, Catwoman reveals the apartment actually belongs to her and they dive to safety. On the rooftop again, Catwoman removes a bag of diamonds from The Victoria Cat. She hands them to Batman, telling him to use them to help build orphanages after she’s gone. Remembering the orphan behind the mask, Batman immediately transforms into Sadman when she says that.
The closing act of the issue is a shock, purely because of the history. In what’s likely to lead to Internet backlash, King and Gerads paid tribute to that scene from the controversial Catwoman #1. It’s done in a classier manner than the aforementioned issue, but do Batman and Catwoman hold some exhibitionist dream of being captured on Google Earth while fornicating? They need to stop worrying about the orphans and use those diamonds to get a room.
Jokes aside, Batman #14 is the issue that was needed after the disappointment of “I Am Suicide.” More storytelling and relationship building happen than in previous issues, and Gerads’ art makes us miss Janin a little less. However, the biggest problem of King’s Batman run still remains: the inexplicable and random tone shifts. Sometimes it’s Paul Dini; other times it’s Denny O’Neil; occasionally it’s Jeph Loeb – it’s all over the place and kills momentum. King’s writing of the supporting cast has been solid, but his uncertainty of his version of Batman is as glaring as a hole in the Caped Crusader’s tights.
When you look at what Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV have done with the same character in All-Star Batman and Detective Comics respectively, you quickly realize there’s work to be done to get this title up to scratch. It’s sad to say, but out of all the Batman books in the Rebirth era, King’s is the weakest.
Batman #14 is a step in the right direction after "I Am Suicide," but Tom King's Batman still suffers from strange tone shifts.