There’s a quote early in this book that perfectly summarizes my favorite version of Batman. Lucius Fox to Bruce Wayne:
I once tried to talk your father into coming into the business. Told him being a doctor drives you crazy. Whatever you do, people just get sick again. You make no progress. He looked at me for a bit, got real quiet, stern almost. It’s a look I’ve only ever seen once again. And it was in the face of a masked man. Finally, in a dark voice, he said, “You’re right, Lucius, I am crazy. But the sick need someone crazy enough to believe they can be better. So what else could I be?”
It’s a throwaway line early in Tom King’s Batman run, but as comic fans have learned, King doesn’t have throwaway lines. His comics are more like handmade clocks – every elegant piece matters. They all combine into something beautiful, both aesthetically and intellectually. King writes good stories, if not great ones, but the craftsmanship is the thing. He plays with allusions and the themes of characters in ways that make old things new, or help you see them in a new way. That’s what the quote above does. It signals to readers that King’s Batman isn’t the tyrant or the vicious, troubled man others have enjoyed writing Bats as. He is crazy, yes, but he has a compulsion to turn his pain into hope. That’s kind of what volume one of King’s run is about.
While volume four, The War of Jokes and Riddles, is probably King’s best Batman book, this one is worth a read. The story is fine but the execution is excellent. The art is gorgeous and way more realistic than what we’ve had to settle for in the past. The Batsuit looks great. Bruce is a handsome devil. Alfred steals the show.