Review by Paul Bowler
It’s a case of better the devil you know in Batman #9 as the Dark Knight embarks on a mission to return Psycho Pirate to Gotham so he can save Gotham Girl. Recruiting a team from the bowels of Arkham’s most deranged and dangerous to break into an impregnable prison in order to take something from one of his deadliest enemies, there’s no doubt that Batman has had some crazy ideas in his time, but this could be suicide!
Tom King really begins to stamp his mark on the series with this issue of Batman. I Am Suicide Part 1 is a wonderfully brooding and menacing opening to this new story arc. King brings us a frighteningly graphic and nightmarish glimpse into Bane’s psyche forged in brutality right from the outset, one that’s chilling in the extreme, and it makes Bane‘s presence feel all the more formidable and ominous as a result. Psycho Pirate is also something of a revelation here; and his role is potentially the most intriguing one of all.
The embellishments King waves into the narrative are sublime, there’s a wonderful scene with Alfred, and a nostalgic tip of the hat to the Batman TV series, but ultimately it is Batman’s decision to accept Amanda Walker’s proposition that brings him to Arkham, and that’s were the issue really notches up the suspense. The Dark Knight’s recruitment drive is uncompromising, calculated, and full of surprises. There’s a host of familiar faces here, some old, some newer, some unexpected, and King is clearly relishing every moment here as Batman’s makes his way through this ghoulish pick-and-mix of madness and mayhem to form his team.
Mikel Janin’s excellent pencils and inks on this issue gloriously flesh out the powerful nuances and subtexts within every scene, matching the beats of King’s tautly scripted plot perfectly, and the result is stunning. The psychological horror and revulsion of that opening scene alone nearly drowns you in terror, Janin’s rendition of Bane is as mesmerising as it is intimidating, this makes the contrast with the tender emotional scenes with Gotham Girl all the more striking, and if ever there was a money shot in comics then our glimpse of the Dark Knight standing outside the gates of Arkham in this issue will totally blow you away. June Chung’s colors are equally magnificent, with deep shadows, aquatic hues, and hazy dread dominating early scenes, while Arkham’s interior with its red railings and opaque off-white walls, and resplendent atmospheric gloom are just some of the many visual highlights that fires the imagination as the issue unfolds.
Indeed, there’s a legion of foreshadowing to enjoy, and hints that several things are going to spin out from the issue. The final addition to Batman’s team brokers no argument as this issue draws to a closes in fine style. I’ve been enjoying Tom King’s run since he took over on Batman. Sure, I had a few misgivings and some slight niggles with the early issues, but those gradually ironed out. His approach to Batman has ushered in a fresh new era and simultaneously widened the scope of Batman‘s world and has made him even more integral to the rest of the DCU overall. It takes time to get used to a new creative team sometimes, I Am Gotham got things off to a good start post Rebirth, Night of the Monster Men had its moments, but I feel that with Batman #9 Tom King is really hitting his stride now and bang on the money with this first instalment of I Am Suicide.
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Tom King / Pencils & Inks: Mikel Janin
Colors: June Chung / Clayton Cowles: Letters
Cover: Mikel Janin / Variant Cover: Tim Sale and Rico Renzi