Batman Vol. 2: I Am Suicide
Writer: Tom King
Artists: Mikel Janín & Hugo Petreus (“I Am Suicide”), Mitch Gerads (“Rooftops”)
Colorists: June Chung (“I Am Suicide”) & Mitch Gerads (“Rooftops”)
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Cover: Mikel Janín
Publisher: DC Comics
A review by Nico Sprezzatura.
With a hot property like Batman, you best believe that DC Comics isn’t going to leave their prized cash cow in feeble hands — especially after a blockbuster run by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo for the New 52.
When Tom King (late of DC’s own Omega Men, as well as Marvel’s critically-acclaimed The Vision) was announced to be taking over the Dark Knight in time for DC’s Rebirth relaunch, a collective sigh of relief seemed to wash over an apprehensive public. King’s first arc on the title, “I Am Gotham”, was sufficiently entertaining, but it definitely gave me the sense that his best was yet to come.
Batman Vol. 2: I Am Suicide, which collects the stories “I Am Suicide” and “Rooftops”, build on King’s first arc while adding some intriguing new wrinkles to the mix. The former sees Batman forming an impromptu Suicide Squad for the sake of taking down Bane, while the latter is a reflection on Bruce’s relationship with Selina Kyle, otherwise known as Catwoman. They’re both very different stories, but display the duality of our hero’s dichotomous lives as both Bruce Wayne and Batman.
Perhaps the biggest story to come out of these span of issues—which you may or may not have expected from its title—was the revelation that Bruce Wayne experienced suicidal thoughts after the death of his parents, partly inspired by King’s own struggles with his mortality as a youth.
It’s not a twist that comes out of nowhere, especially if you’re familiar with the character, but I’m fairly certain this is the first we’ve ever ever heard of it in Bruce’s own words. By contextualizing why Bruce does what he does in way that makes so much sense, it lends a new sense of empathy to the character; he wasn’t merely sad or depressed upon losing his parents, but destroyed. Again, it’s a development we probably already knew to be true in some form or another, but that doesn’t make it any less affecting.
The story itself is good, but it’s absolutely heightened by Mikel Janín’s art. Janín, who previously worked with King on Grayson, delivers reliably fantastic visuals here. “I Am Suicide” marks his official debut on the series proper, following the Batman: Rebirth one-shot he illustrated back in June.
My understanding is that he and David Finch (who provided the art on “I Am Gotham”) are officially co-artists to accommodate Batman’s twice-monthly shipping schedule, but I have to say I prefer Janín’s output —and that’s not entirely because he draws one hell of a sexy Bruce Wayne.
Complemented (and in many cases, enhanced) by colorist June Chung, Janín’s art has an interesting softness to it that you may not expect from DC’s flagship Batman title, while still delivering the edge you’d expect in heavier action scenes. If you were a fan of his work on Grayson (and how could you not be?), then you’re in for a real treat here.
Mitch Gerads (who, again, most recently worked with King on their creator-owned Vertigo series The Sheriff of Babylon) illustrates “Rooftops,” a two-part coda to “I Am Suicide” focusing on Bruce’s relationship with Selina. I like “I Am Suicide”, but I love “Rooftops.”
Yeah, there’s punching and superhero shenanigans within, but they’re not the draw. Rather, it’s the shared intimacy and history between Bruce and Selina, which hasn’t gotten much focus in recent years. Batman and Catwoman easily have one of the most iconic romances in all of popular culture, and with “Rooftops”, an interesting quirk of King’s writing proves to be true: he’s at his best when delivering character-based stories.
It was true of his work on Omega Men and The Vision, and it’s especially true of his Batman run thus far. All things considered, King is an odd pick for such a reliable meat-and-potatoes seller like Batman, and that might be the key to its appeal right now. The weirder Batman gets as it moves along, the better.
(And I’d be remiss to not mention letterer Clayton Cowles, whose work is very good here. The bits of narration that are told through letters between Bruce and Selina are rendered in pieces of paper, which is an especially nice touch.)
With “I Am Suicide,” Tom King recontextualizes Batman as a strong —yet exceedingly vulnerable— crimefighter who proves that even the baddest superheroes aren’t bulletproof. If you haven’t been keeping up with King’s Batman up to this point but looking to jump aboard, I’d even recommend starting here.