Batman was one of the few of DC’s New 52 series that was an unqualified success. Happily, the re-launched title gets a strong start in the Rebirth era with I Am Gotham.
A series of terrorist attacks rocks Gotham City and very nearly claims Batman’s life. But the arrival of two earnest new heroes, Gotham and Gotham Girl, could be a turning point for the beleaguered town. The brother and sister carry the inspiration of Batman and the power set of Superman and are eager to save their namesake city. The Dark Knight digs into the duo’s past, even as he cautiously begins to mentor them. But an encounter with Hugo Strange, who controls the highly dangerous Psycho Pirate, redirects the story of Gotham and Gotham Girl toward a heartbreaking tragedy.
Writer Tom King has been doing some of the most inspired work in the comic book world recently and brings a lot of ideas and energy to Batman. He handles the book’s star very deftly, blending in the disparate strands of the Batman/Bruce Wayne composite in thoughtful, impactful ways. A conversation Batman has with Alfred when facing what he thinks is his inevitable demise is highly affecting, as is a climactic scene with the sadly damaged Gotham Girl that shows off Batman’s often overlooked compassion. King constructs a Batman that’s complex, multi-faceted and compelling.
Contrasting the veteran hero with the eager, fresh-scrubbed Gothams is an inspired choice. King uses a clever riff on Batman’s own origin to bring the new characters to life. Batman-as-mentor is always a fascinating tack and King explores that not only with the Gothams, but with the intriguing Duke Thomas, Batman’s latest protégé. Other cast members are well-used, including the flinty Jim Gordon and an especially droll Alfred (who gets some of the story’s best lines). King also uses the city itself quite effectively, nailing that oft-promised but difficult-to-deliver intention of the city itself featuring as a character in the story. Overall, I Am Gotham is a strong start for King’s tenure on the book.
Superstar David Finch is the primary artist for the arc. Working with A-list inkers Matt Banning, Dani Miki and Sandra Hope, as well as acclaimed colorist Jordie Bellaire, Finch produces some of his best work in recent memory. He’s reined in some of his more distracting quirks and achieves a nice blend of bold superhero action spiced with noir and horror touches that gives the book a strong visual hook. There’s a lot of energy to the storytelling, as Finch and his collaborators infuse dramatic tension and a palpable unease across their pages. They’re especially adept at nailing the big moments; Finch is never better than when tackling widescreen splash sequences that let him assay big ideas. In addition, fans get contributions from Mikel Janin (who illustrated the Rebirth launch special) and Ivan Reis (who handles the Epilog), both doing their usual first-rate work.
I Am Gotham is a strong start to a new era for Batman, providing a good entry point for new readers and promising some exciting developments to come.