This Week’s Finest: Batman #13

431059-_sx1280_ql80_ttd_by Tom King, Mikel Janin & June Chung

“Between what I’ve done and who you are; well, it’s just impossible isn’t it?”  

After much initial excitement upon it’s announcement, DC Rebirth’s Batman title has consistently been a comic that was good and sometimes great, but not as great as I would’ve have hoped for. That’s been the case until this week’s issue #13, an installment where everything comes together seamlessly and is executed to near perfection.

Despite the inherent bombast of it’s title and setting; King, Janin and Chung’s I Am Suicide arc has felt like a slow burn up until last issue’s double page spread bonanza. While #13 is perhaps less ambitious and artful; I’d argue it’s the best chapter of story arc overall for how well it functions as the arc’s conclusion. As is King’s modus operandi; the plot structure is orchestrated sublimely for how it flips much of the previous chapter’s event’s to coalesce here in it’s thrilling finale. Previously established assumptions are rapidly debunked while each of the books disparate cast is utilized brilliantly within the overall story. I Am Suicide ends up being more like a DC comic’s Oceans 11 by this issue, but it does so in a way that is distinctly enjoyable to the series own logic and world building. I’ve never seen Psycho Pirate and The Ventriloquist portrayed as they are here, but that portrayal is so incredibly spot on that it’s hard to believe nobody thought of it until now. From Bronze Tiger to Bane, #13 is packed full of these little moments that are great fun for any reader familiar with DC’s expansive catalogue of delightfully weird characters. Yet Batman is still a comic that is specifically about Batman and the way it mines a sort of essential truth about the character, one that like the aforementioned Pirate/Ventriloquist scene, is totally obvious but  has never been explored outside of here and profound for it’s penetrating simplicity. The context of Batman’s letter to Selina Kyle/Catwoman in issue #12 plays into that heavily, as does the majority of Bane’s usage in the entire arc, but #13 is where it is beautifully contextualized to great effect.

While Mikel Janin’s art for the I Am Suicide arc has been consistently enjoyable, issue #13 is easily his best work. By taking over the inking, his art has a more natural and organic feel. Where as portions of his of his art on past issues of this arc have felt almost photorealistic, issue #13 looks more like art that is drawn realistically, and it looks all the better for it. Janin is equal parts a master of character acting and visceral action, making him a natural for superhero comics. Like on his past work with King on Grayson (along with co-writer Tim Seely and colorist Jeremy Cox) Batman #13 share’s that series aptitude for Janin’s application of those skillsets along with it’s brilliant panel placement and page construction. The attention to detail that Janin use’s to tell the story visually is engrossing and expertly crafted. Unlike Grayson, Batman #13’s art feel’s inherently different as a finished product. Where as Grayson veered towards a more cartoonish visual aesthetic, like a light hearted version of Capullo and co’s New 52 Batman, Batman #13 is all washed out and burnt with a latent element of realism. The difference is mostly attributed to colorist June Chung, who manages to take nothing away from Janin’s overall strength’s while giving the artwork an inherent sheen of natural beauty. Chung’s colors hue towards a darker contrast, but it’s done so in a way that make’s the brighter shades feel ethereal, like how a single flower can stick out in a garden for the vibrancy of it’s tone. She has a unique understanding of  comics coloring in her Batman work that feels organic yet awe inspiring.

Batman has existed for decades and is well represented in popular culture to the point of oversaturation for nearly three decades. It’s difficult to tell an original story with the character, especially one that is a deep character piece. Batman #13 accomplishes all that with an ease and naturalism that’s singular to the talents of King, Janin & Chung. It’s Batman and this series potential fully realized.

“It’s not impossible. It’s Batman”

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