Thursday, May 28, 2020

Batman: Gotham Nights #6 Review

The OG is OOC

Writer: Mark Russell
Artist: Viktor Bogdanovic, Jonathan Glapion, Ivan Placencia, and Tom Napolitano
Cover Price: $0.99
Release Date: May 26, 2020

Mark Russell is back with another Gotham Nights story, and while I haven't loved his stuff so far, it has been far from terrible.  That may not sound like a compliment, but nowadays, it is.  To me, this issue is the most "Mark Russell" one so far, so let's see how it is, shall we?

The story starts off with the idea that Batman has stopped going after the Big Bads of Gotham and is now focusing on the little guys.  He admits that cutting the head isn't working, so he will start cutting off the fingers.  As a Batman fan, it rubbed me the wrong way from the beginning.  

It's easy to see what Russell is getting at here, and while this is undoubtedly a real-world problem and why our prisons are maxed out, it just makes Batman look like a complete dick.  I'm guessing you might be thinking, "Yea, Batman is always a dick!" and I know there are a ton of classic stories where Batman is not necessarily the good guy. Still, without any setup or development, this whole thing reeks of a writer with a social issue forcing into a comic, and this just so happens to be Batman he's writing at the moment.  

One of my biggest problems with Mark Russell's Batman stories is the feeling that he thinks his big plot ideas are smarter than they end up being.  Maybe it's the limited space, but the approach that Batman is overcrowding the Gotham jails, which leads to health care cuts, which leads to the Joker seizing the opportunity to cause chaos sounds reasonable enough on paper, but the comic gets boring real quick.  Also, Batman not stepping up to stop the process right away feels so off.  Sure, he figures it out by the end, but only after the Joker drops the big shocker that Batman is the bad guy of the story.  I should put "shocker" in quotes since Batman is the only one that hasn't seen what Russell has been doing here, and Batman's surprise just pounds in the forced nature of the whole shebang!  World's Greatest Detective, indeed!

To add to the fun, Russell throws in the evils of social media, consumerism, and just the fact that desperate people will do anything and evil people will be there to take advantage of them.  Is Batman there to save the day?  Nope, he is a big part of the problem and takes a backseat through most of the issue anyway.

I mentioned in my review for Gotham Nights #5 that Russell got Batman well enough, but didn't seem to have an interesting Batman story to say.  Maybe I was wrong because here he doesn't seem to get Batman at all, and this story might be captivating with a change of address.  I understand that he is trying to break down conventions and use some of the Batman (and Bruce Wayne) tropes as a symbol and then twist them, but you still have to be faithful to your main character and not write him out of character only to suit your forced narrative.

The art by Viktor Bogdanovic is decent.  When he draws anything Batman, it does point out that his style apes Greg Capullo's, and while I guess that's not a bad thing, it is obvious.  

Overall, this story might have been better with a little more space and some setup leading to Batman's decision to fight crime on a smaller level.  Without any desperation behind it, it's something that didn't feel right.  This is Batman walling up the KGBeast in the sewer because "I'm plum out of ideas."

Bits and Pieces:

Mark Russell brings some critical social commentary to Gotham, but it doesn't pass the sniff test as a Batman comic book.  The Joker is the real star, but the whole thing feels misplaced.  It's a joke that you know the punchline too immediately, but have to sit through 20 minutes for the comedian to get to it.   That isn't much fun, and even if that's not Russell's goal here, it's a slog to get through.


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