Writer: Tom King
Artist: Matt Wagner
Colors: Tomeu Morey
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Family. A quintessential cornerstone for Batman is family. Whether it’s his immediate family or extended Bat-Family, each and every one of them plays an important role in Bruce’s life. Yet amongst this family Dick Grayson has always had the closest tie to Bruce, with the history of shared tragedy as well as Dick becoming Robin to a young Batman and the two have fought crime side by side for years. So it’s not hard to see why it’s Dick who comes to Gotham to help Bruce get over his heartache of being left at the altar. It’s this intervention that becomes another fantastic issue of Tom King’s run on Batman.
Ever since Batman #50 its become apparent to everyone, including Bruce that he is not handling being left at the altar well and it is affecting him in and out of the cowl. Who better to help lift Bruce’s spirit then Dick Grayson, fresh off of stepping into the Bat suit while Bruce fulfilled his Constitutional requirement of Jury Duty. It’s always been a theme that Bruce and Dick took to vigilantism in different ways, where Bruce is dark and pensive Dick is upbeat and jovial, cracking jokes while knocking out criminals while Batman is solemn and only speaks when information is needed (insert Christian Bale Bat Voice Now). This dynamic has made for some enjoyable tales and Batman #54 will join this pantheon of great stories. From it’s present day story of Nightwing’s constant refusal to accept that Bruce is okay but not pushing Bruce to open up. Rather he is a friendly shoulder for his ‘father figure’ to lean on while they deal with two of Batman’s more eclectic villains, Crazy Quilt and the Condiment King. Tom King also flashes back to the early days of the Dynamic Duo when it was Bruce consoling Dick after the loss of his parents. The interaction and emotions in Batman #54 feel authentic and true to the characters rich histories. It’s clear that King doesn’t just get Bruce but has a great grasp of the entirety of the Bat-Family as his portrayal of Dick Grayson is one of the best I’ve read in some time. His optimism and loyalty ever present and even though he may not be able to cure what ales Bruce he at least can help him see better days are on the horizon and sometimes its ok to open up and let your loved ones help you through your darkest hour.
I feel like I can’t rain any more platitudes upon Tom King. Every time I see Batman in my pull pile I know I’m in for another outstanding read. King’s storytelling and pacing are near perfect, as he moves from long arcs to smaller arcs and intermingles one-off stories like Batman #54 into the mix to keep the reader engaged and waiting for the next issue. Joining King on Batman #54 is legendary comic creator Matt Wagner who not only has a storied past in indie comics (Mage & Grendel) but also has a rich history with Batman (Batman: Faces, Batman & Grendel 1 & 2, and Trinity). Wagner’s art has a classic comic feel with cartoony characters and wonderfully expressive work. Sadly this may be the last time that Wagner works for DC since his son Brennan was originally going to color his fathers work, as he is currently doing on Mage: the Hero Denied but at the last minute DC decided to use Tomeu Morey instead, which is their prerogative but with a story of family and of fathers and sons it would have been great to see Brennan’s name alongside his fathers on the front credits. Hopefully Wagner and DC can put the situation behind them and we can see more Matt Wagner work in King’s Batman.
Verdict:Batman #54 is yet another great installment of the Tom King Batman run. With it’s story set in the modern DC universe as well as they early days of the Dynamic Duo King is able to show the importance of family in the Bat-Universe and in particular the relationship that Bruce and Dick share. It’s another great achievement in this soon to be historic run.