Batman #59 is written by Tom King with artwork and cover by Mikel Janin, .
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Caught between Batman and his unseen enemy, the Penguin has to think on his feet to avoid being taken down by either side. If he chooses one way, he goes to jail; if he chooses the other, he ends up dead. Then again, the choice seems obvious. Is Batman ready for a new kind of avian sidekick?
I didn’t think that things could get any more tense following the last issue but Batman #59 is essentially a whole world of tense. Building from the last issue we’re treated to not one but two nail biting confrontations for The Dark Knight.
Tom King has crafted a very clever issue which flip-flops between Batman confronting Penguin following issue #58 and his arrival at Arkham to confront Bane in the present.
It’s a tough call as to which is the more successful narrative. Bruce’s confrontation with Penguin gives the character some long overdue emotional development. As he slowly betrays Bane, writing his own death note in the process, we begin to understand his motivations. It’s a complex scene but perfectly crafted to set the Bat on a specific trajectory towards Bane.
The sequence with Bane is a little more unpredictable. Each panel I expected the supposedly incarcerated Bane to flip anad grab Batman by the throat. But that moment never came.
Instead we get an incredibly one sided exchange as Batman gets increasingly angry at Bane for NOT rising to the occasion. Finally we’re seeing Bruce’s anger at the shooting of Nightwing come to the surface. It’s intense to watch and my jaw was on the floor at the moment Jim Gordon arrived to break the tension.
This is easily one of Tom King’s best issues during his Batman run. I would have said the same last issue also. Whilst he has trotted out almost all the A list villains in the sandbox he’s utilised them with great care and sensibility. Nothing about this arc feels sensationalist in any sense of the term.
Mikel Janin renders the story beautifully. I’ve always said I will never hear a bad thing said about Janin. Batman just looks exactly as he should. He’s foreboding without ever being obscurely proportioned.
Similarly Penguin feels incredibly authentic. He’s a character whom I find is often augmented to meet a writers needs but in this case he feels true to his original characterisation.
Bane is playing a role here so there’s no room for authenticity. Instead he exists to make the reader feel morally ambiguous. We know he’s pulling the strings behind-the-scenes but the more he forces his catatonic ranting the harder it becomes not to be convinced by it. His final panel, his face smiling, is so cold and calculating it sent a shiver down my spine.
Batman #59 is a triumph of an issue. Intense and nail biting throughout this is Tim King and Mikel Janin at their very best. Batman just regained it’s crown as my #1 go-to book.