Batman needs to spring Psycho-Pirate from the island prison Santa Prisca. The problem is Bane is running the prison, making it almost impenetrable. To make an impossible mission possible, Batman puts together his own Suicide Squad comprising of Catwoman, the Ventriloquist, Bronze Tiger, and Punch and Jewelee. Considering Batman’s broken history with Bane, is this mission too suicidal even for him?
This storyline starts off well with Batman visiting Arkham Asylum to recruit his team members. Tom King’s choice of some of the lesser-known villains was refreshing. Unfortunately, Punch and Jewelee felt like a watered-down version of the Joker & Harley Quinn; their banter verged on annoying at times. And Bronze Tiger didn’t have much to do or add to the plot. But the Ventriloquist was intriguing and written well by King. It was also good to see Catwoman playing such a major role in this story. She adds suspense as you’re never quite sure whose side she’s on.
Bane is a solitary, brooding presence in this storyline. His appearance stirs memories of Marlon Brando’s portrayal of Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, head shaven and insane. What doesn’t work so well is Batman’s showdown with Bane. After an exciting build-up, Tom King writes it as a simple revenge story, penning a shallow, vengeful dark knight who wants to do to Bane what Bane did to him in the Knightfall storyline. The original mission to get Psycho-Pirate out of the prison seems secondary to Batman’s selfish and reckless desire to hurt Bane.
What saves this volume is the two-part “Rooftops” which acts as an epilogue to the “I am Suicide” storyline. It focuses on Batman and Catwoman’s complicated relationship as they spend a night pursuing each other across the rooftops of Gotham. King tones down the narrative and lets Mitch Gerads’ atmospheric artwork do the talking. Gotham City looks stunning in these pages, a fitting background to Bruce and Selina’s emotional journey, as the pair try to make sense of their roles as well as their relationship.
Overall, Batman: I am Suicide is a complicated and uneven chapter in the Rebirth Batman saga. It is shot through with moments of excellence, but feels like it could’ve been so much more. The artwork is, mostly, very, very good. The writing runs hot and cold, sometimes it’s great, other times not so much.
Collects BATMAN #9-15
[I received a digital ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.]