Batman: Killing Time (2022)
Reprints Batman: Killing Time #1-6
Written by Tom King
Art by David Marquez
I don’t think this is a controversial opinion, but here goes: The most interesting thing about the Batman mythos is his villains. If you had to compare Batman to another superhero based on everything surrounding the character, Spider-Man is your best bet. Yet, Spider-Man is a character often more interesting than many of his rogues while still having some fascinating baddies in the mix. Batman, on the other hand, is a one-note character for me; of course, it all depends on who is writing. I’m always eager to see what the villains are up to, though, and this mini-series by Tom King focuses mainly on two of them, a pair we don’t see too often: The Riddler and Catwoman.
During Batman’s second year of costumed crime-fighting in Gotham, Killing Time follows The Riddler & Catwoman, who have just ripped off the Wayne corporation to the tune of 1.5 million in cash. It wasn’t their plan; they were the hired help, with their contact being another newbie, The Penguin. Upon delivery of the money, The Riddler and Catwoman decide they would like all the money instead of some of it and go on the run. They must leave the city as all of Gotham on both sides of the law are after them now. You didn’t think they could escape Batman, right? Well, they don’t, but the Dark Knight bites off more than he can chew as the stakes escalate and escalate, and…well, you know what I mean. And then we get a final issue that you’re either going to love or hate, with the entire series told in a disjointed non-linear fashion that gives me a bit of a headache.
This mini is one of many penned by DC artist-in-residence Tom King. If you’ve read my last review of a King project (The Watchmen spin-off Rorschach), then you know I am not a huge fan. I started out giving him a fair shake with Marvel’s The Vision, and even his Batman run and Mister Miracle mini were pretty good. However, I am starting to think the man is coasting on the quality of the art in his books because the writing is getting a tad…how shall we say, bad. King and I have incredibly different perspectives on the human condition. His is informed by working as a CIA agent during the Iraq War; mine is by thinking that is a despicable thing to do with the life you have on this planet. King’s mindset is one of neoliberalism, which is reflected in his comic work.
King has this thing where he creates a fascinating hook, but then by the end of his stories, the moral is always, “The status quo is good, so don’t rock the boat.” It can often be subtle, but it is there in a really insidious manner. He’s not the only comics writer to ever push that ideology; it is the foundation of almost all American superhero comics. He writes the villains in this book to be sympathetic to a point. That’s how all his “bad guys” are. We can understand them just a lil’ bit, but in the end, we need to remember that the masked crazy people called “heroes” are good guys.
King works operate at such a shallow surface level. It’s the same way he presents politics in social media. Should we be surprised that this comes from a guy who *volunteered to join the CIA* and serve in Iraq? Before, I could at least say the guy had a firm handle on the craft, but Killing Time is so confoundingly out of sequence that it ceases to be fun by the end. There’s a lot of time spent flipping back a few pages to get a sense of when & where the present moment is. He also introduces villains like The Help, who I don’t think served a narrative purpose other than being another person for Batman to fight. There’s a twist where the real mastermind behind this all is revealed, and it was an opportunity to spotlight someone who doesn’t get much attention, a C-lister from the Batman back benches. But nope, as soon as he’s brought into the story, King finds a way to exit him quickly, and it wraps up.
I’ve noticed a common thread throughout King’s work, and it is sort of sad if I could have much sympathy for the guy. He constantly puts forward “good guys” who do bad things and are really sorry about it. I can’t help but think he’s working some guilt out in the funny pages. Honestly, he should be haunted by what he did, but he doesn’t seem interested in actually atoning for his crimes. I’m sure he’s got another 12-issue run in him about a well-meaning murderer to make us empathize with.