It's nice to read a comic and feel surprised at the end.
The solicits and promotion of this particular issue have been hot and heavy for a few months now, with released panels depicting Bane's chat with the Psycho Pirate (a tremendous opening scene). We know that Batman will be putting together his own Suicide Squad. We know that Batman is going to try and save Gotham girl. We know that Mikel Janin is FINALLY starting his time as top-billed Bat-artist. But after that general knowledge, this issue still delivered a jolt of excitement with Easter Eggs strewn about willy nilly.
Tom King excels when he puts characters through the ringer, and he does so with Bane at the beginning: we see the torturous youth, the nearly exhausted determination, we see his pride in overcoming Venom, and we see how he can use Psycho Pirate for his own personal gain. Through five pages we get more to the heart of the character than we have in years, and Janin conveys it all exquisitely.
Seriously, ever since his work on Grayson, Mikel Janin has been one of those "Why in the WORLD isn't he more praised?!"-kind of artists. His grasp of the classic superhero form is flawless, his tight inks on his own pencils gives a really clean look, and by god does his cowl look tremendous. It's amazing how crazy-different his Batman and Bruce Wayne are, and that's something that I really respect - one shouldn't be able to see Batman through Wayne, or at least I believe so. Why else have a secret identity?
And then there's the Arkham inmates! Littered throughout Batman's time in the asylum we get brief glimpses of the different baddies that the Dark Knight has put there (which he references himself like a ****ing badass), and my absolute shriek-when-I-saw-it moment came from a blonde inmate drawing a Legion of Superheroes symbol on the glass in her cell. Is it Saturn Girl?! WHO KNOWS I HOPE THEY COME BACK TO THAT.
The revelations of Batman's hand-pick team members are surprising, but we quickly learn Batman's way of thinking when he picks each one. I'm so glad the identity of these characters weren't leaked, because the shock of seeing some of these characters (especially in how they are introduced) was fascinating. Again, credit to King for his superior back-issue-knowledge and scene-setting, and credit to Janin for rendering these meetings so deftly. And the last one? Holy hell, I was preparing for something completely different, but the revelation caused a mile-wide smile.
I'm thrilled we get to read this book now - the wait has been nigh-unbearable. Janin has lived up to our expectations, if not exceeded them. King continues to weave stories that show a layered version of the Caped Crusader, as well as convey just how much he loves the DC universe. This was an absolute gem of an issue, so thank God we only have to wait two more weeks for the next tone.