Batman’s descent into his nightmares continues with memories of what might have been. As Catwoman and Lois Lane get nicely sozzled in the Fortress of Solitude Bruce endures the bachelor party from hell with a bemused Clark Kent.
This issue was considerably less enjoyable (and less effective) than most of the rest of King’s run. It seemed to rehash territory which has already been well explored in previous story lines — most notably the ‘double date’ issue from before the misfired wedding. This is not to say that this wasn’t a fun story (Lois orders a trio of Superbots to perform a strip tease, for God’s sake) but it didn’t propel the narrative with anywhere near the same force as the previous installations of this arc.
The narrative structure also raised a few questions for me, such as if Bruce knows that all of this is a fiction that is constructed in order to destroy him (and he does: that fact is repeatedly referenced within the text) why is he passively accepting it? Previous nightmares seemed to draw him closer to a revelation which could conceivably help him to escape the Nightmare Gas, but this one did nothing but reinforce the fact of his own self-chosen isolation — something which he has already confronted.
There’s also a problem presented by the side-plot with Selena. If this is Bruce’s nightmare, why has so much time been invested in her story? Within the context of the dream, the fact that Selena is capable of real friendship, of letting her guard down and relaxing with another human being, could be a means of torturing Bruce with the inescapable knowledge of his own inadequacy. Additionally, all of those cheesecake shots of Selena and Lois getting naked massages (delivered by a simulacra of Bruce’s ‘perfect’ best friend, natch) and bathing together (again, naked) in the bath of sensual delight could be a means of torturing Bruce with the knowledge of all that he can never have, but (and this is a proviso the size of Alaska) it’s only torture if he knows what he’s missing and there’s no on-panel evidence that he does. So. Who are these revelations (and pictures of floating boobies) for? I mean, I enjoyed them. Amanda Conner is a hell of an artist. She can be erotic without being sleazy, and that’s a boon to every lesbian and bisexual woman alive. But the inclusion of such scenes did nothing to propel the story that King has so carefully been building. These revelations were there to underline a point for the reader. They did not do so in a way which effectively contributed to the story because they were not revelations to Bruce. This is meant to be his psychological journey and he got nothing out of it.
As I said, the art was wonderful. Conner’s style is a bit more cartoonish than is usual for this line, but it provided a nice change of pace from the usual style of the book. The coloring was effective and the lettering was on-point, as usual. If this were any other book, by any other author, I would have given it higher marks. However, by King’s standards, it was a low-achiever. Let’s hope that the situation improves in number 69.
Although the art is as arresting as the plot, the story (and it’s unworkable shift in perspective) leaves a lot to be desired. This is something of a low-point for an otherwise fascinating arc.
Batman #68: Super Stripper
Writing - 6.5/106.5/10
Storyline - 8/108/10
Art - 8.5/108.5/10
Color - 8/108/10
Cover Art - 7.5/107.5/10
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