Written by Tom King
Pencils by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Oclair Albert, Scott Hanna, Marcelo Maiolo
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: September 7, 2016
In this stand-alone epilogue to I Am Gotham, Batman tries to save Gotham Girl from herself.
This issue inverts what we might think of as a typical Batman story. There’s minimal mystery, and what action and crimefighting there is serves as mere punctuation to what is, at base, a story of Batman trying to connect emotionally with a grieving Gotham Girl.
In the last issue, Gotham Girl killed her brother, the rampaging wannabe-hero Gotham, in order to save the city. The emotional lynchpin of that issue was Gotham Girl overcoming he fear in order to do what was necessary to stop her brother. Now she’s dealing with the fallout. She loved her brother more than anyone in the world, she relied on him for guidance, for companionship, and now he’s gone.
Gotham Girl copes by throwing herself into her work, saving the city from crime. She stops communicating with the world around her, instead having conversations with her dead brother. In Gotham Girl’s world, her brother is still there, an invisible passenger in her head, commenting on the situations she gets into, giving advice and admonishments. The Gotham that lives in her head urges her to keep on track, to save the city. To do anything to avoid thinking about what she’s done, what he did, and how she’ll never see him again.
The problem is that Gotham Girl dies a little every time she uses her powers, which means she’s killing herself to cope with her grief. Batman spends the issue trying to catch up with her, to reason with her, to get her to stop and face her anguish in a more healthy way. He finally manages to get her to release her emotions by empathizing with her, in an emotional scene that cuts to the core of Batman’s character.
This issue is a subtle and poignant exploration of loss and grief, and the ways we cope with them. In a comic where Gotham Girl vanquishes obscure bat-foes like Colonel Blimp, Captain Stingaree, and Kite Man, our focus is locked on her running conversation with her dead brother. Batman, meanwhile, is on a mission to stop Gotham Girl from losing herself to crimefighting, and to do that he has to grapple with his own loss.
Reis’s pencils, with inks by Prado, Albert, and Hanna, are top notch, detailed and realistic throughout. There’s a great effect throughout the issue where the art fades to white at the borders. It starts subtly, on the first page with a mirror Gotham Girl looks in as she shaves her head. Gradually the effect spreads over the course of the issue, until near the end entire backgrounds are omitted in favor of pure whitespace. It’s a powerful effect, correlating with Gotham Girl’s ever-increasing tunnel-vision focus on her crimefighting, until by the penultimate page even Batman is rendered as white with an inked outline. The coordination between the penciler, the inkers, and the colorist, Marcelo Maiolo, creates an effect that gives further heft to Gotham Girl’s torment.
There’s no real resolution to this plot, but there’s never really a resolution to grief and mourning. The final page sets up a mission by Batman to recover a Comic Book Magic device that he hopes to use to cure Gotham Girl. What King does with this will be interesting to see; it seems doubtful that Gotham Girl’s problems will be solved by a magic macguffin.
In the meantime, Batman #6 was one of the most powerful comic books I’ve read this year. It’s a poignant capstone on the I Am Gotham storyline, lays the groundwork for future stories, and serves as an emotional standalone tale of grief.
The Verdict: 9.5/10