(w) Joshua Williamson (a) Guillem March (c) Tomeu Morey
There’s been discussions about how Doomsday Clock is screwing with DC’s creators’ ability to tell stories, and “The Price” is just the latest example. This concluding chapter of the Batman/Flash crossover is maligned by overarching “DC Rebirth” plot which should be addressed in Doomsday Clock and having to deal with the shitshow that is Heroes in Crisis. While “The Price” clears the low bar set by Heroes in Crisis, it invariably reads as a collection of tropes and elements found in much better stories.
Joshua Williamson had an unenviable task with this story arc, and all things considered I can’t see anyone else doing much better. Batman #65 is ultimately a straightforward comic that sees Flash act heroic and Batman, as he has done throughout the Rebirth era, act like a dick. Lives are saved, and bad guys lose, and there’s a cliffhanger to bring you back for the conclusion. There is also built up tension and animosity between the two leads because of what’s transpired in Heroes in Crisis. But perhaps most interestingly, Williamson’s script conveys a level of frustration with the event book felt by fans. Rather than an interesting look at trauma and mental health through the lens of superheroes, it’s a whodunnit murder-mystery like the equally divisive Identity Crisis. This is best summed up in Flash’s line to Gotham Girl about Wally.
Unfortunately, that is the only high-point of the book. Everything else reads as a smorgasbord of stuff from better stories. Batman’s plans going wrong is a callback to JLA: Tower of Babel and even The OMAC Project. Both times The Flash and Batman try to talk down Gotham Girl, readers are taken back to the famous “you’re stronger than you think you are” moment from All Star Superman. Even fighting the zombie-like clones of Gotham and Gotham Girl seems pulled from the pages of Blackest Night. Everywhere you turn, there is a reminder of a better (not necessarily great, but better) story.
One other positive that this issue has going for it is Guillem March’s artwork. As a whole, it is very aesthetically pleasing. The opening sequence with Gotham Girl flying high above the city streets is beautiful, even if it is maligned by an over-abundance of text boxes. His use of layouts is also much cleaner than other DC artists, mostly utilizing large panels and only bringing in smaller ones to call attention to details of note. There is only one instance, in which Flash leaves Batman behind, where readers may need to take a second glance to figure out what exactly is happening.
Ultimately, Batman #65 isn’t a colossal failure, nor is it a triumph. It is simply a prime example of mediocrity, extracting an emphatic “meh” from readers, and that’s the worst thing. Heroes in Crisis will likely join Identity Crisis in being reviled in due time. People still talk about the failure that is All Star Batman & Robin, The Boy Wonder. But comics like “The Price,” which is so painfully average, will be all but forgotten in time.