By Tom King, Mitch Gerads, and Clayton Cowles
The newest issue of Batman has the unique pairing of the caped crusader with the one and only, Swamp Thing. There has been a murder and the Gotham PD and Batman find themselves solving the murder of someone Swamp Thing knew. Batman #23 takes a diversion from the Bane storyline with this team-up issue, And a look inside the personal life of Swamp Thing. Batman takes more of a backseat this issue, using mostly his detective skills to solve the murder. The issue is a beautiful look at loss and grief that takes a step back from our Batman storyline with an intimate tale between two heroes who have more in common then we thought.
A huge part of Batman and his origin is tied up in grief; specifically, the grief he experienced from the death of his Mom and Dad drove him to become Batman and defined his life. Batman #23 has Batman assuming the role of counselor to Swamp Thing as he comes to terms with the passing of a loved one in a seemingly senseless murder. Written by Tom King, this issue shows a lovely team-up between the DC heroes that does not feel like a team-up for the sake of a team-up. The story is centered around relatable topics to both characters like grief, loss, and revenge. Both characters are familiar with them, but there is a real poetry to seeing pragmatic Batman try to reason with the poetry of loss coming out of Swam Thing.
King paints a beautiful story that is highlighted by pencils, inks, and colors from Gerads. The book has a gritty, beautiful feel to every page. Drawing Swamp Thing must be what comic artist’s dreams are made of, and it comes through in the attention and detail Gerads gives to the character. The details and fun things an artist can do with Swamp Thing are on full display; we get to see him transform out of a rock, annoy Alfred in Wayne Manor with his continuously sprouting vegetation, and do some cool team-ups with the Bats. There are a lot of fun little moments throughout the book, like Gordon reacting to Swamp Thing is worth looking over twice just for some subtle references you may have missed initially. Those fun little moment are what comics are about. You know you’ve had those conversations with your friends about random heroes and how they would interact together or in each other’s universe. This is one of those books that satisfies those fun little thoughts in every comic lover’s mind,
The book has a unique layout, divided into eight chapters that serve as a clever way to move the story along in a single issue without any structure issues. Each chapter has a cheeky title like “Why do you need a car!” that set the tone for the following panels. The art and story find a balance between following the story and satisfying the reader’s need for action with some great team-ups that highlight the strategy of Batman and the literal force of nature that is Swamp Thing.
Batman #23 is a must read for comic fans that have ever wondered “how annoyed would Alfred be if Swamp Thing visited Wayne Manor?”. The book delivers that answer and many more as it dives deeper into the inner workings of the mind of Swamp Thing. There are plenty of great ‘Batman being Batman’ moments throughout the book, so don’t worry that this issue is all Swamp Thing. It is an insightful look in how grief drives people to do things, and that not every person will experience grief in the same way.