Batman #52 // Review
“Because I’m Batman,” is a phrase that has permeated pop culture in recent years, (Most notably in How It Should Have Ended’s Superhero Café) often used jokingly in allusion to how Batman seems to have the story-breaking ability to accomplish or overcome anything, paired with an unquestionable veracity, and justified solely by the assertion that the business of being Batman makes him innately infallible. In the Lee Weeks-illustrated, Elizabeth Breitweiser-colored Batman #52, author Tom King has this attestation challenged by none other than Bruce Wayne himself. The issue shows Batman’s unimpeachable precision questioned in Gotham’s court of law, during the trial of Victor Fries, AKA Mr. Freeze.
Continuing the storyline, “Cold Days,” Bruce Wayne is shown to be the sole decrying juror in the condemnation of Mr. Freeze for three counts of murder. The crux of Wayne’s argument is that, in Batman’s autopsies on Freeze’s alleged victims, the vigilante was able to discover all three corpses possessed a lowered brain temperature, while Commissioner Gordon’s trusted police coroner had found no such abnormalities in their earlier assessment. According to Wayne, this disparity is not a denunciation of the coroner’s abilities, but more likely an indication that the corpses had been tampered with between autopsies to frame Freeze and send an agitated Batman after him in attack. Wayne further argues that Freeze’s initial confessions might be invalid, as they may have been borne out of fear, both of Batman and of a mysterious other entity who Freeze claims had warned him of Batman’s impending assault.
Throughout the issue, the direction of author Tom King’s overarching plot is purposely left ambiguous, with the actions presented this issue illustrating what may be Batman’s initial realization of a far-reaching conspiracy against him. However, having Batman not only begin to question his own actions, but also attempt to convince others of his errancy, might instead signify another cog in the churning machinations of master manipulator Bane, with the mysterious entity mentioned by Freeze serving as a red herring to further bait “The World’s Greatest Detective.” King’s narrative ambiguity amps up the intrigue, hooks the reader’s attention, and cultivates curiosity in both Bane and the author’s long-game.
The emotional composition of Batman/Bruce Wayne is explored in Batman #52, with insights into the character being showcased in his desire for justice to accurately be administered to Mr. Freeze, and through discussion of how Bruce was left with a triggerable sense of post-traumatic stress disorder after witnessing the death of his parents. Deconstructing the character in this way greatly elevates the issue, contextualizing Batman’s recent actions, and to a certain extent, his entire war on crime. Emphasizing Bruce’s emotions helps humanize him and offers a far more nuanced explanation for the character’s actions and achievements than the boorishly grandiose, “Because I’m Batman.”
Lee Weeks’ page layouts this issue are creative, enthralling, and varied. His work nimbly transitions from displaying discussion in a standard 9-panel page to continuing the same conversation within the negative space of a full splash. Strong emotions are evoked both in the detailed expressions of the jury and though wild energetic brush strokes shown in panels illustrating the unbridled fury of a distraught Dark Knight. Elizabeth Breitweiser’s contrast of heavily using shades of blue, black and white in scenes with Batman and Mr. Freeze against a pastel heavy, lighthearted palate for the jury’s deliberation juxtaposes the differing worlds of Batman and Bruce Wayne in an aesthetically appealing manner.
Progressing “Cold Days,” Batman #52 is an engaging glimpse into the emotional composition of Bruce Wayne, structured around a compelling procedural. Continuing his “12 Angry Men” homage, Tom King provides a thought-provoking issue which captivates the reader and leaves them wanting more, as it explores the effectiveness and failings of Batman’s brand of justice.