SYNOPSIS: The bloody bare-knuckled crime series continues! A bruised and battered Slam Bradley finds himself embroiled in a shocking case as the infant heiress to the Wayne fortune has been kidnapped! But as with all the things in Gotham City, nothing is what it seems…can he solve the case in time to save a young life and secure the Wayne legacy or will the secrets of Gotham bury them all?
Pour yourself a drink of whisky as King and Hester take you back in time to when Gotham was far more idyllic than it is now!
To illustrate that point, writer Tom King opens with a monologue from the Commissioner, detailing how he has wrapped up all six of the murders that have occurred in the city this year. For comparison, Metropolis has had seventy-four in the same period, with almost half unsolved. You immediately get the idea of how perfect this Gotham is…from a certain perspective.
Things aren’t doing so great for Slam. He’s getting roughed up by the GCPD and can’t provide the truth, lest the police find out about the Baby Wayne kidnapping. Hester’s art is impeccable here, perfectly capturing the mood and details. Aided by the inks of Gapstur and particularly the colors of Bellaire, I get a strong vibe of the Parker adaptations Darwyn Cooke did a few years ago. This is a great example of Tough-Guy Noir. You’ve got to admire Slam’s conviction here.
Sue, the story’s femme fatale, also makes a return appearance. I love her interactions with Slam and the back-and-forth they have. She’s far from being a damsel in distress, having a detached enigmaticness and no fear. An interaction later called to mind Selina Kyle. Could Catwoman be a future descendant of Sue?
As for the Waynes in this story, well, they continue to be a complicated pair. Richard at the very least is verbally abusive to Constance and a far cry from the paragon of virtue most people think of when it comes to his heirs, Thomas and Bruce. In short, he’s not very likable. Constance is tough and far more together than her husband. While they’re both in a highly stressful situation, there seems to be no love lost between them. The contrast of such a halcyon city with the bleak corridors of Wayne Manor and the chill between husband and wife is a far divide.
King plays a lot with that gap and peoples’ perceptions. For how wholesome things are supposed to be there is an undercurrent of racism and class warfare, with Slam trapped in the middle of both worlds, serving as a guide to what’s the truth.
The visuals perfectly complement the world King envisions. In addition to the Parker adaptations I mentioned above, there is certainly a small influence of Frank Miller’s Sin City, too. While Batman doesn’t make an appearance, Slam fills in for him atop the rain-drenched rooftops of Gotham. So, while there’s no Batman, it still feels like a Batman story.
It’s safe to say that if you enjoyed the debut issue, you’re going to dig this one, too, as we go further down the rabbit hole into the mystery of “The Bat-Man” and what the kidnapper(s?) want. I am loving what King and Hester are doing here and while we get no hints as to why Bruce-as-Batman is visiting old Slam in the present day, it’s still a captivating detective yarn. Don’t miss it! – Javier E. Trujillo