Batman #38 Review: The Wrong Kind of Influence

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Bruce Wayne gets called to help comfort a young billionaire heir whose parents were just brutally murdered. The boy's name is Matthew Warner. All evidence points towards Victor Zsasz as the perpetrator, and the Batman seeks him out to find out the truth.

Batman #38 cover by Tim Sale and Dave Stewart
Batman #38 cover by Tim Sale and Dave Stewart

Batman #36 and #37 won me over with their charm, upbeat tone, and numerous cute moments with Bruce, Selena, Clark, and Lois. Batman Annual #2 won me over by being one of the most moving comic experiences that came out last year. Batman #38 performs a complete 180 and enthralls me with the depths of human cruelty on display.

You've likely already either read the comic or heard about the new villain created in the comic. If you haven't, I don't want to spoil the twists for you. However, this is one of those stories that you have to talk about the surprise ending to completely evaluate its quality. As such, I'll run down everything except the twist ending for you, then throw up a spoiler warning and talk about the surprise.

Tom King really knows how to hit the emotions in both lighter and darker stories. You really feel for Matthew thanks to a combination of excellent pacing due to the layouts as well as Travis Moore's artistic rendering. You want Batman to find the perpetrator.

Moore's work is excellent. The Batman's costume looks great. Victor Zsasz looks like a patchwork man thanks to all the cuts in his body. Plus, he makes the ending all the more chilling. Giulia Brusco's color art is fantastic to boot, and he helps create the oppressive atmosphere this comic needs.

I highly recommend this comic. It is a rigorous and haunting tale to read, but it's worth it.  Rich Johnston called this Tom King's Killing Joke, and I can certainly agree with that evaluation. The art is phenomenal, and the story is unforgettable. Give this one a read.

Batman #38 art by Travis Moore and Giulia Brusco
Batman #38 art by Travis Moore and Giulia Brusco

Now the spoiler section:

Matthew killed his parents. In an act eerily reminiscent of Hush, Matthew wants to be like Bruce Wayne. He sees the life Bruce lives and the good he performs as a direct result of his parents' deaths. It is a childish and reductive perception of Bruce Wayne, and he frames Zsasz, Two-Face, and his own butler in a similarly childish manner.

This completely recolors the first portion, as you could imagine. It should. Matthew's butler calls him "Master Bruce" as a weird yet cute nickname. It reveals itself as an obsession by the end. The breaking into sobs while talking to Bruce is revealed to be disturbingly genuine acting on the child's part.

We find him carving the names of Thomas and Martha Wayne onto his own parents' tombstones as well as his own face by the end, and Moore and Brusco bring that to disturbing life as well.

Like I said, this one gets a strong recommendation. It is bizarre, chilling, and brilliant.

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About Joshua Davison

Josh is a longtime super hero comic fan and an aspiring comic book and fiction writer himself. He also trades in videogames, Star Wars, and Magic: The Gathering, and he is also a budding film buff. He's always been a huge nerd, and he hopes to contribute something of worth to the wider geek culture conversation. He is also happy to announce that he is the new Reviews Editor for Bleeding Cool. Follow on Twitter @joshdavisonbolt.
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