SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Batman #43 by Tom King, Mikel Janin, Hugo Petrus, June Chung and Clayton Cowles, on sale now.
Tom King is inarguably one of the hottest writers in superhero comics right now. Aided by some of the best artists in the business, King has made The Omega Men and The Vision into must read comics, is currently co-shepherding the latest reinvention Jack Kirby’s New Gods in the pages of Mister Miracle, and twice a month he writes some of the best Batman stories in the past decade.
Earlier this year, King announced that he was working on a dream project with DC Comics named “Sanctuary,” which is less a series and more of an idea that will permeate through the entire line, and this week’s issue of Batman, illustrated by Mikel Janin and Hugo Petrus, saw the first in-continuity mention of the concept, hinting at much bigger things to come.
The idea was first floated publicly at the DC in D.C. event this past January, when King mentioned his idea for what Sanctuary is, both physically within the DC Universe and as a concept that runs through the publisher’s line of superhero comics. As a former CIA-officer who signed up for service following the September 11 attacks in 2001, King has a unique take on what it means to serve, and how that can affect the people that put their lives on the line every day.
Speaking at DC in D.C., King described Sanctuary as “a place that you can go, modeled on veterans’ crisis centers — which is an interesting name for them — and talk about this trauma and admit that this had an effect on you; where you can admit that being a superhero and seeing a life of violence and seeing people get hurt around you, that that has some sort of impact on you — and Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman can help you.”
Everybody Loves Ivy
This week’s issue of Batman reveals that Poison Ivy didn’t kill the mobsters in Robinson Park during The War of Jokes and Riddles as she thought she had; instead, the Riddler just made her think she was a murderer.
A lot of fans were upset that a character who has become much more of an anti-hero in recent years had committed such a blatant act of unrepentant villainy, but King had a plan all along. Throughout his work, whether it’s Kyle Rayner in The Omega Men, Scott Free in Mister Miracle or Pamela Isley in Batman, King seems very concerned with the psychological effect living in a superhero universe has on otherwise normal people, and in this issue he focuses on how the young and naive Ivy was manipulated by The Riddler -- and how it messed her up for years afterward.
With the day saved, Batman doesn’t throw Poison Ivy in Arkham Asylum as we may expect. He instead has Superman take her to Sanctuary where “they’ll do what they do.” King said at DC in D.C. that Sanctuary will be something that will pop up throughout the DC Universe as superheroes seek help for the overwhelmingly stressful lives they lead, and it could very well change how mental illness is presented in superhero comics. So many “crazy” characters have been written without care, subtlety or nuance over the years, a portrayal that has contributed to the stigmatization of mental illness in society. By showing that superheroes need help too, DC and King can hopefully help spark the conversation and lead the way in breaking down that stigma.