By: Adam Basciano
The book starts out with a bang as we see Batman taking on a group of villains inside Arkham Asylum. The assortment of villains ranged from new and old. The heavy hitters included Two – Face, Scarecrow, Mister Freeze, and Killer Croc. Of course the Joker makes a surprise entrance, as he fights alongside Batman. (Confused? More on that in a minute) Cut to the rooftops of Gotham City, where Batman and Jim Gordon discuss the activity at Arkham Asylum. Turns out Batman was investigating a corrupt guard on the take named Dan Matthews. The scene then shifts to the Batcave to find Bruce and the Joker having a chat about some of the new tech at Batman’s disposal. I know what your thinking, but no, Bruce Wayne hasn’t gone completely insane…yet. The Joker is none other than Dick Grayson wearing an E.M.P. mask. Bruce and his former ward leave the cave and join the rest of the family Tim Drake and Damien Wayne, as they attend a party with the who’s who of Gotham’s high society. At the party Bruce Wayne details his plan to fund the rebuild of Gotham City’s industrial neighbourhoods, followed by a modernization of the transit system. He asks the other attendee’s to invest in Gotham’s future with him. The party ends early for Bruce, as Batman joins Detective Harvey Bullock at a murder crime scene. The victim, a landlord, was a John Doe but he evidentially knew when his body would be found. Due to clever detective work Batman discovers the writing on the wall, literally. Bruce Wayne will die tomorrow. If that isn’t bad enough for Batman, the evidence finds Dick Grayson’s DNA beanethe the victims fingernails.
Much like the Green Lantern title, this book has a combination of familiarity and freshness that will appeal to new and long-standing readers. The strength of this issue and in my opinion Scott Snyder’s work in general, is his focus on character driven stories. Sure the book has a great opening action sequence and builds to an interesting murder mystery, but that is all connected to the characters in the story. You can’t have one without the other. One of the most important characters in the issue is Gotham City. No longer is Gotham City simply a dark decrepid setting, there to service the grand scale action. Okay, so it’s still dark, decrepid and a scary place to live, but their’s more to it then that. Actually Scott Snyder plays on people’s perception of Gotham in the issue. While many of its fictional citizens think that the city has taken on the persona of the villains that inhabit it, Bruce Wayne thinks otherwise. When Bruce thinks of Gotham City, he thinks of friends. This is quite the ingenious piece of writing because we all want the best for our friends, and would do what we could to help them. This line of thinking makes Batman’s quest to save Gotham slightly less obsessive and far more relatable. Notice how I keep mentioning Bruce Wayne? That’s because this story focuses as much on Bruce as it does on Batman. I like the fact that Bruce is just as focused on the future of Gotham in his public life, as he is in his private life. I hope this even ratio of Bruce to Batman continues, as that brings about the best Batman stories in my opinion. My only problem with the story itself, is the ending. I don’t buy for one second that Dick Grayson was responsible for that man’s death. At least not without falling back on some overused devices of comic books, i.e. a clone or brainwashing. So I’m hoping that the mention of Dick Grayson is red herring that further deepens the mystery.
Greg Capullo’s art has more of a cartoonish look to it then some of the other books in the relaunch, but for the most part it fits nicely with the story. Capullo’s shots of Gotham City are not overtly gothic or too realistic. They have just the right atmosphere. The art has an appealing detailed simplicity to it. Capullo’s Batman feels like a blend of Bob Kane, David Mazzucchelli, and Matt Wagner thrown in for good measure. His Bruce Wayne on the other hand, calls to mind the art style of the animated series “The Batman.” My favourite image from the book is the one of Batman swinging through the Gotham City skyline. It is such an iconic image. There are two areas where the art faltered for me. One was the image of Jim Gordon and Batman on the roof. I don’t know what it is, but the art here seems a little awkward. The second was the page featuring Bruce, Dick, Tim and Damien standing together in a group. Aside from their height, it looks like we’re staring at two sets of twins. Bruce and Damien look identical to one another, just as Tim and Dick look like carbon copies of each other. A classic case of Same Face Disease presents itself, unfortunately it’s a pet peeve of mine.
Regardless of my gripes, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have crafted an entertaining story. For quite some time, the Batman title was on my pull list because I love the character and I’m a completest, not because I had a desire to read the content. For the first time since “Hush”, I am genuinely excited and anticipate what’s to come in “Batman” on a monthly basis.
Overall Grade: 7.5/10