In Review: Batman #1

This has made me fall in love with Batman all over again.

The covers: Batman stands front and center, facing the reader. To his right are James Gordon and Duke Thomas; to his left the Batcave. Gotham City is the setting above the Caped Crusader, where the Batsignal and a plane with flames streaming from it can be seen. Truly puzzling are the costumed man and woman above the three characters: they’re wearing blue and gray togs with a Superman shaped logo on their chests, though it contains a fancy scripted G. Who are they and how do they figure into this issue are paramount in my mind. This cover was created by penciller David Finch and inker Matt Banning. The Variant cover is by Tim Sale and resembles a typical Batman cover: the Dark Knight is battling several of his famous foes, including Scarecrow, Mad Hatter, Clayface, Solomon Grundy, Mr. Freeze, and Penguin. The Joker is high above the hero, lassoed around his neck by Batman. Harley Quinn is falling from the sky with her trusty mallet in hand to save her man. Neat, colorful illustration but generic. Overall grades: Regular A and Variant B 

The story:I Am Gotham” is an excellent title for this outstanding story from Tom King. A jet flying over Gotham is about to make its descent and passengers are told to buckle their seat belts. Down below, Batman meets Commissioner Gordon. The hero is told that an hour ago a Kobra cell was raided and two surface to air missiles were discovered. One many got away. “That leaves one desperate man with a big-old gun somewhere in my city.” It’s at that moment that the pair turn to the sky where the missing missile has found a target: the jetliner that was making its descent. Gordon turns back to Batman but he’s already gone. The next page shows Batman falling to the ground, head first, in communication with Alfred, who’s been monitoring the pilots’ communications. They expect to come down near the base of Kane Plaza in Gotham Square. It’s a Saturday evening with crowds present. The loss of life will exceptional. Oh, and it’s going to happen in six minutes. The remainder of this issue is a lightning paced race against time for Batman to pull off the impossible. No members of the Justice League are available for assistance, so it’s up to him to stop a crashing airliner. I’ve collected Batman comics for a long time and I’ve never seen him in this situation, let alone trying to solve it. This was the best Batman comic I’ve read in years. I’ve tried to re-enter the world of Batman comics for over a decade, but nothing has grabbed. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough in this book. There were no superhumans involved, just a man with some serious tech to try to save that plane. This was amazing. If this is the way Batman books will be, I’m camping out each week to pick up the newest issue. On top of this unbelievably incredible action, two characters appear at the end of this tale to give the true meaning of this story’s title. Wow. Overall grade: A+ 

The art: David Finch provides pencils and Matt Banning inks on this amazingly illustrated issue. The character work is beautiful. Gordon goes from being casual with Batman on Page 2 to absolutely frantic on 3. When he’s shown again in his car to the scene of the expected fall, he’s still in an understandably manic state, only to be taken out of it when told by Batman where the hero is located. Batman also looks incredible. He’s first fully shown in a full page splash on Page 4, diving upside down to the street. He is absolutely physically fit, like a man of his profession should be, but his face shows the stress for what he’s about to attempt. Page 8 is also a full page splash of the hero, but he’s now become wholly focused on his task as he does something that only Bruce Willis has done in film. The first four panels on 10 are an excellent way to show his movements and they come off very cinematically. The sixth panel on the same page gave me exactly what I wanted from this moment: to show how small he looks for his task. 15 and 16 has him looking like a man trying to tame a wild beast; I actually began to believe that he could pull the plane on strength — but that’s not realistic in a Batman book. The settings of this book are showcased quite a bit, from the streets of Gotham as Batman speeds to the plane, the city — often from high above, and the plane’s exterior. One particular stand out page was 15 as the plane is shown seconds away from crashing into several skyscrapers. There’s also a long shot on 17 that shows from the terrorist’s perch what the plane looks like as it’s going down. Every page, every panel of this book was beautiful. Overall grade: A+

The colors: This was one of the darkest colored hero books I’ve read in some time, but it completely worked for this tale. Jordie Bellaire has to start with the interior of the plane as it begins its descent. The lights are rightly dimmed inside, which makes the lights outside incredibly bright. The city is not shrouded in darkness, but illuminated in wonderful bronzes, giving the city an ancient quality as well as one lit for the evening. The interior of the Batmobile is terrific in a faded green, mirroring one of the colors that provides light for Alfred in the Batcave. Bellaire is able to give this book a fantastic dark look while keeping every inch of Finch and Banning’s work visible. I loved it. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Sounds, a transmission, the story’s title, the book’s credits, dialogue, and the tease for next issue are crafted by John Workman. I’ve enjoyed his work for a long time and his thin letters for the dialogue are instantly identifiable, as are his font for the book’s credits. Every word is a joy to behold. Overall grade: A+

The final line: I own every issue of Batman from Issue #196 through #529. Nothing since then has swayed me to pick this series up again on a regular basis, until now. My god, this is Batman as he should be. This has made me fall in love with Batman all over again. More, please. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+

To find out more about this book and others that feature Batman go to http://www.dccomics.com/

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” and he’s reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.

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