How do you measure an entire city? After all, a city – especially an urban metropolis the size and scope of Gotham – has many neighborhood, has even more alleyways and streets and home and buildings. Is it the people who make the place, or does only the true ‘burg’ rule? That’s a quandary at the heart of this tale, and I’ve no doubt we won’t know the end of it any time soon. Necessarily, it’ll stretch on until its characters see it dutifully resolved … or, as can happen in the world of fiction, they’ll die trying.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last two paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Bruce Wayne is doing what he must, keeping an eye on Gotham City’s distant future; but things in the town’s distant past have a way of rearing their ugly head at the worst of all possible times. Namely, there’s a little something called the ‘Court of Owls,’ and, as local legend has it, the ‘Owls’ have been steering Gotham and its residents for perhaps centuries in whatever direction they saw fit. Still, Bruce Wayne never believed in them. In fact, he looked into them when he was much younger, and, convinced they were nothing more than an old wives’ tale, he dismissed their influence and history as a shallow nursery rhyme told to children to make them behave. Could the world’s greatest detective have been wrong?
I’ve been reading Batman books since the 1970’s, and, having invested so much time and money in so many stories over the past four decades, I’ll admit that it’s grown increasingly difficult to get excited about almost anything about Gotham City. Oh, sure, there’s the occasional tale every so often that tweaks my interest, but what I find when I hang with it is that it’s invariably a variation on something that’s been done before. At first blush, this whole business with the ‘Court of Owls’ looks like it may be fairly similar to a four-issue miniseries called THE CULT that ran in the late 80’s; only time will tell.
In the meantime, though, this first issue (which coincides with DC Comics essentially re-launching all of the signature titles) has plenty to get one’s heartbeat pounding. For example, it opens with a large confrontation between the Bat and the current residents of Arkham Asylum. (Yes, I realize that’s been done before … several times, in point of fact …) But on the heels of being thrown out through a window by the burliest heavies, dare I say that Batman comes back in with an all-new sidekick that takes the shape of … The Joker?!?!
It’s a diversion (as one might guess), but it’s a smart one, nonetheless. Still, it’s a diversion that demonstrates what a talented scribe like Scott Snyder might just well be for the caped crusader.
From there, the tale unfolds a bit more pragmatically (or “very similar to hundreds of Bat-tales that have come before”), but there’s a freshness to much of it. Any writer could introduce a new character (local mayoral candidate March, for example), and Snyder hits the usual notes while, at the same time, tempting readers to watch what’s going on in the background, where Commissioner Gordon is taking a call for something that’ll no doubt require a certain vigilante’s assistance. It’s subtle nuances like that which elevate the story above the ordinary, pointing me in the direction of expecting big things from a new creative team.
By the tale’s end, the stage has been effectively set for the next stage in Gotham City’s history. And how unique is that? Didn’t the book open with precisely the same set of questions, the same depth of perception?
Nicely done, Mr. Snyder. Nicely done indeed.
BATMAN #1 is published by DC Comics. The story is written by Scott Snyder; the art is by Greg Capullo; and Batman is the creation of Bob Kane. It all comes with the cover price of $3.99 … not necessarily a bargain, but, at 32 fun-filled pages, you get a little more bang for your buck than you used to!
HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION POSSIBLE. Batman #1 (The New 52): is probably as close to perfect as you’re going to get for a first issue of a property relaunch on one of DC’s signature comic lines. While it may not equal perfection in everyone’s eyes, I’m coming at it from over four decades of reading the Bats and following his adventures fairly closely. The artwork may be a little too slick for my tastes, but, all-in-all, I suspect this matter with the ‘Owls’ is only just beginning; still, it’ll be a cold day in Hades before it ever brings down the world’s greatest detective.
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What? You don't know enough about me from the picture? Get a clue! I'm a graduate from the School of Hard Knocks! You can find me around the web as "Trekscribbler" or "Manchops". … more
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Be here for the start of a new era for The Dark Knight from writer Scott Snyder (AMERICAN VAMPIRE, BATMAN: GATES OF GOTHAM) and artist Greg Capullo (Spawn)! A series of brutal killings hints at an ancient conspiracy, and Batman learns that Gotham City is deadlier than he knew.