Friday, 27 March 2015

Batman #1 [The New 52] - DC Comics

BATMAN No. 1, November 2011
This first issue of “DC Comics” “New 52” reimagining of “Batman” outsold every single other comic in September 2011, shifting an impressive 188,420 copies according to “Diamond Comic Distributors”. But whereas some of the publisher’s other titles underwent major overhauls, such as “The Flash” completely erasing the existence of the third Scarlet Speedster, Bruce Wayne experienced little more than a “soft reboot”, with key storylines such as “A Death In The Family” and “The Killing Joke” remaining as part of the Dark Knight’s new continuity.

As a result all of the old familiar ‘Bat Family’ faces abound within this book, such as Commissioner Gordon, Alfred Pennyworth, Harvey Bullock, Tim Drake, Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne. But they are all somewhat younger than they’ve been portrayed for a considerable period of time. This is especially noticeable with the Billionaire’s young son, the current Robin, who seems to somewhat jar with the sensibilities when stood alongside a very fresh-faced father, and an adolescent looking Nightwing and Red Robin.

Presumably hoping to launch the series with an action-packed ‘bang’ writer Scott Snyder throws the reader straight into the ‘meat grinder’ as The Bat confronts more than half a dozen of his most popular super-villains at the start of an Arkham Asylum breakout. Unfortunately such a high-octane thrill is inevitably going to prove a cheap disappointment as the American author understandably, but unrealistically, has the Caped Crusader best the majority of his Rogue’s Gallery because they apparently ‘get in one another’s way’. This inevitably means that Batman ‘defeats’ the notable likes of Two-Face, Killer Croc, Mister Freeze, the Black Mask and Clayface within the space of just two pages and rather than appear as the classic formidable threats of yesteryear they instead seem to be little more than colourful but impotent fighting fodder.

Snyder does manage to throw in one surprise though, as the street vigilante’s archenemy, the Joker, not only makes a brief appearance from his cell, but seemingly joins forces with the Dark Knight so as to help him trounce the jail breakers even more. Sadly this stunning team-up is simply a ruse and is swiftly revealed to be Grayson ‘sporting’ an E.M.P. mask rather than the genuine Clown Prince of Crime.

What “Knife Trick” lacks in compelling storyline however it more than makes up for with impressive artwork, as Greg Capullo builds upon a competently drawn cover illustration in order to pencil some bone-crunchingly good interior pages. Indeed the former “Quasar” artist especially nails Batman towards the issue’s cliff-hanger, when Wayne has momentarily assumed the role of the World’s Greatest Detective and is investigating the ghastly cadaver of a man apparently used “as a human dart board.” FCO Plascencia’s contribution as colorist is particularly effective at this stage too, as the squalor of the corpse’s rented apartment is wonderfully brought to reeking life with a cacophony of dirty browns, spoilt greens, blues and reds.
The variant cover art of "BATMAN" No. 1 by Ethan Van Sciver

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