You expect a lot from the title that got the title page. If you’re reading this the right way, this is the first title you see after unfolding. What’re the expectations for this? Best title up front? One the most people will read? One with the most stunning art? Or just something people are familiar with. Something that’ll set the tone for the experience you’re about to get. Thinking about what this is, a classic serialized comic, what better choice is there than Batman?
Brian Azzarello seems like he’d be a perfect fit for Batman as well. A writer well versed in crime and noir writing a character steeped in crime and noir in a format that seems to fit crime and noir. Well, the last part is a bit of a stretch, but it all seems to make sense.
The first issue sets the tone for what we’re to expect. Batman and Gordon are in their normal meeting spot discussing their failure. It’s dark, there’s a nice burnt orange tint to everything. Right until everything turns blue. That’s when you learn that Bruce Wayne is a terminator. What? No, but He’s definitely odd looking. Just because he’s out of uniform doesn’t mean he’s off his game. It’s interesting how each of the pages in this Batman story take on a different color tone. I’m not sure if there’s symbolism invovled, or just mood setting, but it works for the look of it. Helps to keep you intersted and in the feel of the story even during the pages Burce or Batman aren’t the central focus.
Looking at this as sort of a Batman showcase you might expect the story to involve a Two-face, Riddler, or a Joker. Instead Azzarello & Risso go for a smaller story. A man is murdered, there’s big money involved and Bruce has to solve it. Everyone we meet is obviously a slime and guilty of something (save for the nice little old lady at the funeral).
The next three issue turn yellow (for a nice dinner date), green (in the batcomputer lit cave), and then a dark blue (inside a thug’s apartment. Each page consistently darkening. The story proves to be great at lifting it’s skirt appropriately to you. Alfred’s debut is riddled with sage dialogue. The closing panels are a fantastic lead in to the first time we get to see Batman in action. There’s just something fun and exciting about watching Batman fly through a window and punch someone. We got part of that, and it was enough.
I’ve mentioned the color schemes but have failed to really talk about the art up until this point. Mostly because comic book art is something I’m not good at criticizing. I see it as a function of story telling, and barring it being fantastic or terrible I don’t notice it. I don’t know who Robins or Mulvihill are, but I like their stuff. They grit teeth a bit hard for my liking, but their art is good at communicating Azarello’s story and the colors are wonderful. The detail between the shadows is fantastic.
My favorite part of comic book story telling is the ability to control time. No other medium works time to it’s advantage as well as comics do. Writers make it up as they seem fit. The same amount of retail on a page can traverse seconds or years. Batman takes advantage of this very feature at the half way point. The story had, till this point, been progressing for hours at a time. Now it slows down to handle some business.
Batman is an awesome interrogator. Dropping glass to the neck like a guillotine and placing cigarettes near the eye are good ways to get me to talk. The color scheme changes. Issue seven has a very bold and deep blue violently interrupted by an intimidating orange. The sickly yellow green provides a nice subdued backdrop to the appearance of Gordon setting up the final acts. The color shifts ever so slightly to a lighter shade of that same sickly green and Batman discovers the secrets to this mystery.
From here on out it’s pink pink pink. Azzarello really knows how to close out a story. The final three issues have to take place in less than five minutes. The character Luna is a hot piece of work. It’s a total shame she has to be a a villainous wench. Seeing Batman punch a dog is delightful. Flash Fact: Batman is great at fighting small fuzzy things. Luna should’ve read up on the issue. It’s noted that Bats doesn’t murder the dogs so PETA doesn’t have to worry.
Azzarello uses the denoument to really make you feel for the two major players. Bruce has his ideals. He wants things to work out well. He likes happy endings. Luna doesn’t share his views. It’s clear how this is going to end and you are still on the edge of your seat. Seeing characters in certain failure situations is fascinating. They always make for great character studies and high drama. There’s no way this character is going to waste away in jail. How do you work your way out of this situation when all the odds are stacked against you. If you can’t how do you get out on your terms?
The way Robins & Mulvihill set up the panels add great depth to the story telling. They only show you what you’re suppose to see. Framing shots so that when bullets are fired you can’t tell who’s reacting to what. The cheesy ending is cheesy, but fitting. The villain dame has to find out that bruce is batman before the lights turn out. It’s fitting. Of course Gordon keeps everyone just far enough away from the final scene to protect his buddy.
I’ll admit, when I was reading it as it went along I wasn’t sold. The issues went slow, I didn’t know where it was going. This is a much better read in one solid chunk. Just take it all in at once. I’m definitely throwing this an easy 4/5.