One might think it unnecessary to devote an entire issue to establishing the world of Batman – arguably the most famous superhero in the world. One might think that but one would be wrong, for Batman’s popularity was born of variety and an endless myriad of parallel universes with differing details. And while some things never change, the status quo of Batman has never been more uncertain.
Things certainly seem topsy-turvy as the issue opens with Batman quelling a riot at Arkham Asylum, apparently assisted by The Joker! But all is not what it appears to be and after reporting in with Commissioner James Gordon, Batman is off to a gala as Bruce Wayne. Accompanied by his three sons, Bruce delivers a speech about his plans for improving Gotham City. But the night is cut short as the Bat-Signal is sighted and Batman is dispatched to a crime scene where a warning has been left regarding an assassin coming for Bruce Wayne…
Scott Snyder’s script grabs the reader at the beginning and doesn’t let go until the final page. There are a lot of twists and turns in the plot but it never feels rushed or confusing. Indeed, Snyder masterfully introduces the reader to those characters well-known outside of the comics’ world (for instance, Dick Grayson and Commissioner Gordon) and more obscure characters such as Detective Harvey Bullock and Bruce’s son Damien Wayne. And the mystery revealed in the final pages – which also seems to be the mystery at the heart of Nightwing #1 – is perhaps the most shocking final page thus far in all of the New 52 revamps.
Greg Capullo is a newcomer to DC Comics but you’d never know it from these pencils. Perhaps best known for his work on Spawn, his style is a perfect match for the dark world of Gotham City. His Arkham inmates look like they just emerged from the pages of a Dick Tracy comic without looking cartoony. His Joker is particularly praiseworthy, looking like a perfect fusion of Heath Ledger and Tim Sale. The backgrounds are also amazing with suitably gothic architecture on each page. These pencils are perfectly completed by the inks of Jonathan Glapion, who manages to make everything look dark without soaking the page in black.
Easily the best of the Batman books to emerge from the New 52 line-up, this is a must-read! The artwork is shadowy and atmospheric without being obscured in darkness. The script manages to move fast enough to keep experienced readers interested while still explaining everything for the new readers. If you’re a Bat-Fan looking for a good first comic book to start with, this is the one!