Review by C.J. Bunce
In the DC Comics New 52 readers are not told in the issues themselves how the new series are supposed to relate to one another. Action Comics #1, which will be reviewed here at a later date, does include “continued in” references at the back of the first issue pointing readers to the continuation of the story in other issues. With all the Batman books, a fair question is “which one is for me? Comparing Detective Comics #1 with Batman #1, this reader would choose the Batman series as an ongoing read.
Detective Comics was dark and disturbing. Batman is dark, but in a less gruesome way. That said, the story takes place in Gotham City (they haven’t changed that about Batman) and we see one gruesome death with a victim stuck with dozens of knives. Skillfully told at the beginning of Batman #1, we are reminded in a speech by Bruce Wayne given at a solicitation for investors, that Gotham is “damned,” “cursed,” and “hopeless.” Ultimately Gotham is Batman. Bleak comes with the territory.
But good Batman stories also have some surprises and Batman #1 has a fair number. We see a nostalgic team-up Batman and the original Robin and briefly-Batman-replacement, Dick Grayson (who has his own title as Nightwing). The story includes a great moment with all the boys and men who have been Robin standing alongside Bruce in Wayne Manor and you could foresee an interesting story that could develop later involving all these wards (and one son) of Bruce Wayne. If you aren’t keeping track, that’s Dick Grayson, Tim Drake (now Red Robin), and son Damian Wayne, the current Robin. Recall that the second Robin, Jason Todd, was killed in the Batman series A Death in the Family story arc, but has been brought back in different incarnations and last we saw him he was in jail in Gotham.
The new Batman crams its first issue with false facts, fake clues, Wayne Manor, a jail break and cameo of almost all of the Arkham Asylum villains, a Batman/Joker team-up (!), Alfred, and the Batcave, complete with vintage Batmobiles. We have mystery, a set up for future issues, and layering of dialogue with action. We don’t have the inner thoughts of Batman here, something we did find in Detective Comics #1, which makes me think that is part of the distinction between the series.
Along with a good opening story by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo’s art fits well, the locations are familiar, and the colors all scream Gotham. In fact if you pulled out the text the artwork alone could carry the story from beginning to end. About the only thing I didn’t care for was the weak title logo on the cover.
For first-time readers we get a good story that covers all bases and seems to borrow a lot from the Michael Keaton Batman movie, with some nods to the most recent Dark Knight film. “Why so serious?”
With all the Batman books coming, and no indication why we should read one over the other, this #1 was a nice surprise.