Written by: Tom King
Art by: David Finch and Matt Banning
Color by: Jordie Bellaire
Review by: Mark Delaney (@N0TPENNYSB0AT)
After sharing writing duties with outgoing Bat-scribe Scott Snyder for the Rebirth one-shot, Tom King has officially taken the reins as the Dark Knight’s author for Batman #1 in DC’s new line. As is customary with introductory issues, Batman #1 is fast-paced and ends with plenty of questions to draw readers back in two weeks for its new twice-a-month schedule. I felt the Rebirth intro from two weeks ago actually moved too quickly, perhaps inevitably, however, considering how the seasons changed every few hours in that issue. With Batman #1, King doesn’t exactly slow it down but it feels more organic.
The author’s oft-cited CIA background has plenty of readers wondering how that experience will bleed into the exploits of Batman and his Bat-family, and it’s safe to say King wastes no time in using his history to affect the story. Though maybe all of Batman’s foes could be considered domestic terrorists, in issue #1 he faces the sort of domestic terrorism we might see on our own TVs in the real world. Putting the polarizing character of Duke to work continues to feel like the authors (first Snyder, now King) are fitting a square peg into a round hole, but with such brute force King manages to give Duke a cool moment that reminds us, yes Bruce is grooming him for… something, but that doesn’t mean Duke is ready for it yet.
Keeping Duke fallible in these early stages is vital. If he were to become an omnipotent sidekick right out of the gate, what would that say about Batman’s long list of past allies who have always struggled at first? Snyder, as much as I love his work, sometimes seemed hellbent on making Duke his crowning legacy to the Batman mythology, but King is slowing that down a bit, keeping Duke in check. He’s making the universe his own. He’s given characters new roles and even introduced altogether new characters.
The action sequences are very well drawn by David Finch, though there’s also one inadvertently hilarious image of Batman literally springing to action sitting in what looks like a child’s car seat. There’s a lot of verticality to the central scene of the issue, and that’s smartly reflected in the paneling. It’s certainly not without any exciting moments, even if the premise carries that cliche of the titular hero meeting imminent death, as if Batman would ever die in a premiere issue of a years-long story. The issue’s best scene is a touching moment between Bruce and Alfred whose relationship continues to be one of the best things about the property. The climax leaves us with plenty of question marks regarding not just who is threatening Gotham now, but who has risen alongside the Bat to save it. The dichotomy of person and persona is better with Batman/Bruce Wayne than perhaps any other superhero out there, and King’s openness to blurring those lines in his debut is a great sign for the future.