Five years ago, the New 52 exploded onto shelves, and Batman #1 became a runaway bestseller partly because it was the first time the Batman title had a #1 since the first volume launched way back in 1940.
Every issue of the second volume then went on to sell quite well. Many of them landed somewhere in the top-ten each month on the sales charts competing well against #1s and big issues from the other publishers.
And now, as we say goodbye to the creative team of old, we are now in the thick of things with a brand new team for a brand new launch.
And — so far — it happens to be very, very good.
I wouldn’t say great. Not yet. The rebirthed Batman #1 is a solid book that’s on to something, but I’ll keep myself from jumping completely overboard until I see more of what the current team does with the title.
For now, we get Batman training a new protege in Duke Thomas and hunting down a stolen missile that gets launched at a commercial airliner. Bats takes the reins — literally — and he considers his own mortality as the rescue attempt turns into a suicide mission.
That’s basically the gist of the entire story for the first issue, though writer Tom King has proven with his run on Grayson that he has a knack for strong storytelling. King approaches stories like a mechanic — he knows how to pick and pull pieces apart. Even better, he knows how to bring those parts into a fresh perspective.
And like a great fixer, he knows how to bring resolution to the story while containing all of the moving parts, all the while never resorting to heavy explication.
King has a considerate mind for these things, and it extends to the things that would bug readers if they weren’t mentioned at all — after the plane is hit, Batman calls in the Justice League. Of course he would. For anyone who’s watched a solo superhero movie like Iron Man or Thor and wondered where the rest of the Avengers were, it’s kind of refreshing to see an author be mindful of the resources that are one phone call away. Batman’s reaction when no one answers his call is also a great moment when he says, “This is my city. I’ll save it.”
As Batman attaches his Batmobile’s ejection seat engines to the undersides of the plane’s wings, he turns the entire aircraft into an air-ski. Artist David Finch produces some of his finest composition work, injecting drama into the pages with active sequentials. When the Dark Knight shoots up into the air, you can almost feel the G-force. Finch’s artwork follows King’s step-by-step script flow, and we’re treated to sequentials that are easy to follow, brilliant in their visual storytelling, and beautifully cinematic.
With Matt Banning’s inks and Jordie Bellaire’s colors, the issue takes on a distinct look that distinguishes it from the last volume. The colors are muted and darker, the lighting has an electric glow, and the gradients are soft. There’s something Blade Runner-ish about it, and it works in the art team’s favor because a comparison between the former team and this one will be one of apples to oranges. This is a new team with a new style, and the direction so far is exciting.
With Gotham and Gotham Girl making their presence known by confronting Batman at the end of the issue, I’m thinking there will come a time when superheroes become super rivals. With the way this first step is looking, I think this new volume of Batman could be a hit.