Fans of Batman need not worry about the New 52 relaunch — Batman’s legend remains intact with most of the rest of the DC universe changing around him. The only other character left mostly untouched is Green Lantern, and DC’s decision to keep the Bat and Lantern “families” going has been met with sighs of relief.
And while the rest of the DC universe starts fresh with new origin stories, Batman’s renumbering to #1 begins not by recounting for the millionth time why Bruce Wayne put on a cowl to fight crime — it begins with a simple story of Gotham City as told by its citizens.
Some, as Wayne narrates, say that Gotham is as its villains do. Others say Gotham City is as its protector — the vigilante known as Batman.
For Wayne, Gotham City is home, and he’ll do what it takes to protect it, build it up for success, and see it pass safely to another generation. Whether that means infiltrating Arkham City to find out who’s working against the authorities or holding fundraisers to get the people of Gotham involved in the city’s future, Batman is a busy man.
With Scott Snyder writing, Batman’s getting a modern update with new toys. He’ll need them if he’s going to take on those who would do Gotham harm, and a mystery begins to build when Batman’s introduced to a dead John Doe who left behind a message.
Snyder makes all of the right moves by putting the focus on Gotham City as a whole. As abstract as the concept is, reimagining or recounting Batman’s origin for the umpteenth time could have been a task in drudgery, but zooming out to the big picture sets the story with some background and scene.
Snyder is known for writing horror stories, and Batman #1 looks like it will take the Dark Knight into darker territory. Snyder’s partner, penciller Greg Capullo, who worked on X-Men before taking over drawing duties on Spawn, is a worthy addition to the list of great artists who were given a crack at the Batman franchise.
Capullo’s artwork is attractive — characters and objects look solid and dimensional. Panel composition looks thought out, and the early action sequences flow with beautiful sequenced art. It’s easy to distinguish between characters, and Capullo’s Joker looks fantastic. Some panels are filled with exquisite detail — see the Batcave — and then, there are the panels with minimal art — a snapshot of Lincoln March’s pearly whites — that get the point across.
Not to be outdone are Jonathan Glapion and FCO Plascencia, the inker and colorist, respectively. Glapion’s got a tough job filling in all of those lines, and he gets it done with clean edges and precise pen slices. Plascencia does an amazing job, and a closer look at the shades and fills reveals a craftsmanship that’s a cut above. Two-Face’s scarred side is all sorts of purple, and Killer Croc has a textured green that doesn’t look like it’s been slapped or sprinkled on. Even the green in Joker’s hair looks like it was brushed in curl by curl.
Batman #1 is a great issue with a solid lead-in. Somehow, Snyder brings in a lot of what makes Batman great — the physicality, technology, and detective work. There are twists and turns, a little bit of gore, and more than a hint of mystery. It was wise of DC to leave the Bat family alone. It may be the one book that survives the New 52 relaunch.
‘Cos it’s Batman.
Batman #1 (2011)
Words: Scott Snyder
Pencils: Greg Capullo
Inks: Jonathan Glapion
Colors: FCO Plascencia
Letters: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt