Batman 1

batman 1

Today, Michael and Mark are discussing Batman 1, originally released June 15, 2016.

Michael: I keep saying this lately, but there is something so powerfully elemental about Batman. Not all Batman stories are exactly the same, but there is a certain amount of thematic carryover from one story to the other. I remember that, at the start of The New 52, I noticed a lot of similarities between Scott Snyder’s Batman and Grant Morrison’s that preceded it. Now I find myself doing the same thing with Tom King’s Batman and the Scott Snyder run that preceded it. Judging by the name of King’s first arc (“I am Gotham”) and the heroes Gotham and Gotham Girl, King is going to explore Gotham City as a character; a hallmark of Snyder’s run.

Batman 1 essentially boils down to one long action scene — Batman racing to stop a 747 from crashing into the heart of Gotham City. Batman works in tandem with Alfred in one ear and Duke Thomas in the other, both feeding him information on the crisis at hand. With Duke’s guidance Batman deduces the perfect angle to launch out of the Batmobile, where he grapples to the falling plane. After the application of some nifty bat toys Batman manages to clear the plane of the city and head towards the water, guided to safety by the mysterious new heroes Gotham and Gotham Girl.

Batman 1 doesn’t really tread into the “I am Gotham” narrative territory just yet, however. The first issue of Tom King’s take on Batman is essentially a “day in the life” tale. King and artist David Finch only give us a few pages of setup before the Kobra agent launches the missile into the plane and the clock is ticking. There are a handful of instances in this issue where Batman quite literally throws himself in a given direction. The first full page of Batman careening off of a building while coordinating with Alfred is beautiful — I’m loving the purple interior Jordie Bellaire colors into his cape. I think from start to finish this might be David Finch’s finest, clearest work yet. In the past, he’s drawn Batman as excessively bulky and muscle-bound, and has over-emphasized the particulars of characters’ faces and grimaces. Here, he does almost everything right for me, from Gordon to the Batmobile.

purple

Batman is amazing — we all know this to be true. I mentioned how Batman throws himself in a given direction, but to put a finer point on it, he throws ALL of himself in that direction. King shows us Batman’s pathos and drive by making it quite clear that he goes into many a situation making peace with the fact that it might kill him. Batman always saves the day because he is always ready to die for his city and his people. You could argue that Batman’s farewell to Alfred as he lands the plane is a little over-the-top, but I love me some Father/Son dynamics from those two. How many times do you think Bruce has had those kind of “goodbyes” with Alfred over the years? That’s gotta be hard on old Alfred, but maybe he’s used to it by now. King invokes his inner Dark Knight Returns by having Bruce ask Alfred “Is this a good death?” It’s very clear that Bruce Wayne is a man who is concerned with his legacy and creating his own myth — of course he would want a worthy end to that myth.

death

Having a superhero save a crashing plane is not a novelty — how many times have we seen Superman do something like that? Seeing the “normal human” Batman do it, however, was truly a sight to behold. With some tech support, Batman single-handedly lands a crashing 747, riding it like the nuclear bomb in Dr. Strangelove. How fucking cool is that? Batman never stops being cool, and his life will always be more interesting than yours. When your friends are too busy to hang, you watch Netflix by yourself. When Batman’s friends are too busy, he’s gotta land a commercial airliner by himself. King didn’t necessarily need to address the potential intervention of the Justice League but it was a welcome addition to the script. It’s a good way of preventing any of those silly critiques movie-goers make when they see a new solo Marvel movie and ask “well why didn’t they just call the Avengers?” Those people are the worst.

The setup of this issue was fairly simple, but that didn’t mean that it wasn’t a hell of an engaging read. I’m totally on board for whatever King and Finch have in store for us. What about you, Mark? Did this issue tickle your Batman fancy? Do you think that DC should have more Kobra stories like I do? Any thoughts on Finch’s art? I thought everything was great, but I’m not too crazy about Gotham Girl’s “schoolgirl” short skirt…

Mark: I came into Batman 1 fully expecting to love it. Tom King? David Finch? Fist-pumping action? A ridiculous “This is my city” moment? Check, check, check, and double check. Yet when I got to the final page and the reveal of Gotham and Gotham Girl, I found myself unmoved. There’s a lot of Snyder’s Batman in this issue, and I can understand King wanting to assure fans of the previous run that the book is in good hands, but it ends up feeling overstuffed with Snyder-isms.

Batman guiding a passenger jet like it’s a stagecoach would have been enough for me, honestly. Throwing in the crazed passenger ranting about Gotham? Even though it will surely tie into Gotham and Gotham Girl in the future (“You get the hero you deserve, y’know”), it feels overly familiar at the moment. Same with Alfred assuring Bruce that his parents would be extremely proud of him. These are all potentially great individual vignettes that never fully coalesce thanks to my knowledge of what came before.

But if I divorce myself of that knowledge, there’s little question this is qualitatively a good issue. Like you, Michael, I am a huge fan of Finch’s art. It’s a very classic take on Batman and friends, and if you told me Finch was using Batman: The Animated Series as his guide I wouldn’t be surprised. I thought things felt familiar, but once the Batmobile rolls in the influence feels obvious.
Batman 1
And if you handed this issue to someone who has never read a Batman comic but who loves the character, they’d probably dig it. They’d be right to! Isn’t that what Rebirth and these new #1s are designed to do?

There’s really not much more to say here. Batman is in good hands and my enthusiasm for King and Finch’s run on the book is undiminished. As a child, Sour Patch Kids were my favorite candy until I ate way too much in one sitting and ended up with a stomach ache. It was too much of a good thing. Still, after a few months I ended up returning to the sweet embrace of their sugary siren song. I can’t imagine I’ll hold off that long on more Batman.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?

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6 comments on “Batman 1

  1. I liked this issue overall, but there was something about Batman’s dialogue in this issue that I found a bit stiff; there were these little things that took me out of the moment. This is going to be beyond nitpick-y, but there’s the moment when Bruce thinks he’s going to die, and he tells Alfred that Duke should train with “Dick Grayson”. Why does Batman feel he needs to use the whole name? I mean, come on, he and Alfred are like brothers to the guy, and he doesn’t feel the first name will suffice? Does he think Alfred will think he meant ANOTHER Dick if he doesn’t specify it’s Dick Grayson? It just makes him come off less like a man who is going to his death and more like a freaking robot; it’s like something The Vision would say.

    Again, I know this is overly pendantic, but this wasn’t the only moment where I said to myself “Well, that just seems like awkward dialogue”. Did you guys ever get that sense? Or am I just crazy, lol

    • You’re absolutely right about that line, but I kind of liked the stiff dialogue, otherwise. I think he reads better as an emotionally stunted character than one that expresses his emotions freely.

  2. Loved the issue and the visual storytelling. It reminded me of the way Samnee and Waid can tell a story. I also found the dialogue stiff, and it actually took a rereading of the page to get, “Oh, he thinks he’s going to die and this is goodbye.” I liked his assumption that it was Clark lifting the plane out of the water.

    I like where this is heading. I’m not sure it needed Gotham and Ms. Gotham to save his LIFE instead of saving other lives to get the same feeling. That might have struck deeper with me if Gotham actually saved the city from the Joker instead of just saving Bruce’s life.

    But I like the ‘what if’ feel of this. What if Superman were also in Gotham? I can’t believe this hasn’t been done before.

    • You know, it’s interesting that King chose to have it be Batman’s life that they were saving. Like, there couldn’t really be any doubt that the first issue of a series called “Batman” would dare kill Batman, so there has to be some other reason. I was thinking of it in terms of showing the superhuman lengths Batman goes to to protect his city, or even highlighting the fact that he would sacrifice himself for his cause, but I hadn’t considered that Bruce would owe Gotham and Gotham Girl his own life.

  3. I am nuts about this issue, I seem to have enjoyed it way more than most people I see responding to it in the internet.

    The fact that the issue covers less than 10 minutes of in-story duration, while exercising King’s CIA counter-terrorism background to lay out the physical practicalities, makes everything in this issue seem so immediate to me. We’re grounded in that reality, and that makes the image of Batman jetboosting upward and mounting the jet seem like something much more than a generic superhero action page to me, no matter how well-worn the crashing plane superhero trope may be. King has reinvented it into a reality, a very plausible terrorism concern that Batman may have to counter.

    I love Duke doing “cave time” to earn his stripes.

    And I love that Gotham and Gotham Girl are so intentionally generic. This isn’t a story about them, and their origins, while likely to be revealed, are at this point entirely irrelevant. Batman has been cuckolded by everything he’s not. While I’m sure he’s pleased that his own life and the lives of the victims have been saved, and he’s likely to see this help as welcome and something he can strategize to his advantage going forward, there’s likely something sinister about the super-duo. I’m very much hoping that this is a story about what happens when people that can’t be trusted take your most valued symbolism and use it to manipulate the citizenship for ulterior purposes (See: the usage of the word “Patriot” in the US over the course of the past decade.)

    DYING to see the Janin issues, as that art team will be the true “A Team” on this bi-weekly in my mind.

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