With the new 4-part mini-series Damian: Son of Batman, Andy Kubert writes and illustrates the story that Bruce Wayne only caught a glimpse of when he foresaw a possible future in which the mantle of the bat was passed down to a child from the union of Wayne and al Ghul. Batman Inc. #5 may have shown us how this story ends, but it’s this 4-part saga that will actually explain how it all began.

It’s an intriguing idea, revisiting the world of Batman 666, but with only the original artist returning and Grant Morrison sitting things out it’s understandable why fans might be apprehensive. And after Andy Kubert’s first writing attempt Joker #1 back in Villains month received such mixed reactions I’m sure there are many fans who are waiting for reviews first before committing to lay down $4 bucks for this book. Without further ado, let me say that Damian: Son of Batman #1 is, once again, a mixed bag much like Joker #1 was when I reviewed it. On one hand the artwork can be absolutely gorgeous, but the writing leaves a lot to be desired. Most surprisingly though, this book reminded me quite a bit of Neal Adams’ Batman Odyssey in art dialogue and sometimes in art and that’s not really a good thing.

BruceWhaaa

DamianCrap

I caught the similarity from the very first page. There are some panels here and there throughout the book in which facial expressions are far too exaggerated, particularly with the mouths but that’s really the only aspect of the art that reminded me of Batman Odyssey. It’s otherwise one of the most stunning looking books you’ll pick up this month. No, instead it’s the wild trajectory, awful dialogue, and strange tonal shifts that brought Neal Adams’ tale of Batman’s adventure to the center of the earth to mind. I mean, right from the very first line, “Holy crap!” it’s evident that the voice of Damian isn’t quite right. Sure, Damian’s a teenager now and he’s probably changed some but something about his voice doesn’t quite capture the pompousness, the arrogance of Damian Wayne. Damian doesn’t even refer to Tim Drake as “Drake” like many fans know he would. His horror and disgust at all of the bodies in the opening scene didn’t ring true either what with Damian so exposed to carnage his entire life. The sense of Damian acting out of character starts to wane near the end of the book, but it’s still never quite right and any attempts at jokes always feel forced.

The worst instance of an attempt at humor is a scene in which Damian seeks revenge against the Batman’s rogues gallery by monitoring each villain’s facebook or twitter feed (seriously, this happens). Seeing Mr. Freeze hoping for likes on his new status update is one of the lowest points of the year for Batman comics, and yes he does make an ice-pun.

Spoiler
Speaking of low-points, the book also features one of the weakest bat-deaths of all-time. It’s likely Dick Grayson under the cowl, but even so it’s a poor way to see a Dark Knight fall. Death by fish grenade? Hopefully we find out in coming issues that there was more to it than that.

The other big problem I had with this issue is the lack of response from the supporting cast. The comic opens with what should be an earth-shattering event yet Damian is the only character who appears affected by it. I understand that this is his story, but it would be a more compelling one if there were supporting characters that did more than stand around waiting for Damian to talk to them. Life in Gotham should never be the same but the only thing that appears to have changed are the facebook statuses. Even Ra’s al Ghul and Talia shrug matters off and Alfred continues about daily chores even when Damian goes on a killing spree. Rather than be outraged, Alfred offers nothing more than a remarks from behind the morning paper. There’s no life to anyone else but Damian.

Spoiler
One aspect that I did find fascinating was the decision to make Jim Gordon a priest, or at least that’s who I assume was in the confession booth. I hope that this idea is pursued more because I can’t honestly say I see Gordon giving up the badge for the cloth.

Even with all of these issues, the comic did manage to hold my interest just with how odd it was. There’s an unpredictability to it that’s sure to hold your interest. The quick pace the book takes after the life-changing event also does wonders for engaging the reader, but I must say that at the end of the day the thing that everyone will be praising is the artwork. It’s not just the level of detail, use of shadows, and perfectly laid out pages that make it look so remarkable but the colors by Brad Anderson. Anderson’s colors and Kubert’s art blend perfectly to create an undeniably rich Gotham atmosphere. You can practically smell the rain and rotting flesh of the opening pages! And speaking of pages, you’ll quickly notice a different texture to them that feels great and looks even better.

I’m conflicted on this one. I really want to like it because of the subject matter and the artistry involved, but it’s rather poorly written so far. Still, the final page is a strong enough cliffhanger that I’m eager to get answers in issue #2.

Recommended If…

  • You love Andy Kubert’s artwork
  • Batman #666 is near and dear to your heart
  • You enjoyed Neal Adams’ Batman Odyssey… I’m definitely getting that vibe. Not strong, but it’s there
  • A 4-part elseworlds mini-series sounds like a nice change of pace
  • You like a good cliff-hanger
  • You like the feel of matte pages

Overall

I’m staying optimistic for now, but the first chapter of this 4-part saga was definitely strange. The writing is nowhere near as strong as the superb artwork, but given the bizarre nature of the story being told my curiosity will definitely bring me back for more next month. I’m giving Damian: Son of Batman #1 an average score of 5.5/10.

SCORE: 5.5/10