Remember when the new creative team had Luke Fox getting in adventures in Italy and other locations around the globe while occasionally coming home to confront re-invented C-list baddies like Ratcatcher and I was all like “Hey everyone, come check out Batwing, it’s really good now!” Well… for whatever reason we’re diving into an aspect of the New 52 Bat-universe devised by Catwoman writer Ann Nocenti and it’s a REALLY awful creation that needs to be forgotten by everyone. Immediately. Midway through the issue, once it happened, I just wanted to drop the book on the floor and back away slowly.
I’m, of course, talking about the Gotham Underground. It’s been hinted at here and there over the past couple of issues, but it was subtle enough not to irk me too much. However, it can’t be ignored in issue #29 because most of its story takes place inside The Underground itself and our hero is just as dumbstruck by this absurdity as I am. What do I mean by The Underground? The “Underground” is a sprawling city that thrives beneath Gotham’s surface and somehow only a handful of surface dwellers seem to know about it. It’s a mole-people metropolis full of Anglerfish-like monsters and human tribes that worship the Egyptian god Anubis. Does this sound like something that belongs in the modern Batman mythology? If you said yes, please leave–No eye contact!
On a positive note, the artwork by Eduardo Pansica and rich colors by Paul Mounts are nicely done. Despite my distaste for the idea behind the majority of this issue it at least looks good and the sections I do enjoy come with a tremendous amount of detail and an emotional weight thanks to the stylish visuals. However, I will say that the close-up panel of Luke inside the suit was a bit derivative of a shot seen in the Iron Man films.
The tragedy that befalls Tam and the entire Fox clan is very moving and if you thought Luke was furious in the previous issue, he really loses his composure in this episode! Writers Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti rock when they are dealing with character moments and narrative threads more grounded in traditional Batman lore. Seeing Batwing go berserk in his darkest hour as a superhero and Batman and Alfred scramble to find him and put an end to the rampage before Luke goes over the edge entirely is fun, buuuuuuut then we go to The Underground. Also, I wish we could finally settle on what all the Batwing armor can do. At first it felt as though it was more of a proto-Batman Beyond uniform, but in this issue the armor shows off all the same features an then some. He can go invisible, fly, utilize X-ray vision, and has the ability to create holograms in the palm of his hand. There needs to be some excuse as to why the rest of the Batman family isn’t benefiting from similar technology. If everyone could go invisible and see through walls it would certainly make crime-fighting a lot easier. Perhaps the creators need to introduce a negative side-effect to wearing the costume. Doing so would create drama and provide an excuse for the rest of the Bat-family’s refusal to adopt the same tools.
- You’re cool with the idea of there being an underground city beneath Gotham full of monsters and lost tribes
- You want to see what is basically the Batman Beyond suit in the modern Gotham
- You’re looking for action
- You care for the Fox family and the drama going on with their missing girls
There are about 9 good pages here and then the next 11 go into the underground city, an element of the New 52 that we all need to agree never happened.