It’s Batman and Aquaman teaming up to find Robin’s body. Sound strange? It is, but it’s a good kind of strange that I think will get you really excited about this all-new arc (it’s a great jumping-on point) and it makes for an awesome continuation of Grant Morrison’s work on the New 52 Batman Incorporated title.
Bruce and Arthur may seem like an odd pairing for such a story, especially when we’re not going the comedic route of the wonderful Batman: The Brave & The Bold cartoon, but Aquaman’s inclusion in the latest Batman & ___ arc isn’t a random choice at all. Writer Peter J. Tomasi draws heavily from the final chapters of Grant Morrison’s Batman Incorporated epic and as a result Aquaman’s arrival happens quite organically. Need a hint?
However, Batman and Aquaman aren’t the only ones with a no-nonsense approach to this issue. Peter J. Tomasi doesn’t waste a second getting into the action, which is a good thing because fans have been waiting almost a year for this event to happen! Need setup? In the first couple of pages we have a radio conversation with Alfred that explains what’s up: Batman is in a submarine and he’s tracking down Ra’s al Ghul, the man who stole the bodies of Talia and Damian from the Wayne Manor grounds (seriously, why has it taken so long for us to get a story where Batman gets some payback, you don’t steal from Batman!). Immediately after that we’re faced with the sight of Damian’s teachers rotting from chains on the ocean floor, an image we know well from the first year of New 52 Batman & Robin comics. Turn the page and, tada, there’s Aquaman, here to investigate a disturbance happening off the coast of Ra’s al Ghul’s island (sounds coincidental, but it’ll tie-in better later)! And as if Batman wasn’t already making good time before, he now has the King of Atlantis to clear the way (although it is odd to see Aquaman fighting alongside a sub that resembles a Black Manta). Still think the issue is going to be a drawn out conversation between the two Justice Leaguers much like the 5 Stages of Grief arc? Or that we’re saving Ra’s for the final installments several months down the line? Wrong!
What follows is action upon action as our heroes cut their way through everything Ra’s al Ghul can throw at them. It doesn’t feel rushed, it just feels right. It’s a simple narrative and the urgency is spot on. The action is also incredibly diverse with a wide variety of baddies, but I won’t spoil all the surprises. Just know that you’re in for some of the most unsettling visuals since artist Patrick Gleason’s contribution to Death of the Family.
The art team is at the top of their game as far as pacing, page layouts, and action are concerned (not to mention the grotesque stuff I mentioned earlier). The comic is a real feast for the eyes with everything from underwater battles, to raids on James Bond-esque secret lairs, and we even take to the skies briefly. It’s quite remarkable and the color work really makes every panel pop. However, I did find the “frozen in carbonite” look of Talia and Damian’s coffins to be a bit much. And while the Man-Bat ninjas do make for some exciting action and a particularly cool match-up for Aquaman, I thought that Talia was running out of serum ages ago and the last of her Man-Bat assassins were cured by Batman in Batman Inc. #13… also, didn’t Abraham Langstrom say in the last issue of Batman: The Dark Knight that he bought the last batch of Talia’s formula or something? Red Hood & The Outlaws #23 ignored Morrison’s removal of the Man-Bat ninjas too, but to a greater degree when it showed tens of thousands of them inside a gigantic cave.
Another point I’d like to bring up before I call it a day is that I would have liked to have seen another issue or more with Aquaman. Or at least I’d like to see Arthur face down Ra’s al Ghul in his own comic. This issue barely touches upon it, but I think there’s something interesting about these two figures who are both viewed as eco-terrorists by society squaring off against one another.
(And for something totally unrelated, if anybody is interested in making a free bracket for the NCAA tournament tomorrow, a Batman News group can be found on ESPN’s tournament challenge page)
- You’ve been waiting for a new arc and a great jumping on point
- You loved Grant Morrison’s Batman Incorporated series
- Aquaman is one of your favorite DC Heroes
- Any chance to see Batman vs. Ra’s al Ghul is a good excuse to buy more comics
- Patrick Gleason is an artist you love
- Big, effed-up action is what you want to see: tridents through man-bats, swordfish through assassins, and more
This was a lot of fun and I appreciated how it wasted zero time jumping directly into the action and introducing Aquaman, who, by the way, turned out to make perfect sense as a co-star in this issue! I think this is a promising start to an all-new arc where Ra’s and Batman play cat and mouse across the globe and it serves as a long-overdue followup to the events of Batman Inc. #13.