One thing that can be said about Tomasi’s knack for storytelling is that each issue takes a distinctive, if small, step forward in the story. I can see the yellow steno pages at Peter Tomasi’s desk with things written in it like “Bruce arrives on Apokolips. Batfamily makes move. Show Kalibak threat.” The story takes tangible steps forward and is going to read great as a TPB.
So what exactly happens? The issue opens up on a great wide shot by Gleason. Robin Rises: Hellbound reads the title. With all the red, black, and yellow fiercely brought to us by colorist John Kalisz, it looks and feels like this issue is set firmly in hell sans Dante. Bruce is wearing the Hellbat suit and Tomasi shows us how strong it is in the field. It can withstand bullets. It flies. It can punch really, really hard. One characteristic about the suit that threw me off was how Venom-like it is. When I read the origins of the suit with it being crafted by the strongest people in the universe, I just assumed it was a super hard metal thing. But it is not. It clearly has some ability to do exactly like Venom’s suit does: imagine tar that is self-aware. At one point Bruce has the suit squeeze(?) itself out on a villain to inflict pain. I wanted to see the results of this, but that is something we aren’t given.
With Bruce kicking tail on Apokolips, the Batfamily is back on Earth doing what we all knew they would try to do: go to Apokolips to help. Tim, Barbara, and Jason approach Alfred with this desire. Alfred, as he makes his way through the Bat-Petting-Zoo, has something that might help. (What follows may be considered SPOILER ALERT for the extra sensitive reader.) Alfred has access to Bruce’s contingency plans for the Justice League. Interesting, as we just saw something similar over in the Batman title. The Batfamily wants a Boom tube and only Cyborg has the ability to create one. Alfred whips out Vic’s secret weapon and eventually through deception on the Batfamily’s part, they use it on him. It’s basically a computer program that lowers Vic’s defenses and blah blah blah we should just understand that they get the boom tube working and they leave for Apokolips. Cyborg wakes up just in time to see it open and, with Titus clamped to his foot, jumps through. It’s weird that Cyborg isn’t extremely pissed after he figured out he was tricked so they could use his abilities, he’s just ready to save Batman. But I’m okay with that. Let’s get to fighting….Just don’t kill Titus.
There is some weird business of Apokolips’ citizen-creatures killing others and being burned to feed Apokolips. Also, Kalibak is using the Chaos Shard to help revive his father, Darkseid, by destroying planets. This can feel a little “out there” for a fan of pure detective mysteries, but I’m rolling with it. It’s very different than what I’ve seen in a Batman title.
There are a few moments where I’m not quite sure what’s happening visually. It could be that the setting is different and that’s why I can’t always distinguish what angle Patrick Gleason is coming from. I had to really study those first pages as well as the last few to orient myself properly. I’m not sure how Damian’s body and the shard were loaded in that cannon. I don’t know what happened with Godfrey. I don’t know who those creatures were that the Batfamily plus Cyborg are sure to do away with next issue. I don’t know what’s wrong with Darkseid. I don’t know what’s wrong with Bruce’s Venom-Hellbat-Suit and the burn on his arm. But that is okay. I’m looking forward to the next issue.
- You care about the Batfamily.
- You wanna see the Hellbat suit in action.
- Red, black, and yellow are your favorite colors.
A good issue that balances action with set-up for future issues. We are getting our feet wet (or burned) in Apokolips, learning who’s who, motivations, and interweaving tension. It’s almost like a certain white, powdery, illegal substance you snort: it gives you what you want for the moment, but as soon as it’s gone you want more. Just please, dear God, don’t kill the dog.