Over the last 6 months, the landscape of the Batverse has changed dramatically. While some of the new status quo was eagerly spelled out for us, other plot points were left frustratingly vague. Fortunately, this issue finally takes the time to sit us down and give us some kind of answers to questions I thought had been permanently banished to a state of eternal Limbo.
For those of you who haven’t read Batman Eternal or Arkham Manor, a little catching up might be welcome. In Eternal, Arkham Asylum collapsed into a demonic sinkhole. This left a literal void as to where all the crazies were going to be housed. Long story short, Wayne Manor was converted into Arkham Asylum. There was supposed to be an extended story chronicling the adventures within those halls, but the writer for the project left (new job, if I remember correctly). He tied up the story prematurely, leaving a lot of questions unanswered. While I think it is safe to say that there might have been a more gradual and organic conclusion to the story had the writer for Arkham Manor stayed on, I’m willing to settle for a quick exposition dump if it means answers to questions that I thought had been swept under the rug.
This issue sees the return of Wayne Manor, and I couldn’t be happier. To me, Wayne Manor/The Batcave is just as important to the character of Batman as any other element. It’s a jumping off point, a place to regroup, a place to think. It is familiar and gives me a sense of home and comfort. I finally feel like I have some solid footing again. Batman and other typical tenants of the comic have been conspicuously absent from the ongoing stories for awhile now. Even if this story does feature a not-Bruce Bruce, it’s the first time in months that I’ve been able to connect with and recognize something from the comic that I loved so much. At the end of the day, all I want to do is read a Batman story, and right now, there are none to be found. This is the first indication that they are on the right path to putting things back where they belong, and I am simply thrilled.
(Last week, I was confused as to why Bruce was meeting with Dick in Wayne Manor in Grayson #12. At that point, it was still supposedly an insane asylum. Mystery solved.)
When even a non-Bruce Bruce is wary, you know something is up.
Another element that took me by surprise was the inclusion of villains. That’s right, there are villains in this issue! Going into this, I expected it to be nothing more than us hanging out with and getting to know the new Bruce. The sudden appearance of the villains was a twist that I honestly didn’t see coming, and added another whole dimension to the story. I’ll leave the specifics of the who, why, and how for you to discover on your own.
In order to clear up any confusion, the villains have a beef with Bruce Wayne, not Batman. At first, I was confused as to why they were going after Bruce. Did they know he was Batman? Then I remembered the fact that in current continuity, Bruce Wayne is Batman’s benefactor. For some reason, I always forget that this is now a thing. Perhaps it’s because in the bigger scheme of things this has only been relevant within the last 5 years. Maybe nobody batted an eye at this for a second, but for those of you who are like me, I just wanted to share my confusion with you.
The only real negative I had for this issue was in how Bruce ended up taking out the opposition. I expect casual/new readers to have no problem with what went down, but any long time reader is well aware of the fact that electricity is not a viable way to defeat one of the villains in this issue. In fact, there was recently a whole story arc dedicated to just how difficult it is to capture and contain this particular character. It’s even sillier when you realize that the perfect means to defeat him is within the hands of one of the other villains (remember Brandon, story over continuity…story over continuity).
*Villain identities revealed in spoiler tag*
Art for this issue is brought to us by Roge Antonio, who was also responsible for the art duties for last years Batman Annual featuring the Joker. I said it back then, and I’ll say it again now, Antonio has a knack for the unnerving. In a way, his talents tend to favor the creepier elements in a story. When he renders things in shadow/silhouette, they tend to be more poignant and memorable than his more straightforward shots.
*This spoiler tag also gives up the identities of the villains*
- While they are different from one another, it’s still possible to pick out the design elements that carried over.
- You miss Wayne Manor.
- You want some answers to a few unresolved questions.
- You like the creepy aspects of Roge Antonio’s artwork.
- This issue isn’t just a bunch of talking. There are villains in it too!
James Tynion IV was charged with the daunting task of uniting several disparate plot points from various writing teams. Not only did he manage to merge them together in a cohesive way, but the story that was birthed from their union is a web of intrigue not to be missed. While Batman is still absent from his own title, the inclusion of dearly missed Wayne Manor is exactly what this fan needed to put his homesick mind at ease. This is the closest we have gotten to an actual Batman story in months. Filled with direct answers to several nagging questions, and a showdown with classic Batman villains, you’d be ridiculous to pass this one up!
SCORE: 8 / 10