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James Tynion IV will be taking over writing duties for Detective Comics as part of DC’s new Rebirth campaign coming in June.  I’m most familiar with Tynion as co-scripter along with Scott Snyder for the books Batman/Batman&Robin Eternal.  To me, this seems like one of the first stories where Tynion is not only out from under Snyder’s wing, but also presented in a major title.  As such, I think this story serves as the perfect prognosticator for determining what we have to look forward to from Tynion.  So…do Tynion’s storytelling skills bode well for the future of Detective Comics, or should we see this story as an ominous cloud on the horizon?

It’s good!  Not perfect, but definitely headed in the right direction.  (I bet you thought I was going to make you wait till the end of the article to get that answer.)  The story focuses heavily on Bruce, his past training, and what motivates him.  In many Batman comics, Batman has to share major page time with the main antagonist.  Here, not only is it centered on Bruce (with Alfred playing a key role), but it involves one of my favorite and often criminally unexplored aspects of the character, his time in training.  Seeing as how they have never published a story that chronologically depicts every instance of his training, I’ve always relished the opportunity to add another piece of the puzzle that fills in that 12 year gap in his life.

While many people would probably say that this is an unnecessary part of the character to explore, either they are perfectly fine with nothing more than his tales as a crime fighter, or they may be worried that exposing the hows and whys might strip the character of his mystique; I, on the other hand, have always been thrilled by each story that has shown me but a small piece of the path that Bruce had to walk in order to become Batman.  Whether it involved Harvey Harris, Henri Ducard, Master Kirigi, Willy Dogget, Giovanni Zatara, Cassandra (not Cain), or any of the other individuals who crossed Bruce’s path during his wanderings; I’ve never found a dud among them.

The examples I listed above were usually utilized to explain how Batman was able to do something within the context of the story, or because they had immediate ties to an unfolding narrative in the present.  While this issue does give us several examples of teachers and lessons that Bruce undertook, the specifics of what he was learning in them is far less important to the overall story being told here than the simple fact that he went on a journey of exploration and change.  It’s not about what he learned, but the constant in his life that propelled him to learn.

These lessons end up being tied to a reveal at the end of the book that had me reading the story at a much brisker pace than I might usually go.  While chasing answers is definitely a plot device used to get you hooked, the payoff is much more than just the disclosure of unknown information, it’s actually a rewarding emotional experience.

Art for this issue is handled by Riley Rossmo.  Personally, this is one of the only factors that really detracted from the book for me.  Half the time, the work is passable with a few standout images, but most of the time I found it seriously lacking.  Character faces are peculiar, body proportions are off, and almost every character has a skeletal appearance to their limbs at some point or another.  Although, all of that changes from panel to panel because the art lacks an overall consistency as well.

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These people really shouldn’t have skipped leg day at the gym.

Also…square crotches?!?  Crypsis is definitely the biggest offender in the skeletal arena, but as you can see; Alfred, Leslie, and Bruce all have their moment too.  Also, check out how lengthy their forearms are sometime depicted.  This art is just not very pleasing to look at.

Odds and Ends:

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  • Looking at Crypsis, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the character Frieza from Dragon Ball Z.  Not that they are the same by any means, but the general color scheme and placement of said color was enough for me to make the connection.

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  • While I thought it was perfectly acceptable for the “How to Move On” book to make appearances throughout Bruce’s flashback training, I thought it was a bit much that he would take it skydiving with him.

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  • This exchange is a complete throw away to the actual meat of the story,  but I think it’s brilliant.  Not having house servants in the contemporary setting always made sense.  Bruce didn’t want anyone stumbling upon his Batman persona.  But why were there never any servants around before that?  This explanation is perfect.
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  • It kind of bothered me that Bruce’s list went to 52, which is obviously a reference to the fact that this is issue #52.  I don’t like when a story pulls me out of it by calling attention to the fact that it is a story.  I liked to be immersed in a world, not reflect on the cleverness of tying an in-story element to an out-of-story real world situation.  Reminded me of when Detective Comics #19/900 focused on the 900 block of Gotham City.
  • I couldn’t help but think of the new Lego Batman Movie trailer when it is revealed that 52 on Bruce’s list is that his parents will always be proud of him.  “Hey Mom.  Hey Dad.  I saved the city again today.  I think you would’ve been really proud”  

Interesting Facts:

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  • If you’ve never read “The Untold Legend of the Batman”, it might be worth a look.  It’s from 1980 and does an excellent job of retelling snippets of stories from the previous 40 years, including the Harvey Harris training story I mentioned above from Detective Comics #226.  If you love Batman references as much as I do, this is the story for you.   It’s seriously a countless treasure trove of references!

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  • Batman #431 features Master Kirigi.  It’s also got Batman fighting a bunch of ninjas!  Can’t go wrong with that.
  • I guess 1989 was one of the years that DC was focusing on Batman and his past.  Two issues after #431, John Byrne presented “The Many Deaths of the Batman”.  This story featured many of the individuals who had a small part in training Bruce getting murdered one by one, and Batman scrambling to discover the culprit.  .

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  • Batman #430.  Initially, this comic didn’t spring to mind after reading Batman #52.  But as I got to thinking about the appearance of Master Kirigi from #431 and reflecting on Bruce’s training, I remembered that #430 also had a bunch of flashbacks with an 8 year old Bruce, just like this story does.  There is a rather unexpected moment where Thomas Wayne give Bruce quite the smack across the face for acting up, but other than that, I remember it being equally as emotional a story.

Recommended if…

  • You want to get a sample of what James Tynion IV may have in store for us in his upcoming run on Detective Comics.
  • You like when Batman stories focus more on Bruce than his villains.
  • You enjoy when a comic depicts flashbacks to Bruce’s training.
  • You enjoy character development and emotional weight in your stories.

Overall:

James Tynion IV follows suit after Snyder’s powerful final issue and continues to focus the book on strong character work and emotionally resonate subject matter.  Oddly enough, I thought it would have served better as an introductory issue to the world of Batman rather than as a farewell to the ongoing series.  Aside from the story which is quite strong, the book really took a hit in the art department, depicting some very lackluster imagery.  Since the art is definitely the downfall of this story, and Riley Rossmo is not the artist paired with Tynion for his future run on Detective Comics starting next month, I’m quite looking forward to what Tynion plans on bringing to the world of Batman.

SCORE: 7 / 10