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Ah…nostalgia.  This story is definitely featuring plenty of blasts from the past, sure to make any longtime Batman aficionado feel right at home.  But it’s got a lot more than just that.  It introduces us to the primary adversary for the arc, familiarizes/re-familiarizes us with the cast of characters, and has some nice action set-pieces.  And it does all this while not feeling overcrowded or rushed.  It serves as a pretty impressive first issue of Detective Comics under the new Rebirth label.

Before I get to the story proper, I want to point out a few of the “superficial” details that had me happier than a pig in a mud hole.

  • Batwoman is back in the pages of Detective Comics!  Back in 2009, during Bruce’s supposed death, Batwoman was featured as the headliner for the series.  So, it’s nice to have her back in what I personally see as her home.

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  • We’ve got a pretty close to original looking Tim Drake Robin suit back, along with the pointy “R” insignia and everything.  It does have two of them on there, since he is Red Robin, which makes it look a little more cluttered and less streamlined.  But I can live with that.
  • Cassandra Cain’s hood has the same stitching around the mouth piece, which is reminiscent of her original Batgirl costume.

The Young and the Brave

(Even the title of the story has nostalgic flare to it!  “The Brave and the Bold” for those of you who don’t know what I am referring to.)

Detective Comics #934 is all about Batman assembling and training a team to deal with a threat that he perceives just over the horizon.  In a nutshell, that’s what you get out of this issue.  But it’s the delivery of the unfolding story that nails it and makes it so much more than that brief synopsis would have you believe.

The Characters Feel Like Themselves

It’s a funny thing to praise, because you’d think people would be able to get this kind of thing right every single time, but the character work in this issue is simply spot on.  I’d go into specifics, but that would deprive you of experiencing it for yourself.  Suffice it to say; Batman is stoic, sanguine, and effortlessly efficient.  Spoiler is lovably annoying.  Robin shows resolute confidence on the job but complete indecision within his own personal affairs.  Cassandra is a boss as always. And Batwoman is supercilious, but rightly so.  I love how she has her arms folded in front of her and sports a little half lean in almost ever single panel in this book.  It’s like she is judging everything and everyone around her and simply has no time for any of it.  I love it.

I only have two minor concerns going forward:  Clayface and the ending.  I won’t go into detail about the ending, but I was left feeling like, “Oh, so we are doing that?”  (Look to the spoiler below to see what happened and get a little more insight as to why I was like, “really?”)  In regards to Clayface, it just feels like a weird inclusion to the team.  Almost shoehorned in a bit.  Perhaps Batman has some undisclosed reasoning behind his choice, but at the moment, it just feels strange to me.  But nothing about it is bad really.  There is definitely the misunderstood monster/sympathetic villain thing going on right now.  And that gives Batman the opportunity to rehabilitate rather than bash, so that is always welcome.  I just hope Batman doesn’t bring him back to the cave.  That would be a little too much for me.

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Feast your eyes on this!

Art for this issue is handled by Eddy Barrows, and can I just say, “Wow!”  Whenever an artist with impressive skills like this pops up, I’m always like, “Who are you and where have you been hiding?”  His Batman looks absolutely phenomenal and exudes an ominous level of intimidation that perfectly encapsulates this aspect of the character.  But it’s not just Barrows’ Batman that comes off this way.  His style spreads to the environment as well, giving everything an uneasy atmospheric quality that puts you slightly on-guard.

His Batman also comes off as strong while simultaneously lithe.  This is an important element that I think sometimes gets lost when Batman is portrayed as too much of a linebacker and not enough of a gymnast.  That set of sequential panels where he is doing an acrobatic somersault through the air and landing nimbly on his feet displays to a “T” the way I like to see Batman moving.  Always in control of his body, even when he isn’t.

The body language on display throughout the book is also expertly handled.  There is no misreading the intentions of the writer where the dialogue is concerned, as characters’ reactions and mannerisms work perfectly in conjunction with the dialogue to support a unified whole.  Generally speaking, this is some seriously beautiful stuff, and I am absolutely stoked to have Barrows on the book.  Unfortunately, it looks like he is only here for this issue and the next one, so let’s enjoy it while it lasts.

Interesting Facts:

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  • A former drug addict saved by Batman is inspired to starts a gang of “Batmen”.

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  • In this Elseworld tale, Ra’s forms his own league of “Batmen” to wreak havoc on Gotham City.

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  • Sometime after Batman’s supposed death in the 2008 storyline Final Crisis, it was revealed that Darkseid was attempting to create an army of “Batmen” by cloning Bruce Wayne.

So, what’s with all this “Batmen” talk in the Interesting Facts section?

Spoiler

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I’m getting a serious Arkham Knight vibe from these guys.

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Couple that with the fact that Arkham Knight also featured an army that Batman had to contend with..

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…and I’d say it’s fairly conclusive that someone was inspired by the latest Batman video game.

Rafael Albuquerque Variant Cover:

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  • How wonderful is that?  And I’m not just talking about the art.  Look at how the title is rendered.  One look, and I recognized it instantly as the font that graced the cover of Detective Comics about 10 years ago.  The fact that I am geeking out over something as “insignificant” as the title logo probably shows what an uber geek I must be.  But I am fine with that.  Now excuse me while I bask in the glory of this cover.

Recommended if…

  • You want a taste of what Tynion IV has in store for us in his upcoming arc.
  • You appreciate when characters are true to themselves.
  • You want to stare in awe at Eddy Barrows’ artwork.

Overall:

While there are definitely elements of nostalgia to be had by long time readers, none of it is essential to understanding the story at hand.  In fact, pretty much everything you need to know is right there on the page, making Detective Comics #934 an excellent jumping on point for new readers.  With the amount of introductions and set-up this story delivers, it’s easy to think that it could crumble under its own weight, but I actually found it to be very well paced and not at all overstuffed.  While you shouldn’t expect to be reeling from any mind-blowing twists this early in the game, the set-up is still impressive in its own right, providing an intriguing premise along with great artwork and faithful character representations.  All in all, this is a solid start to the first issue of Detective Comics under the new Rebirth label.

SCORE: 8.5 / 10