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Welcome to the review for Batman#1 by Tom King.  (Or, if your keeping track, issue #766 for when this will eventually go back to the original numbers like Detective Comics just did).  In the forthcoming series, King has promised to explore whether or not being a “normal” person without superpowers is really enough to save Gotham.  And he wastes no time getting down to business as the very first issue involves a plane crashing into the heart of Gotham.  I think it’s safe to say that isn’t a spoiler as it’s shown right on the cover.  However, this is a good time to point out that I will have some spoilers in the review.  Am I going to breakdown every single panel and leave nothing for you to discover on your own?  Of course not.  But the elements I have chosen to discuss will not be broached in a vague manner.  So, let’s get to it.

The two biggest takeaways I got from this story were: I think King already answered the primary question he was posing, and all of this feels somewhat familiar.

So…Batman saves the day and stops the plane from crashing into Gotham.  If the point of all this is supposed to be that Gotham needs super powered heroes to handle the threats that its “normal” protector isn’t able to deal with, it raises an interesting question.  How does showing Batman dealing with a challenge supposedly beyond his means, and having him handle it successfully in a confident and capable manner, meant to undermine my faith and the people of Gotham’s faith in his ability to protect them?  It simply seems to me that showing him publicly fail on a grand scale would put weight behind the need for new heroes.  As it stands, this encounter merely serves to bolster my opinion that Batman is everything that Gotham needs and more.  It hardly serves as a springboard to dissension.

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Geeking out so bad right now I can barely contain myself.

It’s an armor-plated Batman: The Animated Series Batmobile with the 1940 Batface on it!

In regards to things feeling familiar, there are many different ways to look at this.  Sometimes a writer intentionally includes elements that are meant as an homage to the past.  Whether they are referencing a specific moment or merely meant to capture an overall aesthetic from a time gone by, homages are typically meet with much enthusiasm.  They aren’t copies of plots or themes, merely little Easter eggs whose omission would not negatively alter the basic story being told, but whose presence shows a certain level of respect for the material and simultaneously delivers an element of fun.  This story has several such instances on display (like that awesome one pictured above).

Then you have the re-circulation of plot , theme, and subject.  Sometimes it’s intentional, for example, literally telling the same story again in order to bring it up to date with just enough alterations thrown in to justify it as being new.  While this story isn’t specifically a copy of another, it’s definitely exploring subjects that are no stranger to the Batman comics.  Personally, I’ve read dozens upon dozens of Batman stories where some unknown shows up wanting to be a hero in Gotham.  Sometimes, it’s a genuine desire to help and they actually stick around.  Other times, they are equally as zealous as Batman, but despite powers, lack the skills to do the job and mess up in a critical way.  And still there are other times where they are secretly a villain who wishes to depose Batman so that they can rob Gotham blind, unabated.

Alongside all that is the unintentional.  I don’t expect every writer to be like me and have read every Batman comic ever published.  That is a pipe dream.  There are going to be things that fall outside of their knowledge, and they may think they are entering into new territory, when in actuality, it has already been done.  And if we go beyond Batman comics for a moment.  It may very well be that, at some point, we can do nothing new because everything has already been done.  Are there truly any original ideas left?  Or is everything an amalgamation created by inspirations garnered from other sources?

Even if King is knowingly copying the subject and loosely copying basic plot structure from previous Batman stories, I’m not sure that is such a bad thing.  I can see how some might call this derivative, but I’m seeing it as more of a convention of the genre and even a tenet of Batman comics in general.  I mean, I’ve seen Batman stop a mugging hundreds of times, but I never grow tired of that.  So, why not go down this path again?  Whether it be intentional or unintentional, this is the journey that King has planned for us.  For me, part of the success will be measured in how much original material King brings to the table and whether or not he can provide a new perspective on a theme that has been covered before.  As long as he can do all that and entertain me at the same time, I’m willing to give this story some leeway up front till I see where it’s going.

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Even the best page from this book doesn’t measure up to some of Finch’s better work.

Art for this issue is handled by David Finch.  Let me start off by saying, I really like Finch’s work…some of the time.  Having seen such a large amount of his work, it really tends to vary in quality from awesome to just ok.  We are definitely looking at an ok submission for Batman #1.  I don’t want to say that this is bad, because it isn’t, but I know that Finch can do better than this.  I’ve seen him do better than this.  I’ve seen him absolutely kill it.  While this is bounds above what some artists might produce, what we have here is still merely only acceptable when taking Finch’s abilities into question.  Considering that this is Batman #1, I thought he would have brought his absolute “A” game to bear, but alas, he didn’t.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some good shots in here, but on a whole, I found it lacking.

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I will say that I absolutely love love love the character designs for Gotham and Gotham Girl.  This style is straight out of the 1940s.  Need to find some quick reference material to verify what I am saying.  Do a Google image search on “Gallery of the Public Domain Heroes of the Golden Age by Alex Ross”.  It’s fascinating.  And their names are definitely a throwback to that time as well.

Odds and Ends:

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  • Yes, Master Bruce.  They were proud when you asked me last night.  They were proud when you asked me last week.  They were proud when you asked me last month.  They were proud when you asked me last year.  Yes, Master Bruce.  They are proud of you.
  • Did anyone else find those little thruster nozzles odd?  I mean, where was the fuel supplying them?  I know, comic science was used to pressurize the fuel into a tank the size of a golf ball.  I’m just saying.  Cool but iffy.
  • Let’s play a game.  How many names of writers and artists can you spot?  I’ll start you off.

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Haha.  Cause he was in the C.I.A.

Favorite Lines:

Jim: Where are you?

Batman: I’m on the plane.

Jim: Oh. Of course you’re on the plane.

Interesting Facts:

  • This issue features a ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world.  No no, not that Cobra (although, that was an awesome intro).  And I’m not talking about the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act either.  I’m talking about DC’s Kobra that was first introduced back in 1975, making it predate G.I.Joe’s Cobra by 7 years.

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Similar color scheme, motif, and scaled armor.  Have actual cobras as pets.  Operate terrorist organizations with similar goals and central theme.  Yeah, they’re totally different…

  • Here’s another similarity between the two properties.  Kobra has a twin brother with whom he shares a psychic link, enabling them to feel each other’s pain.  If you are at all familiar with G.I.Joe, all I need say is Tomax and Xamot.
  • Aerial vehicle about to crash into Gotham.  Now where have I seen that before…

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  • Oh yeah.  Superman/Batman #8 (2004).  Although, in all fairness, I can’t recall ever seeing Batman ride a plane as if it were a bucking bronco.

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  • Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #32-34 (1992), Blades.  You may consider this a reading recommendation.  Why did I single this story out among all the dozens of “Hero challenges Batman for the right to protect Gotham” stories.  A very small part can be attributed to the fact that the artist for Blades also provided artwork for this issues variant cover, but more so, because it’s simply a great story.  Enjoy.

Recommended if…

  • You love Tom King’s previous work and want to see his take on Batman.
  • You like when a story pays subtle tributes to the past.
  • You’re fine with reading a new take on a familiar story.
  • You want to see Batman ride a plane the way Major Kong rode the bomb.

Overall:

While the premise is nothing new, I’m intrigued to see where Tom King is going with this.  As a first course, this story is satisfying even if not completely filling (which I don’t think it’s meant to be).  Since this is a rehash of sorts, I’ll ultimately judge the book on the amount of original material brought to the table and whether or not King can provide a fresh perspective on a theme that has been covered before.  As long as he can do that and continue to entertain me, I’ll happily join him on this journey.

SCORE: 7.5 / 10