In their strong debut issue, Gage and Ienco successfully reintroduced us to the Telltale Games continuity and set up Batman’s two major obstacles for the series: the perception of Thomas Wayne and his legacy in the light of monstrous revelations, and chief antagonist Deadshot. Issue #2 doesn’t progress the story much but continues to entertain by doubling down on the action and delving deeper into Bruce’s psyche.
The old Elseworlds stories used to ask ‘what if’ questions- ‘What if Abin Sur had given his ring to Bruce Wayne?’ or ‘What if Kal-El’s rocket had landed in the USSR?’ Sins of the Father asks a much simpler question- ‘What if Thomas Wayne were evil?’ This comparably subtle change has significant consequences. Personally, I don’t find what the Gotham public thinks of the Waynes to be all that interesting but the actions they take as a result of this affect Bruce and it is interesting to see how he feels about the matter. Literature and film are populated by dozens of heroes who are the offspring of evil parents (and plenty of them already reside in the pages of DC Comics) but we’ve never before seen how Batman, one of the most familiar and enduring icons in popular culture, would cope with this. It’s already been established in Season One of the Telltale game that this is a more brutal Batman than we are used to (maybe Thomas’ upbringing is to blame? It’s impressive that both this Bruce and his occasionally unscrupulous counterpart in Injustice are still written well enough that we recognise them as the Bruce we know and love). Being Batman has often been portrayed as the actions of an unhinged young man avenging the deaths of his parents- how might this be exacerbated by adding this extra ferocity and the vulnerability he feels in the wake of discovering the truth about his father? Understandably, Bruce begins to question his mission this issue and though we’ve seen him do this before, there are enough differences in his reasoning to make it feel fresh.
Outside of these darker moments, I didn’t find Bruce’s characterisation as on-point this issue, mostly because he talks to Black Spider and Deadshot when he’s fighting them- that’s more the sort of thing I’d expect from Dick (even worse, a thug inexplicably smiles and jokes with Batman after having bones broken in an interrogation). This does, however, give Gage the opportunity to draw parallels between the bat and the assassin. Batman calls Deadshot a ‘vigilante’ and deduces that he must be rich and driven by a personal vendetta. With options like the Joker, Wrath, Killer Moth and Owlman presented as Batman’s doppelgänger in older stories, it had never occurred to me that Deadshot might be used this way. How did two such similar men end up on opposite sides of the law? This could be a fascinating storyline if handled right in the remaining issues of the series.
Despite these two promising threads running through the book, I keep expecting a sub-plot, to give us more to chew on. If this were an ongoing series, I think the frequently mentioned ‘new players’ in the Gotham underworld would form part of this, but instead the series is hampered by being a short one falling between Seasons One and Two of the game.
The other thing that bothered me in this issue is that it ends with the most underwhelming cliff-hanger ever. Can Batman break into Arkham Asylum? Well yes, of course he can. This story may take place early in his career but he’s still Batman!
‘Can Batman enter a locked room full of old files? Tune in next time to find out! Same Bat-Time! Same Bat-Channel!’
Raffaele Ienco dazzled me with his detailed art in issue #1 and, for the most part, nothing has changed with issue #2. The clothes are all thoroughly textured, brickwork is chipped, ice, bubbles and a slice of lemon adorn a glass on Alfred’s serving tray, cabinets show signs of rust, complex arrangements of telephone wires fill the backgrounds, Black Spider’s new design is very cool and I love the foreshortening technique used when Batman throws his Batarang. I was also put in mind of Janin’s work on Grayson as Black Spider flips across rooftops and we’re shown his progression as multiple figures in a single frame. However, no-one is perfect; Batman twists into some very awkward and unlikely poses during the fight scenes, the body language when the characters are standing talking to one another is a little stiff (no-one slouches against a wall or has their hands in their pockets – they all stand up straight and hold their hands palms-outward as if they’re about to gesticulate), and the water cascading from the mouths of gargoyles actually looks like confetti. The frames below demonstrate the inconsistency. The picture of Gordon is enhanced by the addition of the cop behind him and the detailed building outside while the fight scene on the left contains the distracting presence of what appears to be a floating circus tent/fortress emitting yellow squiggles. Recommended if:
- You want to read a Batman tale that’s grounded, not grandiose.
- You don’t mind that this story will be straitjacketed by being bookended by the games.
- You’re interested to see how a more vulnerable Bruce manages the mantle of the Batman.
Overall: This issue shifts the focus more onto Bruce’s alter ego but there’s still a sensible balance of action and discussion. The story doesn’t move forward much but we do spend a lot of time in Bruce’s head, giving us more of a reason to care about him. Though it treads water more than it’s predecessor, issue #2 is still worth checking out.