Enter Peter J. Tomasi on writing duties for the flagship title, with an arc titled “Mythology” (first issue, “Raze”). Tomasi doesn’t waste time putting his stamp on the world of Gotham by announcing as big and bold as ever that this is a fresh start. And he does so by taking us back to the beginning. Oh no! Not that dang alley and those pearls again! Yes, I can already hear some of your screaming. I was screaming for a moment myself, but give it a second: Tomasi isn’t here to waste your time with retread of little Bruce Wayne’s tragic past.

No, this is a story for a fully grown and mature (emphasis on mature) Batman–and the Dark Knight has a mystery to solve!

At first I was a big skeptical. The story begins with yet another angle on Thomas and Martha Wayne (that’s all three big Batbooks this week with at least some kind of focus on Bruce’s parents, and depending on which one you read last, you might be rolling your eyes by the time you get to the third). But Tomasi shakes things up a bit by framing the Wayne murders as an opportunity for some creeptastic murderer to play copycat, going to extreme lengths to replicate the death of the Waynes right down to using plastic surgery on his victims.

Thomas Wayne is 10 feet tall, but that’s okay

Now, to be clear, there’s a lot of silliness in this with regard to the crime. Part of that may be due to things that aren’t clear about the killer’s motive yet, but I’m still casting a rheumy eye on some of the details. For instance: in a crime where every other detail is so perfectly replicated, why throw the victims into the aquarium? The emphasis on the pearls as well tells me there’s something fishy about this case.

But that’s a story point that may be resolved. Sillier still is that the GCPD is on the scene and already has a diver prepared to go in and retrieve the bodies, but Batman is so impatient he just blows up the aquarium. What? Really Batman? You just ruined the crime scene. Also, what about the fish? Also, thanks for the huge expensive mess!

It’s dramatic, but it’s really kind of dumb. And Batman blithely says something about there being no other trace evidence on the scene. I guess he has some built-in tech that was able to scan the whole tank and all the water that just ran everywhere in milliseconds?

Okay, I’ll stop pecking at that scab. Mostly because hot dang this book was just fun. From the set up of the crime, we bounce straight to an attack on Leslie Thompkins in what seems at first a completely unrelated case. We can barely take a breath between the two events, but the pace never feels too rushed. Tomasi excels at ramping up the action quickly, and throwing the whole cast of characters into action.

Everything is always in motion; it’s awesome!

And speaking of action, Doug Mahnke is fooling around with his art here. One of the things that I really appreciate about his style and why he’s so perfect for the world of comic books is that every panel has bold energy: there’s almost always something in motion and when there isn’t, the stillness itself is a purposeful statement on the tone of the moment. It’s a very old standard (and one grievously overused in the 80-90s), but Mahnke knows how to control the action and keep it dynamic without being overblown. The characters are impelled and their movement has urgency, but not every panel is tilted at a 60-degree angle with people flying sideways everywhere.

This isn’t a perfect book by any means, but it’s so chock-full of danger and mystery that it’s easy to forgive its scabbier parts. Some of the dialogue is too heavy on exposition (“This is Leslie on the comm-link you gave me!” made me both roll my eyes and chuckle), and Batman’s secret identity is twice in jeopardy here (he starts to call Thomas and Martha “my” parents–seriously, how does Gordon not know? And later Leslie calls him Bruce on the comm-link, which it seems anybody can hear). But there’s so much crazytown weirdness otherwise with the bizarre beast on the loose and Batman distracted that I’m loving it in spite of itself and I think you will too.

For those who have wandered from the fold as a result of all the recent melodrama, gloom, and questionable continuity, this might just be a great book to pick up for a fresh start.

Recommended If…

  • You need a fresh breath of air: Tomasi is here with oxygen tanks to spare!
  • You’re ready for a great combo of detective work and super-heroic throwdown.
  • Remember Leslie Thompkins? She’s still a cool part of Batman’s world.

Overall

Peter J. Tomasi delivers what I think so many Batfans have been hoping for: a book that throws all the angst out the window and gets back to basics: Batman fighting crime, dealing with Gotham’s craziest, and a supporting cast we’ve grown to love over the years. This arc-opener is a mixed bag of mysteries for our Dark Knight to puzzle through, but for the first time in too long, they feel like the exciting kind of perplexities for which you’re dying to know the answers! And with Doug Mahnke rendering every panel with thrilling urgency, this truly feels like a return to the glory days of Gotham.

SCORE: 8.5/10

Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.