You can practically hear the announcer of an old movie serial narrating the events of Batman: Universe as you’re reading it. This book is just pure, unadulterated adventure from cover to cover, and each chapter escalates the insanity set forth by the last.
Want proof? In this issue, Batman encounters a bunch of dinosaurs.
On an island called “Dinosaur Island.”
After he gets zapped back to Earth while helping a bunch of bird-people fight a giant monster.
Because this book rules.
Look, I love reading this book. I love getting to review this book, because it is a blast. Saying that, it’s kind of hard to analyze, because it’s almost critic-proof in the best possible way: it’s not trying to say anything about Batman or superheroes in general, nor is it hitting on any deep themes. Batman: Universe is, simply, an excuse for a great writer and a great artist to go absolutely nuts.
And it absolutely works.
This is a book that, at its core, is about Batman trying to find a missing Fabergé egg, and maybe lunch the Riddler in the face while he’s at it. You know. Play it by ear.
The egg is simply a McGuffin, though, and the chase simply a framing device to get Batman in the weirdest possible predicaments you can imagine.
Like being interrogated by a shadowy group of Thanagarians.
This sequence is funny without being remarkably distracting. After mysteriously winding up on Thanagar, Batman put through the ringer by the local law enforcement. While his responses are relatively cordial, I love how he gets increasingly perturbed by the silliness of the inquiries. “Were you born on Earth?” being the final straw is positively delightful.
While there is a fair amount of dialogue, it never gets to be too wordy or dense as to upset the flow of the story. And while it’s definitely snappy and light, the conversations never come across as twee or too cute either.
It’s also comforting to know that Batman loves dinosaurs.
Never has the Dark Knight been more relatable than in this exact moment.
I think we can all agree that Nick Derington is, for want of a better word, a rising star and the perfect artist for this book. He shines in the smaller moments, like Batman’s shifting facial expressions during his interrogation or the conversation betwee Bruce, Hal, and Vic at the Hall of Justice.
But then there are gorgeous spreads that will absolutely take your breath away. Last month’s highlight was the sprawling double-page spreads when Batman got to Gorilla City, and this month it’s his and Hal’s arrival on Dinosaur Island. The variety of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures is impressive, to be sure, but it’s that landscape that did it for me. That mountain rising above the dinos, the way the water cuts into the island to create a small bay, and the trees and foliage look positively stunning. You kind of believe that there’s an island out there, somewhere, with all these majestic and terrifying creatures.
I mean, even moreso, because who doesn’t want there to be an island of dinosaurs despite there being a popular and beloved film franchise about how that’s kind of a terrible idea?
So, yeah, Batman: Universe is pure entertainment and an exciting adventure. That’s what it wants to be, that’s what it is, and it’s great at it. Sure, you might not learn anything deep about Batman’s character (other than you share a mutual love of dinosaurs) and there aren’t any earth-shattering dramatic themes, but Green Lantern punches a T-Rex in the face and next issue they’re going to be cowboys. What more do you want? What more could you want?
- In outer space
- And there are also dinosaurs.
- The only thing that would make this better is if they were space dinosaurs.
Overall: A grand adventure, pure and simple. The writing is sharp and the art is absolutely stunning, with a sprawling story that takes us from the depths of space to an island of dinosaurs to the Old West. From an entertainment standpoint, Batman: Universe is one of the best Batman books in years, and I can’t wait to see where this crazy journey takes us next.