I’ve praised Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch for the quality of their craft for months now, but lately, The Batman’s Grave has felt as though it’s been spinning its wheels without making much progress as far as the plot is concerned. To be fair, it’s clear this story is intended to be read in a single sitting/ trade format, so I’ve been patient – perhaps too patient – waiting for a hook or connection to allow the plot to drive the narrative of the book. Well, we get exactly that with this issue!
For the past two months, I’ve found myself struggling to a degree when covering The Batman’s Grave. There have been aspects that I’ve absolutely loved such as the technical craft of Warren Ellis’ scripts, his use of language, strong characterization, etc. In the same respect, I’ve lavished praise on Bryan Hitch as well for his world-building, sequential storytelling, and masterful art. Both creatives have provided so much nuanced texture and detail that I’ve been in awe of their talent… But in all of this, they haven’t managed to hook me with their plot.
So, month after month, I found myself loving what I was reading, while also being slightly underwhelmed as well. But this month, things change. We finally get an issue where the plot feels like the priority, and it actually has me looking forward to what will come next!
This issue kicks off with Gordon making a discovery that creates a thread between the various murders and suicides that have recently occurred. Wanting to bring Batman in on the case, Gordon arranges to have Batman meet him at Arkham Asylum. The pattern has lead Gordon to a patient at Arkham named Karl Hellfern, who has been rambling about the scorn. With this information, they’re able to piece some of the recent events together, but it’s not enough to point them to an actual target or establish a motive.
Unable to get any intelligible information from Hellfern due to his state, Batman and Gordon turn to another source for information…. Eduardo Flamingo. Conveniently being held at Arkham, Batman and Gordon demand to meet with Flamingo in hopes of gaining information. If you’d forgotten how creepy Ellis and Hitch’s Flamingo is, then you’ll be reminded immediately. This depiction is downright unsettling.
While there’s no denying that the mere presence of Flamingo adds a lot to this issue, it’s what takes place during Batman and Gordon’s interrogation with him that really kicks this title into overdrive. An unexpected twist takes this from a detective mystery to a brutal fight for survival as Batman and Gordon are left to fight their way out of Arkham Asylum.
The circumstances of the fight are really intriguing and pose a number of good questions. Also, the brutality of the fight also increases the stakes here. While we know we won’t lose our heroes, there genuinely feels as though there is some risk. It also creates a perfect opportunity to establish similarities and differences between Batman and Gordon as heroes – something both Ellis and Hitch take full advantage of.
Aside from the debut, I feel this is the best and most-entertaining issue of The Batman’s Grave to date. So much of this issue’s success stems from the foundation that Ellis and Hitch have laid, but also from the balance they’re able to create between the plot, characterization, and mystery.
With action making up the final pages of the issue, the book literally ramps up in momentum as you move from character work, to plot development, to a plot twist, and then an all-out brawl.
There is a decent amount of deconstruction in this issue, and while I haven’t necessarily been a fan of recent attempts from other creative teams, I really like what Ellis and Hitch do here. They take full advantage of the scenes shared between Batman and Jerimiah Arkham, as Jerimiah blatantly states, more than once, that Batman should be under his care.
Again, this book excels because of the quality in which Ellis and Hitch bring to the table. The script continues to be incredibly smart, while Hitch’s art rounds out and embellishes the nuances of the story. And finally, thankfully, the plot itself has managed to kick things up a notch. This is exactly what The Batman’s Grave needed, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
- You want to read a smart book.
- You’ve been waiting for the plot to kick in.
- Hitch and Sinclair’s art. I mean, seriously…
Batman visits Arkham Asylum on Gordon’s request as a connection is discovered between the recent murders and suicides in Gotham. With something tangible to work with, Batman begins his mission to uncover the Scorn – a task that brings him face to face with Eduardo Flamingo again, and puts both he and Gordon in danger. As expected, The Batman’s Grave #5 is brilliantly executed by Ellis and Hitch, but delivers a much-needed dose of adrenaline.