The Batman’s Grave #6 manages to improve and also take a step back all at once. We’re still getting some quality work here, but is it enough to keep you invested through the remainder of the run or will you opt to trade-wait to finish the series?
I’ve praised this book ever since it launched because Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch have consistently delivered quality writing and art from the word “go.” Unfortunately, for some reason, the plot didn’t appear to be clicking or gelling very well as a cohesive story with a driving narrative, and despite the quality of each man’s craft, I wasn’t getting hooked. Last month’s issue appeared to – finally – sink that hook in, and that made me incredibly excited to read this chapter. I mean, we’ve got Batman and Jim Gordon trapped in Arkham with a group/ cult looking to kill them, and they apparently have ties to the recent murders that have taken place in Gotham. They’re so anxious to kill them that they actually murdered Flamingo to prevent him from talking, and with all eyes on our two protagonists, I found myself genuinely concerned as to whether or not Gordon would make it out alive.
Well… I have good news and bad news.
Good news first. This issue starts exactly how you want it to, with a good ol’ slobber-knocker. We’re still in Arkham and Batman and Gordon have to fight their way out of this mess. Once again, many kudos to Bryan Hitch for delivering stellar art here. The action is gritty and violent, but it’s also “choreographed” rather well, creating a strong pace and tension throughout the issue. Our heroes encounter numerous threats and I felt as though every turn of the corner would result in Gordon finding a knife in his gut. Honestly, it’s done so well, that it actually reminded me the prison fight in Daredevil season 3! That’s a high compliment right there.
Anyway, the action is fantastic, and the tension keeps building and building as the two find themselves facing more and more foes at once. Hitch isn’t the only person who deserves praise here though. Ellis does a great job of inserting relevant dialogue throughout action that plays into building tension, but he also provides strong characterization by playing into Batman’s strengths as a strategist. There’s also some fun banter between Batman and Gordon pertaining to the “no killing” rule.
Unfortunately, as great as all of this action is, right as it reaches the peak of its climax, the creative team kind of cops out and ends things rather abruptly. I mean, they literally set up a moment where I think, “How in the hell are they going to get past this?” And then throw a quippy line at us before inserting a time jump to later that night. Wait… What? Really?
I’ve been looking forward to this! I was all in with this fight, and now we’re just jumping ahead without any explanation as to how Batman and Gordon actually got out? It’s a total letdown. What makes matters worse is that I was also looking forward to this fight expecting to learn more about this group of villains, as well as what’s really going on in Gotham and why… But there’s nothing. It’s just a bunch of fighting before taking off in what appears to be yet another new direction.
And that brings me to the “bad.” Right as The Batman’s Grave appears to be building upon itself to help drive the plot, it immediately reverts back to its old ways by shifting the focus. This book has needed traction badly for the last few issues, so this is rather disappointing. I just feel like we keep acknowledging plot threads that are made out to be key, and then do nothing with them. I feel like I’m chasing rabbits.
That being said, the remainder of the book is quite good. The “new direction” the book decides to take involves an inmate breaking out of Arkham, and without giving too much away, I’ll say that I’m curious to see the creep factor this villain has under Ellis and Hitch. We also get some great conversations between Gordon and Batman, as well as Bruce and Alfred. I especially loved the Bruce and Alfred exchange because it’s ultimately one of those moments that reminds you of how multifaceted Alfred really is, and that he too, much like Bruce, experienced quite a bit of darkness during his days as a young adult. I think we tend to forget that Alfred is a man that has witnessed and experienced war, and that alone is probably a large reason why he supports Bruce’s mission without hesitation.
Thankfully, the book manages to redeem itself even more by the end with some great detective work. Yes, you read that correctly… Detective work. Say it again, slower and louder, but in a sexy voice. “Detective work.”
If you’re newer to Batman comics, you might be scratching your head as to why I’m so excited about this, but many of us “old-school” Bat-fans miss the days where we would get to witness Batman work cases, connect the dots, and develop a story for the scene of the crime. We get that here, and after years of wishing for more detective work, we get a damn good dose of it! And once again, I have to lavish praise on Ellis and Hitch for taking the time to focus on the details rather than just blowing through a plot. I know I just complained about plot progression and pacing, but I do think you can still incorporate details such as this while also maintaining a tight, plot-driven narrative.
- Bryan Hitch’s art alone is worth your time and money.
- You like solid, well-planned action.
- You’ve been waiting for a Batman book to feature quality detective work.
The Batman’s Grave #6 does many things well – as expected – but also takes a few steps back by not taking advantage of the momentum that was set up in the previous issue. The book does, however, deliver some incredible action, nice character beats, and gives us some much-needed detective work that’s been void of Batman books for quite some time now! But what else would you expect from the superstar team of Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch?