Batman: Creature of the Night took a long time to reach its conclusion, but it was worth waiting for. Delayed by health problems for both writer Kurt Busiek and artist John Paul Leon, the book’s four issues released over a period of just about two years. The hardcover collecting the entire series hits comic shops this week (if they aren’t shut down by COVID-19), and everywhere else next week, and DC was kind enough to send Batman News a copy of the book for review.
The book includes all four books of Creature of the Night, written by Kurt Busiek, illustrated and colored by John Paul Leon, and lettered by the legendary Todd Klein.
What’s it about?
Young Bruce Wainright is a happy-go-lucky only child—who also happens to be obsessed with Batman. When a home invasion gone wrong leaves Bruce wounded and orphaned, his mind settles on a singular idea: if Batman was real, if Batman had been there, he could have—he would have…
This simple, abstract idea grows into a dark reality that leads Bruce on a decades-long journey: a journey to—as I said in my review for the final book—”a place we can all understand: not rid of his grief, yet no longer distorted by it; learning to live again.”
Is it worth reading?
One of my favorite Batman books is Paul Dini’s Dark Night: A True Batman Story. Like Creature of the Night, Dark Night takes place in the real world, with the idea of Batman being almost as important, as impactful, as the Caped Crusader is in his own comic book stories. Creature takes things in a bit of a different direction, weaving in a particularly fantastical element that would be right at home in mainline DC continuity; but, at its core, it is a story of Batman, the icon, lifting a suffering soul out of his grief.
Busiek, Leon, and Klein craft this tale expertly, to the point that I’ve often described this series as above criticism. The dialogue is as close to perfect as you’ll find—never once am I hung up on the phrasing of something; I am instead engrossed in what is actually being communicated. Leon’s heavy lines and light saturation often produce figures that trend toward a more shell-like aesthetic—a perfectly-apt visual metaphor for the way Bruce often feels. Klein leads the eye with balloons and boxes as good as anybody ever has, and the story just flows without a hitch.
I’ve written at great length about the technical genius that went in to bringing this book to life, and you can read more about that in my reviews for the individual books. For now, it is enough to say that a book this well-made is a rarity.
There is not an abundance of back matter, but what is here is welcome. Busiek bookends the original pitch for the story with some comments about the release schedule and how the final product differed from his initial conception. There are big, uncolored inks from Leon opposite some of that pitch. After that, there are various penciled pages and covers, and a few pencil-to-ink-to-color thumbnails. My only complaint would be that I’d rather see Leon’s process at full-page size, but I’ll take what I can get.
Value: Brand New
The Creature of the Night hardcover will cost you about $30 if you get it from your local comic book shop. If you’re in the mood to help them out, go right ahead: this book is worth even that price. The paper stock isn’t top-of-the-line, but it’s decent, and the general fit and finish of the book is on the better side of your average fare.
If you don’t have an LCS, or you don’t have 30 bucks, you can get it on Amazon for a little more than half of that. However you get it, get it.
Batman: Creature of the Night at last comes home in a collected edition, and I couldn’t be happier. A moving tale of a young boy’s climb out of grief, it displays the power of an idea—the idea of Batman—as expertly as any other story ever has. And with some of the absolute best writing, artwork, and lettering available, it’s hard to think of any book more deserving of a spot on your shelf than Batman: Creature of the Night.
DISCLAIMER: Batman News received a copy of this book for the purpose of review.