There’s a reptilian menace on the loose, and Batman’s big bads are in its sights. But what happens when the biggest bad of them all gets involved? Can the mystery mauler make minced meat of Mr. J? Answers are in Batman: Reptilian #3!
Strengths and weaknesses
I repeat myself, but I think this book’s biggest weakness lies in one of its greatest strengths: Liam Sharp’s painted aesthetic. At its best, the dark, murky finish sets the mood perfectly, but at its worst, it demands far too much effort of the reader to make sense of what’s going on.
So, in this page…
…especially in the main, full-page panel, Sharp’s paint looks fantastic. The abstract, colorful background signals the brain to interpret even the figures with a broader, more abstract eye, as well. The bulk of the page is hard to discern in particular, but nevertheless serves the mood perfectly.
But then we have a page like this…
…where there’s enough concrete environment discernible to make the mind expect clarity. But the poor contrast throughout the page makes it difficult to find that clarity, and I end up fatigued by the strain. The panel of Croc at the top is fine, but it’s the exception. And there are worse offenders later on—pages where there is no good reason not to have better lighting in panels, but Sharp nevertheless keeps things far too murky to be useful.
Merits in the mystery
That said, I still feel (mostly) like I did last month. The mystery of this reptilian creature attacking Batman’s foes is compelling. The showdown with Joker is well-done (but for some slightly confusing logistics that had me doubling back to trace the lines), and there’s the tease (promise?) of some deeper ties to Killer Croc than we might have thought before now. I’m definitely pulling hard for Croc having a primary role by the end of the series, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Bigger than Batman
Ennis is a bit of a legend, and, sometimes, legends in comics think they’re bigger than the characters that made them (and others) famous. I (obviously) can’t read Ennis’s, mind, but I’m getting a sneaking suspicion that he doesn’t much care about Batman’s voice, because he doesn’t much care for Batman. I’ve read others saying that he doesn’t actually like the character, and there are moments in this issue that seem to confirm this. I’m fine with Bruce being forced to confront the brutality that he, at times, employs, but having it come up so directly in a conversation with an ally—it’s been done before, and even when it’s Leslie doing the nagging, I don’t like it. When it’s an ally that has directly enabled Batman’s more physical methods, it’s all the more tiresome.
There’s also some lines that are just absolute clunkers—out-of-character bits that suggest that Ennis either didn’t bother to find Batman’s voice, or that he just doesn’t care about who he’s supposed to be in the first place. Batman would never make light of the savage, near-death mauling of an enemy, nor would he appeal to the Joker’s better angels. I sure hope these are just lazy lapses, and not a deliberate attempt by Ennis to get cute, because they are an annoying distraction from what has been an otherwise enjoyable mystery.
- You are into Killer Croc. It’s becoming more and more apparent that he’s got something big to do with this—you mark my words.
- You like dark, murky comic art.
- You enjoy it when writers take liberties with Batman’s voice and character.
I feel like Batman: Reptilian #3 crosses a line with some of its dialogue that makes its other flaws a bit more stark. It’s still a good mystery, and I still want to see where it goes, but I’m more and more of the opinion that I won’t be revisiting it ever again once I’m done.