At last. Andrea Sorrentino, my favorite artist, is drawing a Batman comic! Of course he was on Joker: Killer Smile and Batman: Smile Killer before this, but the former barely had Batman in it and the latter was only a one-shot, not a series like The Imposter. The colors are done by the one and only Jordie Bellaire, who just so happens to be my favorite colorist. The only unknown for me is the writer, Mattson Tomlin. Can this comic live up to expectations? Let’s have a look.
This is a beautiful book. We get intricately structured page layouts, where form does not get in the way of function but, in fact, enhances the given sequence. For example, there’s an incredible two-page spread where we see a monstrous rendition in the center, half man, half bat (don’t worry, it’s just a symbolic representation of the character, not something that actually happens in the story). Parts of this monstrous Batman’s cape are spread out across the pages, functioning as panel borders. In each of these panels we see police investigating the case of Batman. This double page spread captures the urban legend surrounding Batman very well, especially since this comic takes place early in Batman’s career, during a time where people are still wondering if he’s even a man at all.
It’s also a very dark book, aesthetically. Sorrentino’s inks are heavy and pitch-dark, and Bellaire’s colors seamlessly blend in with them and really set the tone for each scene. The quieter scenes, the character moments, are often rendered in muted blues and purples, whereas the big action pieces are blood-red, screaming danger! These inks and colors make this story look nightmarish and, along with Sorrentino’s impeccable architecture and detailed backgrounds, a strong Gothic sensibility runs through the book. The style matches the visual tone of the upcoming The Batman movie (or at least what I’ve seen in the trailer so far), which makes sense, given that Tomlin’s involved with the movie as well.
What’s more, I really enjoy all the character designs: they all look entirely unique, and I appreciate that most of the characters look realistic, in the sense that these could be people that you might see in the streets. It makes the book feel more alive, like Gotham is a place that actually exists.
Before I move on to the writing, the sequential aspect of the art is also on point. For example, there’s a great sequence where Batman, riding his bike, chases after a couple criminals in a getaway car. Batman races past the other cars in the street, catches up with the criminals, throws a flashbang into their car, and the car crashes into another. Each moment follows on from the previous in a logical fashion, and the page reads smoothly as a result. It’s fantastic!
The writing is also solid, but there are a couple things that I’d like to critique. First, it is mentioned that “Bruce’s rage drove away his guardian.” I am assuming that by “guardian,” they mean Alfred. While this is only mentioned in passing and does not seem to have any impact on the rest of the story for the time being, I don’t like this idea at all. Alfred is supposed to support Bruce through thick and thin. I’m resisting the idea that Alfred leaves Bruce all alone to deal with his trauma. That said, we don’t know how this will play out. Perhaps the reason that they’re mentioning this is so they can introduce Alfred into the story later, so I don’t want to judge this too hard yet. Still, it’s something to keep an eye on.
Second, the dialogue is mostly fine, but at times it can get rather wordy, sometimes even rambly. An example is when Wong—one of the main characters in the comic, a cop—meets Wesker (not Arnold, but his dad, who owns a big company in this universe). During this conversation, Wesker boasts about how he is Gotham. Wong then begins to tell Wesker how he is not Gotham by explaining things to him that he should already know. This could be seen as her hammering these things home to Wesker, but the way it is presented makes me feel like all these details are mainly included so the readers can be informed about the power that Wesker has in this universe. This is not a deal breaker for me, but these are the moments where the dialogue dips in quality just a little bit, as it just doesn’t feel organic. However, the dialogue between Wong and Wesker is actually pretty good for the most part! It reads like a subtle game of chess, where Wong has to stand her ground and stay true to her principles while Wesker’s trying to manipulate her. It creates an interesting dynamic between the characters that the creative team can build on in future chapters.
Besides Bruce and Wong, Leslie also plays a large role. She’s very assertive here, as she tries to help Bruce deal with his trauma. She seems to want to protect him, but she’s also controlling him to an extent. For example, if Bruce won’t cooperate with her, she’s threatening to reveal his secret identity to the cops and, according to her, they’ll put Bruce away in Arkham. It’s an interesting take on the character: being this caring mother figure as well as a restricting, controlling force to Bruce. Perhaps some die-hard Leslie fans won’t like this, but I think it fits in with this particular universe, and I’m curious to find out how this dynamic between Leslie and Bruce will affect the plot as well as their respective character journeys.
Finally, the story’s pacing is fine. This is essentially a detective/mystery tale, in which Wong investigates Batman; Batman investigates the Imposter; and Leslie is trying to make sense of Bruce’s state of mind. There’s enough time for each scene to play out and for each character to get a proper introduction, so all of it makes for a well-balanced setup for the remaining parts of the story.
- You are a fan of Andrea Sorrentino!
- You are a fan of Jordie Bellaire!
- Leslie is one of your favorite characters in Bat-lore.
- You are looking forward to the upcoming The Batman movie.
Overall: This comic features great art, solid writing, and interesting characters! The pacing is good and the mystery element is strong. If you enjoy alternate takes on Batman and Gotham, then I definitely recommend this issue to you!
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.