Generally speaking, I don’t think that “Batman” and “Realistic” match very well, because, to me, Batman is anything but realistic. That said, a good creative team should be able to take this concept and turn it into a good story. The Imposter #1 was an excellent issue, so what about #2? Let’s have a look.
It’s quite impressive how much this creative team can pack into a single issue, even if it has twice the amount of pages compared to a regular comic. In this issue we see Batman continuing his investigation and getting into a fight or two; we see Detective Blair Wong continuing her own investigation; and there’s even room for the Bruce/Leslie dynamic. In the middle of all of this, Bruce and Blair cross paths and their character arcs are linked.
At no point do I really feel like scenes, plot beats or character moments are rushed; however, there are some elements here that I think are too easy or could be developed more. For example, as Bruce and Blair see each other as a lead in their respective investigations, they start to spend more time together and eventually become romantically involved. The comic presents Bruce and Blair as kindred spirits, whose parents were shot in front of their eyes when they were kids. This is a striking similarity between the two and, had the creative team left it at that, I think it would have been fine. But the creative team did not leave it at that. Blair literally tells Bruce that it’s her mission to make sure that what happened to her won’t happen to anybody else, and it is at this stage that I think the creative team takes it a step too far. The characters already have so much in common, so the fact that Blair’s mission is exactly the same as Batman’s makes the dynamic between the two characters feel manufactured, rather than organic. It’s an effective way to communicate to readers the significance of Bruce and Blair’s relationship, but for me it’s too on-the-nose and feels unearned.
What’s more, there are some questionable moments regarding Bruce’s childhood in the opening pages. For example, Alfred makes a brief appearance, but he doesn’t read like the Alfred we know and love at all. This is an Alfred who gives up on Bruce, demanding that they put the kid on medication. Granted, Alfred is in an incredibly stressful situation, but the way he’s written here, he might as well just be a different character altogether.
Another thing I don’t like about the opening pages is that we see Leslie and Alfred discussing Bruce’s situation, where Alfred’s talking about how Bruce goes into fits of rage and has even been making explosives (?), but we are never shown any of these moments. It also makes me wonder what this book wants to be: a character study of Bruce Wayne and his struggles, or a mystery/adventure story about Batman trying to catch the impostor. It could be both but, as it stands, the focus seems split between these two ideas, and I wish there was a stronger connection between them. Hopefully next month we will learn how all of it comes full circle. For now we’ll have to wait and see.
But the creative team also gets a lot of things right. Batman—who is still early in his career in this iteration—makes mistakes that have negative consequences for him. Hopefully the creative team will do more with this in the upcoming final issue, but for now it creates stakes and a nice sense of danger and realism. Batman tries to infiltrate a building to hack into a surveillance system, but soon he’s detected and has to fight his way out. The fight is messy, chaotic and unpredictable, just like a real fight would be, and there is no dialogue to destroy the pacing, either, which is something a lot of comic book writers can learn from. Which brings me to my next point:
The main thing I’m very happy about is how the writing is pretty concise here, especially compared to the first issue. Here, the dialogue doesn’t feel rambly or overwritten, and it lets the art breathe. Though there are a few exceptions, I tend to dislike it when writers put walls of text into their comics. This is a visual medium, so I want the visuals to tell the story first and foremost, because the artwork is the most important in any comic book and should be treated as such. I’m glad that that’s the case here, because Sorrentino and Bellaire are doing incredible work, as always.
Just look at the first page, where we see Leslie waking up early in the morning. The thick, black inks create a heavy mood, and the muted colors add to the oppressiveness in the scene. Leslie’s poses, facial expressions and the different angles that Sorrentino draws tell a clear story of someone that’s exhausted and worried, but who keeps pushing herself to do what she has to do. The only minor complaint that I have is that the next three pages aesthetically clash with the opening page, because the inks are so different—thin and somewhat scratchy compared to the heavy blacks that we get throughout most of the comic. Though Sorrentino’s art style is still easily recognizable, it is interesting to see how different it looks with this type of inking. Either way, I would have preferred more consistency.
That said, Sorrentino’s splashes and double page spreads are great! He uses panels within panels, has images twisting and rotating around each other, draws complicated architectural backgrounds, and comes up with the craziest layouts. I continue to admire how intricately detailed these pages are, while still being entirely readable and streamlined.
What I love about Bellaire’s colors this time is that, while most of them are muted and poignant, she accentuates certain colors, too. For example, during Bruce and Blair’s scenes together, we see the color red popping up a lot. Sometimes it’s the red wine. Sometimes it’s Blair’s coat, or her umbrella. The closer we get to the moment where the characters kiss, the more shades of red enter the panels. But during the kiss itself, everything is grayed out, except for Blair’s blood-red umbrella and coat. Later, we see Bruce and Blair in bed together, and those quiet panels are completely colored blue to contrast the red we saw earlier. But as Blair’s asking Bruce about his scars, we see flashbacks to the moments he got them, and these panels are drenched in red again. It’s a simple but powerful technique: red signals not only passion and love but also violence. This is but one example of the many subtle cues and techniques that Bellaire uses to tell a story through her colors.
- You want more realistic Batman!
- You like a Batman, early in his career, that makes mistakes.
- You like a story that combines romance and mystery.
- Sorrentino and Bellaire forever!!!
Overall: To me it feels like the book is trying to be two things at once (a character study and a detective adventure), but Tomlin hasn’t quite managed to connect these two things yet. The creative team also packs a lot into this issue, which has its pros and cons. But on the whole this book is pretty awesome. The story is intriguing, I’m invested in each character, and the art is absolutely great. Recommended!
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.