I’m a big fan of Jock’s artwork! He has a knack for both action and horror art and he pretty much always delivers. However, as much as I’ve been enjoying his art over the years, I don’t think I’ve ever read a story that is written by him. If his wordplay is just as good as his visuals, I think we’re in for a real treat. So let’s hope for the best and have a look!
You know a comic is going to be good when, only a couple pages in, you can already feel the tension and you’re pumped! Jock writes a fairly straightforward scenario: an Arkham inmate, known as E.M.P., is being transferred to Blackgate, which is on the other side of Gotham. Various gangs have somehow found out about this and Batman is following the armed escort to make sure that they get to Blackgate safely. Of course things don’t go as planned as E.M.P. manages to escape and his meta-human power causes a city-wide blackout. Right from the start, so many pieces are already moving that I immediately get swept up in the action and I’m into it. The premise being straightforward works very well for this story; it being so easy to understand what’s going on allows Jock to keep exposition to a minimum. While there is still some exposition, it’s all organically incorporated in dialogue, so it never feels intrusive. Yes, you might have some questions, as you’ll be thrown right into the story, but that’s the way I like it. Context is provided as the story unfolds, as it should be.
The pacing is excellent, too. This comic has more pages than a regular issue, but the action flows so well from page to page that you’ll finish this issue fairly quickly. In other words, this is a real page-turner. Jock keeps giving us something cool to look at or think about, and I, for one, am always hungry for more. The big action pieces involving Batman and E.M.P. are exhilarating, and the quieter moments in between—where we follow Gordon and Vasquez, head of the Prison Bureau of Gotham—directly tie into the action and contribute to progressing the plot. Gordon and Vasquez being at odds with one another also creates interesting conflict that spices up these quieter moments, so that, even though these scenes aren’t as action-packed, we can still feel the suspense throughout.
There are a couple things that I want to critique, though. First, E.M.P. is supposed to be put inside a containment pod once he gets to Blackgate. However, this containment pod is built on a feedback loop and, since the staff already switched it on, it will burn out without E.M.P. keeping it stable. On the one hand I do like this, because now there’s a ticking clock, which is a strong narrative device. But on the other hand, I can’t help but wonder why exactly that containment pod is designed like that, or why it had to be switched on so early? It just seems a bit weird to me, since there’s no good explanation to be found in this issue.
Second, Batman is having a lot of trouble catching E.M.P., who is simply too fast for Batman. I’m wondering why Batman doesn’t just use a grapple hook to move faster and catch up with E.M.P., or actually fire a grapple hook at the escapee to stop him in his tracks. Of course the whole point of this comic is that E.M.P. escapes and causes a city-wide blackout, but it feels like Batman’s skills are undermined in order to get to that story beat. It should be noted, though, that this complaint about Batman’s skills only applies to this particular chase sequence; we see the Caped Crusader kicking ass left and right everywhere else.
Thirdly, I’ve spotted several typos in this issue. While mistakes are made and this really isn’t a big deal, these are still glaring errors. It’s true that sometimes, when you’re editing a text, you overlook these things, but that’s why editors exist!
That said, I’m grateful that Jock barely uses any inner monologue, save for a few very concise narration boxes toward the end. Other comic writers should take note—it’s absolutely unnecessary to write any inner monologue at all, especially when it’s mainly used to explain things that readers should be able to see in the art. Seeing as Jock is an artist first and foremost, it’s great to see that he’s mainly letting his art tell the story, whereby text has a supporting role. That’s how comics should be written, as far as I’m concerned, because art is always the most important part of any comic book!
Speaking of the art, it’s fantastic, but what else would you expect? We are treated to breathtaking double page spreads, where we see the Batplane cutting across the sky, with the city of Gotham, in all its grimy glory, below. There are excellent sequential passages, where Batman’s leaping from roof to roof and panel to panel. Furthermore, Jock uses a nice mix of long shots, medium shots and close-ups, zooming in and out, to play with suspense and create dynamic page layouts. On top of that, we get explosive action beats, where Jock’s layered and vibrant colors really pop, adding that oomph to the visuals. More on color, I dig how Jock renders Gotham in muted tones at the start, but gradually increases the brightness until E.M.P. unleashes his power and the effect is almost blinding. Jock really builds to a crescendo here, and when you flip the page, everything is pitch-dark. It’s a strong contrast that really drives home the impact of E.M.P.’s powers. Finally, characters look great, facial expressions are believable and appropriate to the situations, and Jock draws a very cool map of Gotham City that helps to establish different locations in a way that—for some reason—hasn’t been done in Batman comics very often. I think Gotham can really use a map like this, and it makes me wonder why DC hasn’t made this a standard for all Batman books going forward. Consistency is the name of the game, after all—something that Jock definitely brings to this book, given that he’s literally a one-man-army creating everything from text to art.
- You are ready for an action-packed, exciting, jaw-dropping Batman book.
- You are a fan of Jock, because this book has all the Jock!
- You like stories in which all of Gotham goes dark, and gangs take advantage of the blackout.
Overall: Jock writes and draws a strong, concise, action-packed comic that grabs your attention and doesn’t let go. This book is completely standalone and it’s a great deal of fun, promising a story that’s all about adventure and high tension. Forget about the regular Batman ongoings—this is where it’s at, folks! Highly recommended!
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.