In my review of Fortress #1 I was pretty clear that the book left me wanting. Despite the problems that I had with it, there wasn’t much plot development and too many questions left unanswered to feel like I had a handle on the direction of this series. Now with issue #2 we get more development. Does it improve my estimation of the comic? Let’s find out!
As I was reading this issue, I had a thought: this feels more like a Superman story than a batman story. Then, as I pondered the story and thought about writing this review, I came to a realization. This is absolutely not a Superman story. This is a Superman story starring Batman in his place. In other words, this is, at least on a basic level, a story in the mold of 1950s Batman. In the 50s, with Batman in the censors’ crosshairs, it became easier to avoid trouble by making the character fight space invaders. To me, this was the absolute rock bottom in the character’s history. Taking him away from fighting human crime in the shadows misses the point of the character and ruins his mystique. Fortress, of course, is modernized and tries to retain the grit of modern Batman comics and I also have no problem with a modern comic paying homage to a previous time period. My point though, is this: the concept of Fortress doesn’t appeal to me. That’s fine and I can still review it based on its own merit but I know I can’t be the only person out there who feels this way. For some people that may mean avoiding this title.
Unfortunately, the biggest problem with Fortress is that it fails to live up to its promise. The cover features batman sitting in the cockpit of a jet plane. The story within takes batman out of his element and puts him into a sky battle with an alien orb. This should be fun! It just doesn’t engage me though. I can’t find it in me to care about anything that’s happening. Now, I don’t want to sound rude or dismissive. I know the kind of work and passion that is put into something like this so I’m going to do my best to explain why I’m so unenthusiastic about this title.
To begin with, it doesn’t have a hook. They do purport that it is Superman’s absence during a crisis and Batman having to step up but that just isn’t enough. Superman isn’t around during any of Batman’s solo cases. How about final crisis! Talk about Batman being outclassed and out of his element! My point is that this story isn’t offering anything new. With so many Batman publications each month Fortress just isn’t justified.
The biggest development of the issue is Cyborg’s death. It does lend some stakes to the story knowing that the characters aren’t safe but it’s not like Cyborg was a major player in this story. Even if you’re a fan of the character, this feels more like a death in the supporting cast. At best it gives Bruce a little extra motivation. At worst it’s just an event along the way, which brings me to my other big gripe…
Outside the lack of a narrative hook, there is also no emotional investment to be had here. There is conflict but no drama. Batman is doing this job out of self-preservation not because he has a personal stake. There’s not even a side plot to fill that gap. There is the usual back and forth with Alfred but this is always something that has been inconsequential. I find that one of the reason character drama is so important to comics is in their very nature. As death has become so impermanent and these characters have been published for so long, something is needed to create greater stakes. That is character drama. We all know Batman won’t die at the end of the latest issue but he might remain at odds with another character. It gives the audience something to root for. Something that they don’t know the outcome of. That is very important. Without it we are left with a story which is very dull.
When this is the best you have for drama, something is lacking.
It’s not only the writing that I found dull this time around. The art was also rather weak. At least for the first half of the comic. Pages one and two take place in a very visually uninteresting location and then the following ten pages are in the sky. This leads to a complete lack of backgrounds in many instances. Diego Rodriguez’ color palate is nice but honestly each page is so similar and lacking in background that it becomes very boring. Although the quality does vastly improve, with only nine pages left, it does feel like a case of too little too late.
I rather like the simplicity of this Batcave. It feels very much underground and believable. It’s a nice change from the norm. Darick Robertson does a great job rendering exterior environments. Unfortunately with so much of the issue taking place in the sky he doesn’t have anything to render. The back half at least offer some shots of a farm which look great!
- You like 1950s Batman
- Sci-fi Batman comics sound fun
- You’ve got a lot of disposable income
In the end, this is by no means an incompetent comic, just a mediocre one. It’s a serviceable adventure comic, so I’m sure that will be enough for some people. For me, it’s just not. I still do think this could become an interesting story, though. If Gary Whitta leaned into the bombast inherent in the concept and brought some personal conflict front and center, I think my opinion of Fortress would completely change. For the time being I just can’t recommend this when a reader’s money could be spent on so many other stories featuring the character. Ram V’s Detective Comics Run starts next month. His track record at DC thus far has been nothing short of excellent. My advice is to save your money and check it out!
DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.