Thursday, 2 December 2010

New Beginnings Double Bill - Detective Comics #871 & Batwoman #0

This week, following on from the last review of Batman Inc. and Batman: The Return, Batwoman and Detective Comics #871 take a turn.

Batwoman is a zero issue preparing the way for the new series as written by Williams and Blackman. Whilst it is not branded as a Batman Incorporated title, it quite clearly is part of the bigger picture, or at least will be.

Interestingly the issue presents both a live and retrospective view at the same time, with the care and effort having been taken to make the look and feel of both aspects different. The use of different artists and inkers is an obvious example of this.

The issue is also unique, as it portrays an intelligent and well-trained main character who in this issue does not utter a single word. This is all about learning who Batwoman is from a third party with the luxury of being given the full narrative too. It is of course Bruce’s take on all of this that helps the reader along the way. It also demonstrates the lengths he’s willing to go.

All of this helps to make it a good introduction into the new beginning.

Now I’m not a Batwoman fan myself, but having come across her in the pages of 52 I knew who she was and where she came from, however I can honestly say that this was handy but not a necessary insight to have. Through Bruce’s deductions, this issue explores what has moulded Kate Kane into the masked crusader she is and - if you read between the lines - also shares some more of his mindset.

My criticism of it all though is the length. I felt a little cheated when reading through it that I got literally half way through the comic, the staples were a dead giveaway here, to find it was over. To be continued. The remainder of the issue was simply adverts and teasers. Somewhat unfair on the reader no matter how much of a fan.

Detective Comics #871 is also another new beginning, welcoming up-and-coming writer Scott Snyder. Retaining the mantle of Batman, we see Dick Grayson now having to live up to more of Bruce’s expectations as well as that of the surrounding world. Alfred was also a scene stealer with his insightful and poignant observations of Dick’s limitations and how he should acclimatise to his new position.

One of the other things I have really liked about the issue is the inking by David Baron. Each different section is given an inherent feeling simply by the wash of colour the background has. This has been enabled Jock’s artwork. Its backgrounds are non-descript and even empty, leaving the canvas free for Baron to work his magic. To the contrary the artistry in the foreground is full of fine tight linework but only to the extent of what is needed and not simply artwork for its own sake. The combination works very well together and gives a strange feeling of quiet, almost whispered interactions throughout the story.

The story itself opens with a mystery, as any good detective plot should and therefore holds the underlying theme of the title itself. Having never read Detective Comics before, it was nice that I was given a mystery and led through the initial steps of solving it too. I even found myself taking guesses at the possible culprits, only to then be left counter-guessing myself again later. A good story touch I felt. Even when it provides you with only the name of the possible villain behind this all, you are still questioning the evidence.

Something that I liked further was the way in which it didn’t have any involvement from Bruce. The occasional reference was the only indication but apart from that this title is all about Grayson, a chance for him to really strike out on his own again, reminiscent of his time as Nightwing. It also allowed his relationship with Commissioner Gordon to grow which is bound to prove invaluable in the future. I especially liked the nod towards change in Gordon’s comment about having to get used to Batman now being there, “...when I look back up.”

Without wishing to rave too much about it, Detective Comics #851 is a good strong entry for Snyder as his first foray into the series. I would hope that for long term readers it is on par with his predecessors, but as I have no knowledge of them all I can say is that this was a great start and well worth a read.

Matt Puddy will be pleased to know that he'll get a chance to review something from Marvel next week!

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