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‘Batman Universe #4’ (review)

Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Nick Derington
Published by DC Comics


“Are we taking off our masks?”
“Of course, Hal. In this culture, masks are for robbers and criminals.”

Good point.

This month’s 4th compilation of Batman Universe is yet another a-mazin’, rip-roarin’, splendiferous offering by strorytellers Brian Bendis and Nick Derrington. Sure as shootin’.

Doesn’t hurt none that the bulk of the pages have Batman and Green Lantern palling around the Old West with Jonah Hex. Makes for some fine moments.

Like Bruce and Hal duded up in high vintage style, the better to blend in with the times.

Or the more-or-less cool aplomb with which Jonah Hex handles the very strange companions that the great Lord Above has suddenly landed at his feet. (If not also his first flight by power ring.)

Or a regular rodeo shoot-out with a horde of futuristic Black Order ninja assassins. As one does.

After all, as is so often the case with Vandal Savage, it’s hard to know whether your tracking him… or he’s tracking you. Probably best to expect the unexpected.

As always Bendis turns in a script that keeps the action moving forward at a brisk clip, even as it peppers the dialogue of our heroes with clever, quirky human moments that continue to build upon the classic characters we’ve all grown up wanting to have adventures with… just like the one they’re having now.

That’s what’s so good about this book. It’s fun. Fun in all the ways a good comic ought to be. Heavy on the wonder, action, and outrageous circumstances, but with a light touch that engages and entertains without pretensions to be anything more.

That work is greatly benefited by the marvelous artistry of Nick Derington, with the wonderful assistance of Dave Stewart on colors, whose work together on this issue deserves special mention, not only for bringing the Old West alive, but for the degree of cinematic detail they bring to every frame.

Derington has mastered a classic style of comic line art, most obviously reminiscent of the great Darwyn Cooke, but with a keen sense for capturing motion and action, and dramatic perspective shots that are entirely his own. That translates into an excellent visual experience, whether you’re looking at his landscapes, his facility with facial expression, or the sort of multi-panel fight sequencing that reminds you, most enjoyably, that indeed, this is a comic book after all.

In short, it’s a perfect complement to Bendis’ own style, and once again that combination proves to anyone lucky enough to get their hands on it, that this is one of the best books on the market today.

Makes me hope we’ll see much more from these guys for a long time to come.

Now, ye-aah! Git! Go get this book!

Next Issue: The mystery egg has brought Batman back to his own time… But why to Crime Alley? And what the heck’s happened to Hal Jordan!? And just how many Vandal Savage’s are there now??


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