Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Bryan Hitch
and Kevin Nowlan
Published by DC Comics
Warren Ellis brings his considerable talents to Gotham City with a new Batman limited series.
Reunited with his famed collaborator Bryan Hitch, this superstar duo looks to get inside Batman’s mind as he attempts to solve a gruesome murder.
The title hints towards Batman’s demise.
Now, we all know the deal with death in comic books. DC has been tightlipped on whether this book is a part of the regular continuity, however, so it’s anyone’s guess right now.
Ellis presents a narrative utterly different in tone from Tom King’s current ‘City of Bane’ story arc.
The book opens with Alfred tending to the gravesites of Thomas and Martha Wayne. Bruce’s empty grave, next to his parents, made the Alfred wonder how much longer it will remain hollow. This sentiment is passed on to the reader due to the grounded and somber tone Alfred set.
Batman arrives at a crime scene where he finds himself obsessing over how the murder victim lived and died. Ellis effortless puts Batman in a street-level crime setting minus the grandiose exploits of his rogues’ gallery. Maybe it feels effortless because Batman naturally fits in here. Rundown apartment buildings, muggings, and 9-1-1 not answering the call is something that is all too familiar in the real world. Ellis still provides that comic book escapism, and Bryan Hitch does his share of the heavy lifting in that department. Detailed visuals supplement the grim manner of events, and how Batman goes about trying to solve the crime.
There is a difference between the idea of death and the reality of death.
Batman’s method here forces him to deal with the ugly truth in a manner that would drive an average person insane. Batman is far from ordinary; however, even the famed detective has limits as to how much mental abuse he can endure. Ellis designed Alfred as sort of a warning to the readers as he implored Bruce to reconsider his process.
Unfortunately, it is the execution of the methodology that is a big misfire. It’s clear what Bruce is doing. However, the dialog switches between perspectives without notice, which made for a confusing read.
Is Bruce speaking in the third person? Is he possessed? Is it something else? I yearned for clarity with each turn of the page, but it never came. That is a bummer.
The first installment of this Ellis/Hitch collaboration is a tale of two cities. The first half fired on all cylinders and established the beginning of an engaging psychological narrative. The second half, however, bogs down the story quite hard with a perplexing script that left me guessing for all the wrong reasons. The first half and the creative cache of the creative team are what will bring me back for next month’s second chapter.