Review: Batman Universe #1
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: Joshua Reed
Reviewed by: Seth Singleton
Following the theft of a priceless Fabergé egg, the Riddler leads the Dark Knight on a wild hunt after its true owner: Jinny Hex, descendant of Jonah Hex! The first issue of Batman Universe includes appearances by Deathstroke, Green Arrow, and dozens of Riddler look-alikes.
The story opens inside the cockpit of the Batmobile. It reminds me of baby Kal-El in Superman Year One. The point-of-view perspective places the reader in Batman’s shoes. Brian Michael Bendis’s narrative provides patient pacing to build the scene.
Likewise, its the detail and layers of texture from artist Nick Derington that really make this moment feel tangible. Subsequently, over the next three pages, you see your reflection in the windshield, you prime and fire the grappling gun, and it is you under the cowl startling a woman when you climb past the window of her apartment.
“When is the Riddler not the Riddler?” Batman, like the reader knows when a riddle does not sound like the Riddler. Even Alfred can recognizes the poor quality, and is unable to hide his disappointment. Compared to the Riddler’s established hisory, the simple message is a clumsy imitation. Even so, it’s still enough to send the Batmobile tearing into the night and the first sign that something larger is amiss.
What is the second sign, you might be tempted to ask?
The answer is too many Riddler-clones creating a diversion for the prime Riddler. Alfred’s announcement that the false Riddlers are stuntmen allows Batman to savor a short smile before dropping each copycat with frustrated prejudice. I love when Alfred suggests that he can hear the Dark Knight’s smile.
The mystery of why a cat plays with its prey is illustrated when Batman finally gets his hands on a terrified Edward Nigma. Bright lights and a burst of electricity leave our hero unconscious, only to awaken when a rookie police officer reaches for his mask. Gotham’s Dark Knight has built his reputation on a relentless pursuit of justice. The only reason you leave someone like that alive and in a position to piece together the clues and find you, is if that is exactly what you want him to do.
In particular, a visit to Jinny Hex — the original owner of the now missing Faberge egg — invites Bendis and Derington to shine again. In comparison to the small town in the stark light of day where the Batmobile’s shadowy form is out of place. The nervous and defiant Jinny acts annoyed that Gotham’s hero is asking her questions. Afterward, she climbs through a shadowy collection to dig a picture of her great-great-grandfather’s from an old chest.
The mastery continues in Amsterdam with a beautiful nighttime skyline brimming with Dave Stewart’s lush colors. Inside, Deathstroke interrupts Batman’s arrival and forces his nemesis to choose between Slade and Nigma.
Green Arrow’s timely shot saves Batman from Deathstroke’s attack. These two have fought countless times. I don’t think Bats needed the assist. Green Arrow showing up after Batman took down Deathstroke would have set up a perfect moment of irony that only Oliver Queen can deliver.
In conclusion, Batman Universe showcases the goldmine of stories that first appeared in the 80-page Walmart Giant books. It deserves to shine in its own book.