Written by Judd Winick
Art by Ed Benes
A Battle Within
So my first thought when I saw this book solicited, as many of you may know, was that I trust Judd Winick to write something quality like I trust Doomsday to not job. So in other words, I don’t trust him. But at the same time, I made it very clear to myself that I was going to give the entire Bat line a few issues each to give everything a fair and honest chance. I figured that it was the least I can do since I fully support the revamping of the line. But still, Judd Winick? His last run on Batman made me drop the book! How good could it be?
Surprisingly enough? Very good.
Judd has always been at his best when writing stories about the characters behind the masks, as opposed to the masks themselves. He’s a great character writer, especially when he can get into their heads. Sometimes we see the results of that with titles such as Exiles, Green Lantern, and Outsiders. Other times we see the reverse, where he tries as he might, but just can’t find the footing in the characters psyches, like in Green Arrow and Titans.
Right off the bat it’s made clear that this book fits in between the end of Battle for the Cowl and the beginning of Batman and Robin, and it shows the journey of Dick Grayson as he transitions from Nightwing to Batman. One of my complaints about Battle for the Cowl was just how jarring the transition was, where Dick went from kicking the crap out of Jason as Nightwing to being Batman over the course of a single page. Judd fills that in as he shows Dick reeling over the death of his father figure and mentor and trying to accept his new role as the man who must be the Bat. Yes, he won the battle, but did he actually fight to be Batman or to just keep Jason from doing it?
And with that, emotion returns to the Cave.
I’m actually going to state my only complaint for the issue here, and that is Winick’s portrayal of Damian Wayne. I’ve noticed this across the line, but it seems like only Morrison knows how to write a multi layered Damian as opposed to the one note whiny “My father is Batman” brat that we’ve come to see. This issue is more of that, with a lot of him saying “Only Batman can drive the Batmobile”.
The biggest highlight of the issue is the emotional moment when Superman and Wonder Woman show up to give Dick the cape and cowl that Bruce was wearing when he died, to hang in the cave. Alfred appears to serve them some drinks, and they ask him how he’s doing…..I can’t put my own words here, so I’m posting the scan. Needless to say, it only takes a few words for your heart strings to get tugged on.
In fact, just about any emotional scene with Alfred is VERY well done, even a few pages later where he and Dick shed tears while discussing the importance for the world not being told that Batman has died. How doing that would take away all that he was, all that he had left behind. How the immortality of the Bat was more important to Bruce then being Bruce.
Where was this emotion over the past six months?
One thing that you have to admire about the Bat family is that it actually is a family. Bruce is the center of it all. Dick and Tim are the sons that he raised, both orphans like himself, but both share him for a father. Damian is the son that he didn’t get to raise, or even truly know. And Alfred….poor Alfred is the man who raised Bruce as his own for all those years, who never left his side, and now must accept a world without the closest thing he had to a son.
It’s a very emotional issue, as Dick forces himself to grow and change to step into his late fathers footsteps. It explains why they left the sanctity of the Batcave under Wayne Manor to move to a new one under the Wayne Foundation. It even explains why Dick would have need for a solo title, citing how Bruce would go it alone and thus Dick would have to as well.
Some of the best writing I’ve seen out of Judd in years.
The importance of the Bat
And what can I say about the art other then it’s Ed freaking Benes. Sure, there isn’t a lot of his cheesecake in the book (though there really is only one woman in the book for a decent close up), but there shouldn’t need to be, and Ed draws amazing enough super heroes without needing the T&A crutch. If anything, it’s a shame that he’s only doing this one issue, because I would love to see him as a regular artist on a Bat book.
At least we’re going from him to alternating duties between Mark Bagley and Tony Daniel though.
All in all, it was a great jump on point, and for a first issue (which, despite it’s high numberings, it truly is one) it was a great lead off. For the time being, my faith has been restored, and I truly anticipate the next issue to see if Judd can maintain his “getting” of the characters.
Tags: Batman, Grey Scherl, Judd Winick