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Saturday, 1 October 2011

Batman #1 and Batman: The Dark Knight #1

The two latest issues of the new 52 comics line-up from DC offer us two similar stories concerning Batman. How similar? Well, they both feature Batman cleaning up after an Arkham Asylum breakout, being philanthropic as Bruce Wayne, a bit of butt kicking, and some introduction/reminder of some of the chief characters via a dinner party.

But, where Batman: The Dark Knight (TDK) falls short, Batman #1 pulls off an exciting, if not new, story. In TDK, the story starts off with Bruce Wayne's unveiling of a plan to help Gotham at a fundraiser dinner party. After a little suspicion on the part of an Internal Affairs officer, and a little flirtation on the dance floor, Bruce leaves, and joins the party at a break out in progress at Arkham Asylum. The rest of the comic devolves into a lengthy action sequence that shows Batman kicking butt, but doesn't make me really cheer him on. It's a hard balance to get and, unfortunately for TDK, it falls short of inspirational. But, okay, I'll try not to be too hard on it. It was a Batman story, doing some of what he does best, and the whole time he seems concerned with finding Harvey Dent. Finally, he makes it to the centre of the madness, to find some monstrous, beast-like Two Face.

Dun, dun, DUN!

It was an okay read, but let's look at changing it just slightly can do.

In Batman #1, the story starts with a voice-over from Batman, talking about a column that runs in the Gotham Gazette, asking Gothamites to finish the sentence, "Gotham is ..." Batman comments on how there have been many answers, and lately, they've been negative. Gotham is villainous, cursed, etc. Sometimes, he says, someone answers, Gotham is Batman.

The action gets intense as Batman is trying to lock down an, you guessed it, Arkham Asylum breakout. But this time, the butt kicking takes a weird turn as Batman joins up with the Joker and together they take down Gotham's worst. What? Batman working with the Joker?

That's the same question Jim Gordon asks, to which the Batman says that would be ridiculous. Back at the Batcave, it's revealed that one of the many Robins actually used some sort of holographic projection to make it seem like he was the Joker. This Robin hid out in Arkham to determine if there was a leak, a weakness in the security, and doing so as the Joker made things easier.

Next, Bruce Wayne unveils a plan to help the city, very similar to what we saw before but, using a fancy little headset that has facial recognition as well as other neat gadgets, Bruce learns there is trouble elsewhere and off he goes. Arriving on the site of a stabbing that took place days before, Batman uses his own detective skills to find out a little more about the scene, as well as some skin under the fingernails of the deceased. Finally, it is revealed that the skin was from Dick Grayson, Batman's first Robin!

Now, as you can see, I liked Batman #1 more. The story had more depth. The fight at Arkham had an unexpected Joker/Robin component that made the fight that much more entertaining, and interesting. The Bat-gizmo was neat but really it was a ploy to introduce some people we already know, but in a unique way. The commentary about what Gotham really is goes back and forth, carrying itself throughout the story, and the revelation of Dick Grayson's involvement leaves Gotham a mystery. The writers here seem to do a better job of giving us the same Batman formula, but delivered in a semi-fresh way. It balanced being new and interesting with being dependably awesome.

All in all, Batman #1 seems to be the more interesting read, more varied and freshly delivered than Batman: The Dark Knight #1 or Detective Comics #1, and I certainly am curious to know what happens next!

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