11th Oct2019

‘The Batman’s Grave #1′ Review (DC Comics)

by Dean Fuller

Written by Warren Ellis | Art by Bryan Hitch, Kevin Nowlan | Published by DC Comics

batmans-grave-1-cover

This was impossible to not pick up. Firstly, well, it’s Batman, currently going through something of a renaissance, with some good books being put out. I imagine with DC Comics now being fully operated and controlled by their corporate owners, they are under orders to really push their blue chip characters, for commercial and marketing reasons as much as good stories, but good stories is what we have been treated to. Secondly, just look at that creative team. Warren Ellis scripting, Bryan Hitch pencilling, Kevin Nowlan inking, Alex Sinclair on colours, and Richard Starkings on lettering duties. You won’t find a more elite creative team on any book, anywhere. Finally, that title. The Batman’s Grave. How could that not draw you in? Take. My. Money.

Right, now you have my money, this book better be good or there will be some serious editing to my introduction. Let’s take a look.

The first three pages are certainly promising, with a nice little insight to Alfred’s duties at Wayne Manor, including the tending to the Wayne’s graves. Thomas, Martha, and Bruce’s. Er, say what now? Before you think you’ve picked up an Elseworlds book, Bruce’s grave is empty, but was put in place at the same time as his parents was. Alfred, though, is sadly convinced it will be filled before he dies. This is followed by a gorgeous two page shot of Batman surveying Gotham City, in typical Bryan Hitch widescreen style, followed by Batman battering some thugs in a two page,er, typically Hitch style. I think you are going to get what you paid for with this book. All typical ‘Batman on patrol’ stuff so far, but you know with Ellis that isn’t going to last long. And it doesn’t.

Alfred notifies Batman that the same building has been trying to get a police callout for 4 hours, and as it’s near to his location Batman goes to check it out. He finds a rundown building with run down people, but good people who look out for each other. They tell him that one of the tenants, Vincent Stannik in 4C, hasn’t been seen in days. Batman breaks the locks and investigates the room. What he sees is far more Ellis. A room covered in pictures and paper clippings of Batman, and a neatly laid out corpse on a bed. Hmm. Time to go back to the Batcave and assess the case, and what a gorgeous Batcave Hitch draws. As if you thought he wouldn’t.

Before Bruce gets down to studying the crime scene, he has an interesting heart to heart with Alfred. Alfred comes over as a man of duty, an old soldier honour bound to look after Bruce long after Bruce actually needs his help. A man not sure of the path Bruce has taken, but still willing to stand by him and honour that promise to his parents. Perhaps Alfred’s always been the real hero. Ellis then gives us a rare insight into Bruce the detective, as he analyses what he knows about Stannik. Turns out he was a former Gotham City D.A who left his job after a mental breakdown, and who then became obsessed with Batman, on whom he kept a ledger. Batman does a sort of Minority Report/ Iron Man thing where he uses VR technology to re-analyse the room as though he is still in it, and recreate the victims final hours. Cool stuff. Then it dawns on him. He returns to the original crime scene and realises that sometimes you really need to look under the floorboards…

The takeaway you get from this first issue is that Ellis is going to take his time, this being a 12 issue maxi-series. This is a slow burning murder mystery, or at least that is what it appears to be and with Ellis you never quite know. I suspect the Bruce/Alfred relationship may at some point take centre stage, not necessarily in a good way, and there will be some twists and turns down the road. Lovely scripting from Ellis, far more restrained than some of his work but no lesser for it. Hitch and Nowlan deliver some great art, as you would expect, with some great large panels and spreads throughout, and in an issue more cerebral than physical show their versatility. Hitch does love his action scenes though, so I suspect there’ll be some of that in the near future as Ellis is an artist’s writer.

This was an intriguing blend of classic Batman elements, like Wayne Manor and the Batcave, with new tech and gadgets, such as Alfred on comms and the VR crime scene analysis. It blended together perfectly, and the smart darknight detective slant was refreshingly done. A great read.

(They can keep my money, in case you are wondering).

**** 4/5

The Batman’s Grave #1 is out now from DC Comics.

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