18th Jul2019

‘Batman Universe #1’ Review (DC Comics)

by Dean Fuller

Written by Brian Michael Bendis | Art by Nick Derington | Published by DC Comics


One of my previous reviews was for the first issue of Superman: Up in the Sky, a limited series which is essentially collecting together all the new material from the Wal-Mart 100 page DC exclusive comics. It’s very good by the way, so check it out. This book is the Batman version of that. So same as Tom King was told to tell Superman stories that throw away the need to be a genius in continuity, so Brian Michael Bendis was given licence to do the same with Batman. Write HIS Batman, stripped of the decades of Bat-continuity and pointedly new reader friendly. You can guess how much DC wanted to these books to do well by the fact they put such superstar talent as Tom King and Bendis on the books. Quality certainly tells, no doubt.

So what does Bendis have to say when it comes to writing a sleeker Batman? Quite a lot it would seem. We open Batman Universe #1 with Bendis’s trademark witty banter, as Batman and Alfred exchange pleasantries as Batman races to the location of a robbery seemingly being orchestrated by the Riddler. I say ‘seemingly’ as the riddle that leads Bruce there is very lacklustre, and not up to Nigma’s usual standards. He’s lost Alfred as a fan anyway. Batman arrives to find an entire room full of Riddlers, of all shapes and sizes, wearing all variations of costume past and present. Sort of a villain cosplay. Batman manages to separate the wheat from the chaff, tracks down the real Riddler but just as he is taking him down is blindsided by a mysterious foe. Lights out Bats.

Batman comes to just in time, as two Gotham cops are hazing the rookie by telling him to take off Batman’s mask before he wakes up. ‘He won’t mind’. Heh. The Riddler is long gone, as is the $15 million Faberge Egg that was the target of the crime. The fake Riddler’s reveal they thought this all a gag, not even realising the real Batman and Riddler were involved, while Batman tells Commissioner Gordon that this was not Riddler’s operation, that he seemed very scared. One lead comes, back to the original owner of the Egg, a certain Jinny Hex, descendant of a certain mean hombre called Jonah. The lead dies there, though we clearly haven’t seen the last of Jinny.

Batman tracks Riddler down to Amsterdam, where he again is seemingly there under protest. Luckily for him, a bodyguard has been hired, a certain Deathstroke. Reason being, Deathstroke is one of the few people able to go toe to toe in hand to hand with Batman. Which he does. In fact Slade is on the version of taking Batman down, when he is knocked out by gas, courtesy of Green Arrow. When the last panel features Batman, Deathstroke, Riddler, and Green Arrow, you know Bendis has delivered a decent read designed to make a lot of fans smile. Which I did.

This was a rollicking read that never let up, full of quick action, fast banter, good characterization, and that classic Silver Age Batman trope, the detection and solving of a case rather than just fisticuffs. In fact, this felt a lot like a Silver Age story to me, a simpler, more human Batman. This was also reflected in the art style of Nick Derington, who managed to both deliver nice, easy to follow clean art with a tinge of Darwyn Cooke/ retro style on the side. In fact, not only did the story read and look a little Silver Age, it wouldn’t surprise me if Bendis took his take and tone from the 1990’s Batman: The Animated Series, which remains the high standard in Batman storytelling. Anyhow, I love Bendis’s take, the look of the book, the tone of it, the choice of characters.

Rather like once upon a time Justin Timberlake was bringing sexy back, Bendis is bringing fun back. To DC in general, but in this case most definitely to Batman. I could read this Batman all day, so I’m hoping DC will make sure Bendis gets more Bat-time in the future after this short series wraps up.

The best Batman interpretation I have read for some time. Loved it.

***** 5/5

Batman Universe #1 is out now from DC Comics


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