Review by Tom Speelman
Beware The Batman wasn’t a show I was expecting to like. The CG animation looked really bizarre and off-putting at first, and I was really annoyed that the great Young Justice cartoon was getting canceled to make way for another Batman rendition.
But then the show actually premiered this past summer and, catching up after a few weeks, I found myself digging it. I’m a sucker for the “Year One” version of young, still ‘learning the ropes’ Batman. The changes this show made – focusing on more obscure villains like Anarchy, making Alfred into Jason Statham, and using Katana instead of Robin for a sidekick — were interesting enough for me. That and the show’s cool attempts to synthesize both the Golden Age Batman and the Christopher Nolan films have made it a neat show to check out every week.
Happily, though, one doesn’t need to really watch the show to get a sense of this new tie-in comic, released just a few days after it was confirmed the show itself will be on hiatus until January. The plot of the story involves Batman and Katana investigating why corrupt industrialist Simon Stagg’s warehouses have sped up production the last few weeks. While Bruce and Tatsu (Katana’s secret identity and Bruce’s chauffeur) are on the way to a cocktail party hosted by Stagg, Alfred informs them that the “Fight Back” movement has reached Gotham and is protesting Stag Industries and other giant corporations.
At the party, Bruce is introduced by Stagg to Robert Catesby, the head of his home security product division, who announces his plan to make their new alarm system free to the public for the next month – a move he thinks will go over well because of the protests. Back at the Batcave, Alfred explains how the lock is both unbreakable and a burglar alarm while Batman shares his suspicions that Catesby is a fake and is plotting something.
Ivan Cohen, who also wrote the tie-in comic to that other canceled DC cartoon, Green Lantern: The Animated Series, hands in a script that perfectly captures the tone of the show; I can easily hear the character’s voices in my head as I read it. His dialogue matches the rhythms that the characters have and his plotting is well paced. His allusions to Occupy Wall Street with “Fight Back” could come off as ham-fisted, but he keeps them around as a background element, which makes sense. Don’t want to bog down the kids this book is aimed for with details, you know.
Luciano Vecchio, also of that Green Lantern: TAS comic, perfectly translates the CGI character models into two-dimensional pencils; the only complaint I have with it is that, in some panels, his faces are a little off. Not bad, necessarily, just noticeably odd-looking. His colorist, Franco Riesco, mananges to take the show’s dark atmosphere and lighting and translate them onto the page. Together, they give us clear, readable art that is actually easier to look at than the show is sometimes. Plus, being a comic book, they can put as many people in the background as they want, unlike the show, which feels like it takes place in an abandoned city at times.
Overall, this is a fun, enjoyable comic that will more than fill in the gaps while the show is on hiatus. This is another example of how DC’s out-of-continuity titles seem to be the most fun, and yet another reminder that just because a book is based off of something else, that doesn’t mean it can’t stand on its own.
Tom Speelman is double majoring in Literature and Writing at Calvin College. He has presented on Carl Barks and Donald Duck comics at the 2011 Calvin Honors Conference and Sherlock Holmes at the 2013 Making Literature Conference and blogs three times a week at tomtificate.wordpress.com, including the feature Star Trek Saturdays, where he examines an episode of the original Star Trek every week.