Batman Unseen #5 review

Doug Moench and Kelley Jones conclude their 'lost tale of Bruce Wayne as Batman'. Where it fits into continuity isn't important - at a guess, after Dick Grayson became a full time Titan, given the presence of my favourite Gotham cop, Harvey Bullock - as everything you need to appreciate the tight five-part story is supplied. Just sit back and enjoy Bruce Wayne, Alfred, Commissioner Gordon, Bullock and the original Black Mask all operating in and around Jones' uniquely baroque Gotham, a city creaking with grotesques.

Oh, and there's the Meat Man - transparently evil scientist Nigel Glass, driven to madness by his obsession with an invisibility formula. He embarks on a trail of vengeance, stalking the streets with, literally, naked fury. His lack of form gives him an advantage over Batman, but this issue Batman takes the fight to him.

A subplot running throughout this mini series has seen Batman perturbed at the fact Gotham's villains aren't as superstitious as they were, no longer so scared of the Bat. I love that Moench has tackled this, as I've always wondered for how long Batman had the advantage over the 'cowardly lot'. And this subplot, in the old-fashioned - classic - manner, feeds into the main storyline this issue in a way that allows Jones to go wild with a decidedly different Batman visual.

I won't show that here, in the hope anyone who's not been buying will get down to the comic shop and grab the back issues - there doesn't seem to be a collection planned. I will, though, remind you of just how good Moench and Jones are together (click to enlarge). I love Moench's snappy dialogue, just the right side of melodramatic, and the way Jones twists his figures and plays with light. And I know that everyone does dry Alfred these days, but I really love the perfect way words and pose match up here: Every page of this series has bled quality, making it my favourite Batman experience this year. There's no denying I'm enjoying the Morrison Batman and Robin series, and other current stories, but there's been nothing to touch the warm glow Batman Unseen has given me. For storyline, drama, humour, visuals it can't be touched. Even the colouring is perfect, with Michelle Madsen demonstrating that a Batman story doesn't have to be drenched in black to have mood. And while I'm no fan of narrative boxes in handwritten script, letterer Pat Brosseau keeps everything wonderfully readable. And further kudos if he handled the headings for the cute little chapter illustrations Moench and Jones provide, adding to the feeling we're watching a Batman movie serial. That impression is added to by the brilliantly designed covers this series has boasted, with their bombastic taglines and over the top images. Kudos to editors Michael Siglain and Harvey Richards for overseeing this project.

Every aspect of this mini series has been top notch and it's a terrible shame there's been so little buzz about the project. Batman Unseen indeed. I really hope DC does collect the series (update - they did!), and soon, as it's exactly the sort of thing that might sell well to the general public. Never mind this week's announced Earth One Batman and Superman graphic novels, there's no need to reinvent the wheel when accessible, entertaining fare like Batman Unseen is available.