Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Batman: Gates of Gotham #1 review


Someone is blowing up the bridges of Gotham. Three so far, killing and injuring ordinary folk going about their business. A note sent to the press indicates a vendetta: 'The families will fall by the gates of Gotham.' The bridges were once referred to as 'gates' but who are the families who built them? That's what Batman and Red Robin learn in this first issue, with a surprise assist from Cassandra Cain - Batman Incorporated's Hong Kong hero, Blackbat - and count-on-it hectoring from Damian Wayne. Damian's peeved because one of the bridges was masterminded by his forefather, Alan Wayne, whom we meet in flashback at the beginning of this issue.

It's a good while since I've bothered with a Batman mini-series. I think the last one was the superb Batman Unseen. But the excellent scripts Scott Snyder is currently providing for Detective Comics pre-sold me on this five-part series. Snyder is writing with Kyle Higgins, who also handles the dialogue, and the result is a pacey first issue in which Gotham's past and present are linked by a mystery. The only possible spanner in the works of my enjoyment is the presence of Tommy Elliot, the overused, under-interesting foe known as Hush. Or as I think of him, STFU. Hopefully he'll prove to be a bit player, a tool of the main villain to be speedily seen off.

Who that is, I can't say, but he looks fantastic in his final page debut. Trevor McCarthy draws this clockwork-motif character so creepily that I'm itching for more. Unfeasibly tiny waist apart, he also draws a mean Cassandra Cain - she's smart, confident, as much a player as any of the Bat-boys.

Who, by the way, look great both in and out of costume. It's a sign of how lazy most artists are with regard to fashion that I nearly gasped at seeing Dick and Tim with 2011 haircuts. It's good to see the heroes look a little cutting edge (no pun intended, heck, it's barely there), with the added bonus that for once, street-clothes Tim doesn't look like Dick's Mini-Me. Damian looks excellent too, not quite Quitely - I think of Frank Quitely's Damian as the seminal version, despite his not originating the wee fella visually - but full of character. A little cuter than usual, but recognisably Robin.


The action sequences (click to enlarge) are also a treat, with Dick and Tim fighting to save lives when the bridges of Gotham County go bang. And a moody scene of corpses bobbing around the batboat is headed straight for tonight's bad dream. 

A word of praise, too, to Guy Major; his colour work is always superb, but he complements McCarthy to a ridiculous degree, lending the streets an atmosphere that's dark, but not depressing. Jared K Fletcher's lettering is terrific, and he deserves bonus praise if he came up with the stylish logo that sits so well with McCarthy's striking cover illustration.

I'm not sure where Bruce Wayne is while the events of this issue take place, but the Batman Family can handle things, I have no doubt. And I plan to be their cheering section.

What? You're disappointed I never showed you the haircuts? Oh, go on then ...





9 comments:

  1. Had to chuckle (and check out the hairdos): it took three bridge wipe-outs before Bats investigates?

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  2. Not quite, they were around as thing went up ...

    Hey, go read about Batman Unseen, tis spiffy!

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  3. They were actually on the case a week ago - Cassandra Cain was tracking the semtex all the way from Hong Kong in Batman Inc 6!

    I'm trying to decide if they've been using Eliot Brown's Gotham City maps from the No Man's Land era for the geography. It looks pretty close.

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  4. Has Gotham's location changed? Many years ago it was just across the river from Metropolis; thus, many bridges would be shared with Superman's city. I always thought it was a bad idea to put the two cities so close together. Icons need room, y'know?

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  5. Ah, good spot, Jules ... that BI was such a rollercoaster that I never made the connection. I saw the Dick Sprang-ish Bruce on page two and just grinned inanely through the rest of the issue.

    That 'over the bridge' bit, Carol, am I right in remembering that came from Murray Boltinoff-edited Worlds Finest, when we had Super-Sons and El Monstro?

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  6. I'm really liking Chris Burnham's art. His faces are a bit cartoony, but the expressions are priceless. Especially when it comes to Bruce.

    It's been 10-15 years since I've read the Superman titles regularly, but I always got the feel from post-Crisis Gotham and Metropolis that they were along the coast from each other, close-ish but not next door. Gotham's nearest sizeable neighbour nowadays is/was the radioactive crater formerly known as Bludhaven and I think that was supposed to be about 30 miles.

    If Metropolis was across the river, it'd have been hit by the earthquake and presumably it would have been a lot more difficult then to justify blowing the bridges and cutting Gotham off.

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  7. Right, as an experiment, I'm going to guess at a Superman run of the last 15 years which you might enjoy - Kurt Busiek's. Have a scan of a trade sometime, if you have a few minutes!

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  8. If I may indulge in cross-post behavior, I wrote something on DC cities locations a couple months back that attracted some interesting comments on this matter. And then redrew the U.S. map to 60 states, including a spot for Gotham.

    As for the comic, I really loved the art and urgent pace, even if I was heavily reminded of the story in which explosions "revealed" Anton Furst's (movie) Gotham.

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  9. Thabnks for the link, cross-blog posting is encouraged!

    Ah, the mad bomber of Gotham City, one of the stupidest stories ever. Everyone in Gotham forgot old, spooky buildings existed because new ones had been built in front. Was it some kind of meta-fictive commentary on the planes available for comic book characters to move in?

    All DC had to do was ask artists to start drawing the new-look Gotham, not explain it.

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