And boy, what a mediocre start it is.
It starts with Batman hot on the trail of The Joker, which is a perfect way to start any new Batman story arch. That much is good. What's confusing is when exactly this is supposed to be taking place. Right off the bat (Excuse the pun) we're left wondering, at what point in Batman's career is this supposed to be taking place? It could be the beginning, but he claims he’s been active in Gotham for years. He’s already allied with a young Commissioner Gordon, but the rest of the police force has been ordered by the mayor to shoot him on site. There’s even a vague reference to Catwoman. Not to mention all of his former sidekicks running around the rest of the DCnU. Unlike Superman in Action Comics, there is really no clear indication that this is a revamp of Batman’s earlier career. It just jumps right into how long he’s been chasing after The Joker.
The main problem with this is that it immediately assumes you are familiar with all the characters and jumps right into the action. Granted, it’s Batman. If you’ve even heard of comic books you know who Batman is. Still, it’s confusing and doesn’t make for a good "jumping on point for new readers", which was the entire purpose for the reboot in the first place.
Also, Batman just doesn’t seem to be…well, Batman. The Joker has been active for six years and Batman is only now finally able to find him. That’s bush league, Bats! Bush league! He also utilizes robot bat cameras called "Ro-Bats".
…Really? "Ro-Bats"? We're getting into Brave and the Bold/Adam West territory here, people!
The Joker doesn’t seem like The Joker either. After six years his body count is only one hundred and fourteen? Amateurish! Sure, in real-life statistics that’s a lot, but I’ve seen Joker top that in a single issue! Also, where’s the animosity between him and Batman? There is none! They’ve apparently never even met before the events of this issue. Joker’s origin of falling into a vat of chemicals while fleeing the Batman, a solid comic book fact for sixty years, has seemingly never happened. Joker’s just some psycho who doesn’t even care about Batman. That is a huge disappointment! A massive part of the excitement in Batman comics is the Batman/Joker rivalry. Why did they get rid of that? It should be expected, especially if we are expected to already be familiar the characters.
The worst part is the ending. As Joker sits defeated in Arkham Asylum, its revealed that it was all part of his master plan to get his face cut off and removed by a mysterious shadowy figure so that he can be “reborn”. Now I like a good Nicholas Cage/John Travolta movie as much as the next guy, but, seriously, why? This just seems to be for shock value alone and completely unnecessary! If they’re going to use The Joker, why drastically change him right after the first issue? I find it hard to believe that anything they do to him will be nearly as good as just having the Joker, the classic comic book icon, just run amok in Gotham. After all, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it!
It's like they've taken these well known, beloved characters and watered them down to be more "realistic" and/or "modern". It's the same "Ultimate Marvel" shenanigans I was afraid they'd pull ever since I first heard about the reboot!
I will say this though. Tony Salvador Daniel is a very talented artist. His representation of the characters is very good. I especially like how he draws The Joker. I’m not sure if I like Batman’s new complicated, plated armor, but Daniel does it well nonetheless. The problem is his action seems all over the place in some scenes. The action can be a little confusing and hard to follow when you put an entire helicopter chase scene into five panels on a single page. The action in the book was pretty decent over all, but at the very least I think Daniel needs to work on his pacing.
Or at least explain how Joker learned the Mortal Kombat move "Teleportaion-bite-to-the-jugular"!
There was one moment, however. One moment that defined this version of the Batman character so well and made it all worthwhile. At the very beginning Batman claims he is feeling lucky (Supposedly meaning about his chances of finally catching The Joker), but after The Joker escapes in a fiery explosion Batman barely hears a young girl cry out for help an instant before he is about to chase the fleeing maniac. A murdering madman escapes, one person lies dead after being brutally stabbed, and the building is in flames, but as Batman reaches out to save one little girl, he sums up the situation in one word: “Lucky”. YES! That is the line between vigilante and hero! That IS Batman! As long as Tony S. Daniel knows that, there IS hope for this book!
Of course, the little girl later turns out to be part of a convoluted trap that kills a bunch of police officers, but still, that one moment! Solid gold!
That’s all for now! Until next time: Don’t take life too seriously; you’ll never get out of it alive!