1 - Pure Fun
This issue is a stack of fun, there’s no denying it. Well, it’s kind of grizzly in parts, and murderous, but at all times still feels like you’re in on an adventure ride and all the pretty lights are singing you a Wonka lullaby of decapitated chickens and the nastiness of the world.
2 - New Reader Friendly
I haven’t read a Batman comic since R.I.P. ended. I liked Morrison’s stuff but the budget called and demanded some heads, Batman’s rolled off. So now I’m back (from outer space…sorry), and after reading some good reviews I knew I needed to sample this comic. And I’m glad I did. The concept is easily spelled out, Batman is going to go around the world and recruit and train some international Batmen. It’s the sort of status quo change that makes for a good jumping on point because it doesn’t feel like you need to have read, say, Return of Bruce Wayne to really get into the story. You just need to know Bruce is back, and there's gonna be trouble (hey na, hey na...sorry) and he’s got a plan.
There isn’t a lot of heavy exposition in this issue. Morrison isn’t working to inform you of the new plan. He just throws us into Japan and we take it from there. If Mr. Unknown has been used before or is a new creation for this issue is beside the point, he’s here and he’s now and you can watch what happens next right in the first two pages (which I’ll cover further down the list). Catwoman is a big part of the story but she’s not specifically introduced or shown how she got into panel. She’s just there, she’s got some history with Batman, that’s probably all you need to know.
Apparently Catwoman’s reaction to Bruce’s return over many titles has been inconsistent. Lucky I only read this title then so it hasn’t impacted me at all. Sorry. I found this issue to be completely easy to pick up from a DC noob’s point of view because it’s just a Batman comic. That’s it.
3 - First Two Pages
I read the 5 page preview on CBR but it failed to include the actual first two pages of the comic. The first two brutal and brilliant pages. We open on Japan’s greatest hero, Mr. Unknown. And he’s not in a good way. Mighty Lord Death Man has captured him, tied him to a chair, and next to him is a bottle of rohypnol pills and some nitro-hydrochloric acid. That’s not how anyone wants to wake up.
You think it’s bad but before the first page ends we get Mr. Unknown looking at his melting hands. Within four panels, we can already see that this story is playing for keeps. It might have one tongue firmly planted in its cheek but it’s also got a hand up its own dress and is looking for anything it can use illegally in most civilised countries.
The second page only takes things further as Mighty Lord Death Man stands triumphant over Mr. Unknown. It’s the end, surely, and Mr. Unknown pleads for his life, quietly, and the moment becomes all too real. It’s sad and you feel but only for a second before Mr. Unknown’s head is eviscerated by the acid Mighty Lord Death Man hurls at him. It’s a nasty open, especially cold, and it gives a good sense that this title is going to be many things.
4 - Yanick Paquette
I fell in love with Paquette’s art on the Weapon X arc he did with Jason Aaron where Wolverine was in the insane asylum, perhaps you’ve read it? It was a great arc and Paquette brings the same great work to this title. His characters all look comic book real, not exactly photo referenced but definitely not cartoony. There’s emotion and depth to these characters. He feels like someone whose style is Frank Quitely and Sean Phillips thrown into a blender and the frothy mix topped with some Mike Deodato, or perhaps a dash of Olivier Coipel. But then again, I’ve never been good at art discussion so I’ll just say I really like Paquette’s work.
One thing that stands out is that Paquette is drawing a very square jawed Batman. I like it, as if his chin is almost a part of the entire costume. He’s the ultimate hero here and Bruce Wayne doesn’t look too bad either. Though he is hair-free which disappoints me. He’s got nothing; none on the chest, none on the arms, none on the legs. It’s just not right, I want the old school, rugged, Sean Connery style chest rug for my man of leisure.
As for Catwoman/Selina Kyle, sure she’s pretty overly sexualised here, but that’s kind of what I want. This comic feels like a zany Bond comic, let’s have Batman’s ultimate Bond girl, his Cat. I dug the Catsuit a good deal more than I did Selina’s relaxed attire. But there’s no deny Paquette draws a mean tentacle porn poster, and the real deal later on. He also makes the action look real, with people scraped up and bleeding and I liked that.
5 - Japanese Heroes & Villains
This isn’t Gotham. You get that instantly because Paquette fills the streets and the backgrounds with plenty of Japanese iconography and tone. It instantly lets you know this is a different Batman tale. But apart from the scene, it is the new players that excite. Mr. Unknown barely gets any screen time but he instantly intrigues me. He’s the local hero in Japan, and so I wonder why he looks the way he does. I wonder how he does what he does. I try to quickly fill in a whole stack of back story, which is fun, but Morrison isn’t going there. He’s moving forward, so we must as well.
We get the killer of Mr. Unknown, the spooky and kind of awesome Mighty Lord Death Man. It’s got that great Japanese way of overhyping things through extended strings of adjectives and nouns. It’s perfect and the character’s actions and look live up to the name. He’s got the black and white theme owned, his skull mask (just once) shows the human face underneath, and he’s certainly theatrical. He’s a Japanese Joker, if you will, and he’s a stack of fun for this story. The fact that Morrison took this guy from an old Bat-Manga tale and updated/repurposed him for here is indeed pleasing. I could read plenty more of this villain.
Then there’s Jiro, but I’ll get to him later.
6 - Wayne and Kyle, Sitting In A Tree
You just know Bruce and Selina are doing it. I am a big fan of their interaction in this issue. It’s casual and fun and completely on the job, to begin with. They’re just teaming up on a little gig, stealing a rare jewel from Doctor Sivana, and we cut to them in media res and it’s just right. These two would do this all the time and I don’t care about getting there, I really care about being there. So there we are.
After the job, and a resolution we don’t even see, Bruce and Selina just kick back in a Japanese hotel suite. She uses her time to sit around half naked and drink – straight from the bottle. He uses the down time pumping more weights and preparing for the next step – physically and intellectually. It’s a perfect match because they’re the original odd couple. They probably each wish to change the other to make the perfect match, but they’ll never succeed. But that doesn’t stop them having a stack of fun together.
Why has Bruce taken Selina with him on this outreach program? Who knows (who cares?)? If you could, wouldn’t you? She’s hot and fun and damn useful. You get the chance, you bring her along. She’s nearly always going to be more use than she is a liability. In the end, though, I know their paring will be fun. And I want my fiction to be fun.
7 - Giant. Robot. Mice.
What more needs to be said on this one? Bats and the Cat are in the lab of the previously mentioned Doctor Sivana and to get to what they need they have to get past the sentries; giant robot mice. It’s just one of those times where the creators are making the small part of the tale more interesting. The real stuff that matters will occur in Japan but why tread water on the pages before? Why have henchmen when you can do this?
I’ll admit, this isn’t my favourite part of the issue. It’s cool but it’s nowhere near the top of the list (top ten maybe, I guess) and yet I appreciate it. It’s just something new and comics can always utilise new.
8 - Final Two Pages
Much has already been made of the final two pages but I don’t think you can have enough discussion on something like this, to be honest. The set up is that Jiro has gone to his girlfriend to ensure her safety but he’s found her in a death trap of maniacal intent. The sequence is begun, Misaki drops through a trap door into some water, and Jiro makes a move for her. He kicks a henchman just as Batman and Catwoman enter the room to help out with the ensuing brawl. Misaki is fully submerged and so Catwoman dives for the water to help her out, a call back to a previous scene where Catwoman flippantly mentions water, and her diversion to it.
It’s three wide panels, intercut with black strips of writing that makes it sound like the end of your favourite childhood serials, and it’s certainly something you don’t see every month in the usual funny books. It seems to slow the action down, almost strobe it at you, and it’s a complete success in tone and mood. Then I turn the page and find….well, actually I found Batwoman pointing her leather breasts at me because there’s a big old ad staring me down (a tactical error of placement that really jolted me for a moment), so I tracked my eye to the right and found the final splash page.
The splash page does many things. It showcases beautiful Paquette art, just gorgeous. You can look at this splash for quite some time. It offers up an idea I have honestly never seen before. This is unique and intriguing and flat out awesome. It also provides one hell of a cliffhanger for the next issue. I absolutely must know what happens next. Due to the lead up of the previous page, it also has a bit more impact because you’re built up to something coming out at you. Morrison and Paquette deliver in spades on this one.
9 - Jiro
Jiro only gets a few pages but he’s instantly an interesting character. He appears to have been the Robin to Mr. Unknown, that’s how I see it. He’s a young guy, able to hold his own against the Mighty Lord Death Henchmen, and he will make for a cool triangle of crime fighting between Batman and Catwoman. I like this guy already and watching him get trained by Bruce is going to be fun.
10 - Global and Beautiful
The entire premise, Batman going global, is definitely sold in this issue. We get Bruce Wayne as a jet hopping playboy, with lady on the arm, and we get a seedy side to Japan. The villain is something different entirely, the new sidekick/trainee looks to be something fun. It’s Batman working with new people and taking Catwoman with him. This doesn’t feel like a generic Batman comic. This has the tone and vibe of something global. It’s not going to be what you’ll expect. It’s a new Batman comic for a person not entirely interested in all of the old Batman comics. But, if you are a die hard Bat-fan, then I think you’ll still see your man Wayne in here and you’ll love him.
This issue has sold me completely. It’s got so many things right that I’ve added it to the list of purchases, definitely. It is sleek and sexy, it pushes along like a bullet from a personalised, hand built gun. It looks absolutely stunning. But I find many creators know how to make a debut issue fantastic. They have to, that’s the catch. I want to see if issue #2 can continue the greatness. If it can, I’ll be on this title for some time because this start is absolutely masterful. If you have not read this issue then you need to go pick it up. You won’t regret it. But if you have another favourite moment from the issue then please let us know in the comments.