The penultimate week of The New 52's premiere month has brought us a lot of goodness and much controversy. But regardless of how different people may feel, these are the stories about the new Batman, and this series of articles will continue examining continuity and mythology elements we learn from the books where Batman appears. This week featured Batman #1 and an appearance in Catwoman #1.
SPOILER WARNING: This column assumes full knowledge of all books published this week.
Batman #1 is, for me, the premiere title for the character. Some may argue that honor goes to Detective Comics, and I see their point, but I look to Batman to define the character and move his mythos forward more than any other book. Needless to say, this introductory issue tells us a lot about Batman and his history.
Since the story opens with a big bad guy fight, it might be worth noting who all is confirmed as still being a thorn in Batman's side, especially since we're getting a new Penguin origin starting next month. Our pictured villains include a few people I couldn't identify, but those I had names for are Mr. Freeze, Clayface, Professor Pyg, Killer Croc, the Scarecrow, the Riddler, Two-Face, Zsasz, and James Gordon, Jr. There is a man in a white mask that Batman punches while thinking about Black Mask, but I am not sure that's not an error. If you have names for anyone else in that scene, please let me know in the comments.
When we see the Batcave, there are many interesting points. The facilities are large, complexly multi-tiered, and varied in their layouts. It seems very likely now that the "half mile from Wayne Manor" reference in Detective Comics #1 was referring simply to the entrance, but the cave itself is rather large. The most memorable elements are included, such as the giant penny, the dinosaur (now looking much more menacing and lively), and the giant Joker card, though none of these is anywhere near the computer center. There are also quite a few costumes enclosed in glass cylinders. Instead of just being Jason Todd's and a handful of other fallen heroes' costumes, there are twelve cases pictured, with possibly more that we can't see. It's great seeing his large array of vehicles, both for air and land. This means that the differing Batmobile designs in Swamp Thing #1 and Detective Comics #1 do not indicate unfortunate artistic liberty, but rather it illustrated that he actually does have multiple vehicles, any of which he could use at any time. We don't see the Bat-gyro from Batman and Robin #1, which would have been nice, but ah well. Tech in use in this issue also includes a contact lens with remote access to the Batcomputer, so that Bruce can see his screens wherever he is, and an EMP mask that maps to the user's face, allowing a realistically-moving false face to be projected over the user's own.
We also have three of our four Robins appear, giving us our first on-the-page confirmation that yes, these characters have worked with Bruce as his partner in the past. Dick Grayson and Tim Drake are both former Robins. (And Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 refers to Jason Todd also having that role once, though it's not as explicit.) I doubt there was any question in anyone's mind that this was the case, especially since we'd had editorial confirmation, but it's always good to have it actually in the story. It would have been nice if they had taken this opportunity to give some timeline info on how their careers were laid out, but no such joy, not yet anyway.
Each of the boys has high security access to Bruce's systems, but Alfred has the highest. Alfred first appeared in Detective Comics #1 as a hologram on Bruce's Batmobile dash. Though he did show up as a full person in the Batcave a moment later, he never emoted, never changed pose, and seemed to flit from one position near Bruce to another, leading me to suspect that he might ONLY be a hologram. Last week, he again appeared at Butler-attention in the Batcave as Bruce and Damian arrived there and though he was manipulating objects in the scene (handed a picture frame to Bruce), I wasn't fully dissuaded from my suspicion until Dan DiDio and Mike Marts confirmed that though he may use a hologram occasionally, Alfred is flesh and blood. Well, here in this issue, Alfred is finally acting real and human and not the slightest bit hologrammy, and it was a relief, I have to say.
When it comes to Bruce himself, we get all the classics of his character brought to the fore here. He refers to his father and mother being killed in Crime Alley. He hosts a philanthropic dinner to raise money for a new building project in Gotham, and he previously funded the digitization of the Gotham Gazette. He is young and handsome and is good friends with Gazette reporter Vicki Vale. (I want to make a comment about Vicki's being a reporter and yet not using the subjunctive properly when she speaks, but then any viewer of Superman: The Movie knows that Lois Lane can't spell, so never mind.) Bruce also has a reputation for being friends with the Batman, our third reference to Batman Incorporated without actually using that name (the other two being Batman's involvement with Batwing, and the Russian Batman in Batman and Robin).
I made note a couple weeks ago that Mayor Hady is currently running Gotham. Commissioner Gordon had mentioned that Hady was in campaign mode. Well now we meet his opponent, one Lincoln March, chief operating officer of March Venture, a company that does something interesting, I'm sure, but we don't know what. He did support Leslie Thompkins's clinic, so a) he's also philanthropic, and b) Leslie Thompkins is still present in post-Flashpoint Gotham.
The final scene indicating that Dick Grayson is the killer of this plot may turn out to be a tie-in to Nightwing #1, where Dick Grayson is also accused of being a killer. If it's not a tie-in, then that's some redundant storytelling that really should have been caught by the editor, but such things have happened before (reference Spider-Man running out of web fluid twice in two months at the beginning of Brand New Day).
The red-hooded Flashpoint woman makes the most miniscule appearance I've seen yet — she's huddled around a barrel fire with two homeless people in the opening establishing shot.
The second place Batman could be seen this month was in Catwoman #1. I don't know how much I can say about this scene yet, as it is very rushed, and we basically only have Catwoman's inner monologue for our point of view. It's likely that I'll be able to say more next month. But the bare bones facts are that Catwoman and Batman are involved in a sexual relationship, illuminating Alfred's vague comment from Detective Comics #1. Batman may or may not know that Catwoman is Selina, but she has no idea who he is, making it very unlikely that any elements of the Hush storyline of 2002-2003 will prove to be included in the post-Flashpoint continuity. Further, Catwoman tells us that this is a recurring encounter that "always" begins with Batman resisting before giving in. He definitely protests at the beginning of this particular tête à tête, saying that he only came to see Catwoman because was in danger, as well as others around her. More on this next month.
Nightwing #1 bears some looking at, if only because so much of Dick's history is wrapped up with Batman's. Also, although Batman doesn't appear in the issue, the plots may prove to be connected, as I said above. Dick does give us a little history of his relationship with Bruce, though some of the revelations create more questions. For one, Bruce was "away" for the majority of the last year, during which time Dick Grayson took over the Bat-mantle. Did everyone still think he was dead? Or is the writer simply being vague because the details are unimportant to the story at hand? Assuming Damian became Robin about that same time, that puts him about nine years old when he did so, since Bruce called him ten in Batman and Robin #1 (also assuming Bruce wasn't rounding or otherwise being clever). Also, Dick got his loft "a few weeks ago", so it's probably safe to infer that the transition back to Bruce as Batman occurred around that time. Dick also says he "grew up" as an acrobat and that Bruce adopted him. The adoption is new, but the timing of all this could very well be new as well. Tony Zucco is still given as the killer of the elder Graysons. If we assume — which I hate doing, but I want to be clear when I am making assumptions on pre-Flashpoint continuity in order to draw conclusions of the post-Flashpoint history — if we assume that going after Zucco was still the first mission of Batman and Robin, then it makes sense to say that the murder, Bruce taking Dick in, and Dick's assuming the mantle of Robin, all happened in relatively quick succession. However, Bruce has only been Batman for six years, according to Tony Daniel, and Dick is currently 21 according to Kyle Higgins, so that means Dick couldn't have been younger than 15 when Bruce took him in, trained him, and made him his partner, with the adoption happening either around the same time or later. The late age is reinforced by Nightwing's comment that he grew up as an acrobat. This isn't a Nightwing-focused column, but I do think that discussing his background fleshes out our understanding of Bruce's own history as they relate to each other.
As mentioned above, Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 also makes passing reference to Batman and Jason's former partnership with him, but it's nothing of substance.
Next time: Batman: The Dark Knight #1
Next month: Batman #2: Trust Fall
Posted by Jon Wilson