This over-sized issue of Batman has me on the fence. On the one hand we have a great story with a lot of human emotion in it, and on the other we have the fact that these issues are re-hashed and a couple of years old. I’ve read these issues before and thought they were pretty well done and whole, although even then, I did not enjoy the dumpster fire that was and is Scott McDaniel’s artistic approach. But that is beside the point. Although this was a great story and something that we haven’t seen in a Bat-Book in awhile, I don’t know if it’s really worth the $7.99 price tag. Sure, there is a lot of depth, emotion, and plot twists to hand out, but is that enough to counteract the fact that this story has already been told? I mean, yeah, the “100 Page Spectacular” solicitation on the cover is definitely a huge selling point but beyond that is it really worth it for a seemingly incomplete story arc? That is the question that has plagued me since I saw the solicitation for this issue. And after re-reading this story I can summarily tell you that after buying it, I feel a little ripped off.
Yes, it is surely and entirely my fault for buying it, nobody forced my hand or my wallet or my hard earned cash to do it, but is that what we are given for our faith in both DC Comics and the entire staff responsible for the Batman titles? I would think not, but I have been wrong before. After reading this issue I felt like I had been slapped in the face or had the rug pulled out beneath my feet. I thought DC would add a little more onto the story maybe a few extra pages or an editor’s note or something! But all that was offered for my 8 bucks was the story which maybe in the end isn’t so bad although it felt like a lot when I saw $7.99 flash on the cash register.
The story, like I said before, is really good to say the least. Ed Brubaker should receive a huge round of applause for his work in these issues because it is the fact that he doesn’t rely on the whole Batman is flawless and 10 steps ahead of everyone. He expertly uses everything that has come before while not explicitly using a single one of those cliché’s. He relies on the fact that Batman as a hero/dark knight/whatever you want to add cannot do everything. Batman fails in some of his approaches and you can’t change fate or destiny. And that he can’t convince he can only inspire. These things are self-evident in nature and Brubaker doesn’t hold back on these themes at all which is evidenced in the story of Jeremy Samuels. Our story begins with Mr. Samuels breathing a last bloody breath as Batman is engulfed in a hail storm of gunfire. We then flash to Jeremy’s parole hearing where Bruce Wayne is testifying, in this scene we learn that Jeremy used to be head of security at Waynetech where he quickly befriends his boss Bruce Wayne. Bruce states that Jeremy’s family was his life and his beacon of hope but after his wife and child are killed due to a gas leak and faulty wiring on the family car, he lost his mind and started committing crimes which only serves to grant his death wish. After getting caught and after being granted parole, Jeremy is given a security position thanks to Bruce, but he quickly quits and goes underground. Bruce, now expecting the worse visits Jeremy in his apartment and tells him that whatever crime he is planning, Batman will find out about it and stop it. Jeremy is then revealed to be a part of a robbery being planned by Penguin and a mysterious goggle wearing character named Zeiss. Oracle, in the mean time, figures out that the only two profitable robberies that can be committed is a jewel robbery and a money truck robbery. Bruce decides to go after the jewel robbery and senses something is wrong, we then find out that Penguin and Zeiss use this staged robbery to study Batman’s moves. Batman spots Zeiss who makes a quick escape. Troubled and trying to save his friend Bruce pieces together the facts, that Montoya after following Jeremy loses him next to a cathedral, and the fact that Jeremy mentioned something about faith earlier in the issue. After learning that the cathedral is set to receive some priceless artifacts Bruce rushes to the cathedral only to be ambushed by Zeiss. Zeiss seems to be the dominant fighter but Jeremy in an act of redemption and to enact his death wish points his gun at Zeiss which the G.C.P.D mistakes as Jeremy pointing the gun at Batman and shoots him. Batman comforts Jeremy who in his last moments reveals that he knows that Bruce is Batman as his breathing slows, Jeremy dies from his wounds. Bruce, now in a rage confronts Penguin saying that if he ever finds out that Penguin had anything to do with Jeremy’s death that he will become Penguin’s shadow.
The next story we see two young film students trying to make a documentary about Batman. They interview various people among them Penguin who tells them to visit Harvey Dent in Arkham Asylum. After interviewing Harvey, where he gives very ambiguous answers, he knocks the guard out and storms into the messy halls of Arkham. Batman saves the film students and reveals that he has been carrying around a magnet which has erased all of the film they shot. The film students drop Batman as a subject for their documentary and choose Green Lantern instead.
In the last story we see a down and out man named Pat Dyerson getting beat up by his book keeper after winning a huge pot and putting most of those winnings towards another bet only to lose all of his money so that he cannot pay the book keeper. Batman swoops in and saves Pat from further punishment. Meanwhile, Penguin and his lawyer Shyster are arguing their case to a judge so that they can keep their office building which has been bought out by Wayne Industries. Bruce’s lawyer Rachel Green presents a strong case and the judge dismisses the accusations. Bruce takes Rachel out to dinner for doing such a great job when they are attacked by Penguin’s henchmen. Bruce realizes that the bullets weren’t for him, they were for Rachel. Bruce then comes to the conclusion that Penguin is killing everyone involved with the case and is adamant that the judge is next. After reaching the train station where the judge is set to catch a train, Batman takes out Penguin’s henchmen but sees Pat making his way to the judge’s train. Batman catches Pat trying to diffuse the bomb and throws the bomb out the window. Later we see Pat waking up in his apartment as he spots a lottery number scrawled on his bathroom mirror with a bat symbol underneath it. Finally we see Shyster delivering the bad news that over 50 people had won the lottery that day and the Penguin is now bankrupt.
Overall the story part of this over-sized issue is really good. The philosophical statements and questions raised by Brubaker really shine through like the fact that (like I said before) Batman can’t save everyone, the concept of true friendship, the personal failures that Bruce endures, and the concept of action enacted even though some people may not even notice or care, is what keeps the story intriguing and worth re-visiting from time to time. What really impressed me about this issue is that time has passed and trends have faded. It was really refreshing to read a Batman story like this where it feels down to earth and homey without being outlandish and distant. Brubaker cuts through the page and into your soul and heart where he remains for the entirety of the issue. Great Batman story and worth a read if your willing to give up the $7.99.
DC Comics Presents: Batman #1:
Reviewed by Dane