Bruce Wayne makes his return in Brian Azzarello’s fresh take on the golden age Batman in First Wave #4. Yes, not Batman makes his return, Bruce Wayne. For this latest chapter in Azzarello’s deeply intricate mystery Batman initially takes a back seat as the sleuthing is better left to the splashy entrance of the millionaire playboy.
As we discussed in the past reviews Azzarello has re-imagined Batman fighting along such golden age heroic luminaries such as Doc Savage, The Spirit and the Black Hawks. As a bonus Rima the Jungle Girl makes her first appearance. If you don’t know who she is just think Carrie Fisher in her slave girl outfit from Star Wars and you’re in the ballpark.
I’m not even going to attempt to get at the bottom of this elaborate plot. The sheer number of characters alone is enough to make your head spin. My concern is with the Batman and how he is depicted in this novel interpretation.
Batman arrives on the scene set in Hidalgo in South America “disguised” as Bruce Wayne. It’s the best way to get closer to the wicked mastermind, Anton Collosi. Bruce’s ascot, sunglasses and deliberate naivete brings him closer than the other aforementioned heroes. In fact, Doc Savages entrance is something akin to a flying squirrel outfit, jettisoned from a jet aircraft, landing in a bonfire and getting his tail handed to him by the local native population.
Bruce, however, arrives through the front door as Colossi gives him a brief outline of what his plans are relying on Bruce’s guileless facade and Wayne reciprocates by boiling everything down to money. A deliberate dupe.
Things change as night falls and Bruce turns to the Batman. As the future master detective says, “I know where to look for answers. In the shadows… at night…that’s’ when the truth always shows its ugly face.” I want to take a moment to comment on the art of Rags Morales here. It’s been criticized as overly simplistic in this issue especially versus the previous three. But there is one panel where Batman clings on a precipice listening in on precious information.
I love the way Batman is elucidated here. Off balance, to show both his derring-do and lack of experience. A full moon creeps over his shoulder and casts him in an eerie purple light. The bat shadow he throws is reminiscent of the iconic seventies Batman and if you notice, the building seems to lean one way as Batman leans another adding an aspect of tension. It’s a great little panel, one deserving more detail and attention as it illustrates the nature of Batman and his nocturnal calling.
Batman learns of Colossi’s plans for the trussed up Doc Savage and literally wings his way into the jungle to affect a rescue. As drawn by Morales the cape turned glider is actually a lot more convincing than Savages flying squirrel outfit.
Azzarello adds a nice touch to the closing pages of this book as Batman is allowed a soliloquy of sorts. As the panels fill the last pages and all the major players begin to arrive on the scene, Batman provides the voice over. In it he muses how crime and criminals are one thing. They are people and deeds and people make mistakes. Then there is evil. Evil is bigger and stronger and worthy of a healthy respect and moreover, fear.
But that’s enough for the Batman for in this there is a challenge. To overcome your fears, to complete the mission to face the darkness to be the avatar of hope.
First Wave #4:
Reviewed by Dark Knight Dave