4 out of 5
The widescreen panels; the over-the-top action; new Batmobiles – ATVs, flying ones – and lots of badass posing and choreography and beatdowns and Alfred banter: it’s like the Batman book we were maybe imagining when Grant first stepped forward to take over the character.
But this wouldn’t have worked without the explorations / storylines that came before it, and not just because it’s now Tim Drake and Damian, but because Bats never really needed the whole explosive revamp of Grant’s JLA – he’s always been acknowledged as pretty badass, and stepping up to bat with trumpets blaring would just result in, like, something akin to Frank Miller’s All-Star run. Instead, having journeyed with us through years of Bat lore, and reconfiguring golden / silver / dark age storylines into the revitalization of The Bat as a symbol; as an enduring icon, Grant has earned the right to do the super cool bit, while also cleverly making it part of his lineage – that’s where Tim Drake and Damian do come in to play – as well as, possibly, commenting on the ‘modern age’ of stuff like the aforementioned All-Star mentality, or his old buddy Mark Millar’s Kick-Ass style overkill.
That latter bit, while interesting to consider, is hard to ascertain at this point in the run, though, which gives the books sort of a harsh edge that feels almost pushed too far: the gross and gritty Mr. Pyg villain who brainwashes his followers by searing a doll-face over their own; Damian’s kick-first-question-later approach to putting down villains; the motley crew of twisted circus freaks who follow Pyg. Part of the book is about Tim coming into his own as Batman, and learning how to work with Damian, and all of the inbetween banter and conversation works like gangbusters, but during the scuffles, with blood flinging everywhere and victims screaming out for help, it’s unclear (for now) how we’re meant to interpret the tone. As illustrated by Frank Quitely, it’s amazing to look at, and Grant is writing in his most ace compressed manner, making it a snap to read, so it all whizzes by without necessarily needing to question whether or not our slobbering over the violence is a good thing or a bad thing or just, like, it’s comic’s y’all.
But damn, I am eager to find out, and I can honestly say that that excitement wouldn’t be as great without all of the solid foundation work Grant laid down for these characters, and this bat symbol.