What is the one thing that Batman, the ordinary man who trained himself to become the ultimate physical specimen, whose vast wealth allows him to obtain any gadget imaginable, and whose intellect and deduction skills make Sherlock Holmes look like a joke, always needed? How about two super powered pals who named themselves after their hometown? Don’t worry, it’s better than it sounds, and your Major Spoilers review of Batman #3 is about to begin.
Previously in Batman: Two new heroes, Gotham and Gotham Girl, have arrived and are looking to help the Dark Knight clean up the criminal filth that has long littered the mean streets of Gotham City. Batman has cautiously decided to take the two new super powered vigilantes under his wing to show them the ropes but there is a larger, looming threat in the form of Hugo Strange that is lurking in the background with plans of his own.
WELCOME TO GOTHAM (AND GOTHAM GIRL)
After first getting a glimpse of them in the DC Universe Rebirth Special, issue #3 of Batman gives us some more background information on Gotham City’s newest crime-fighters, Gotham and Gotham Girl. While I still find their names to be cringe worthy and I’m not a fan of the costume design and Old English lettering, I did appreciate Tom King giving us more insight into their history. After all, if they’re going to be a continued presence in the series, I would at least like the characters to be fleshed out a little more, so I certainly see the need for an issue such as this. Still, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the origin we were given for Gotham and Gotham Girl. Hank nearly experiencing the same tragedy that befall a young Bruce Wayne, only to be saved by Batman was a nice way to connect the two characters and it helps explain Hank’s motivations for becoming a hero and wanting to work with the Caped Crusader. However, I can’t help but wonder if giving him a more original back-story, rather than having him follow in Bruce’s footsteps, would have worked better. In addition, while King does a great job at allowing the reader to connect with Hank on a deeper level, I still don’t feel much of a connection with Claire. The parallels between Bruce and Hank work but the impact, much like throwing paint on a canvas, lessens with each additional coat. We now have Claire, who is motivated by Hank, who is motivated by Batman, who is motivated by the death of his parents. The repetition ultimately hurts Claire as a character and both she and Hank would have benefited from a greater dichotomy in relation to not just Batman, but one another.
Character flaws aside, I really enjoy the larger overall story that is being told and I’m curious to see where things go with the “Monster Men” plot line. The inclusion of Hugo Strange and Psycho Pirate are intriguing and getting to see Bruce Wayne take on his alter-ego of Matches Malone added a much appreciated dose of nostalgia, a theme which has been prevalent in these early stages of King’s run on the title. King has a firm grasp on the voice of Batman and his dialogue, although brief in this issue, is 100% true to form.
The art team on this issue consists of David Finch on Pencils, Danny Miki on Inks, and Jordie Bellaire on Colors. I’ve never been a fan of artists depicting Batman in an overly stylized manner, so I really appreciate Finch’s interpretation of the Caped Crusader. His work strikes many of the same notes we get from my favorite Batman artist, Jim Lee. The level of detail on Batman’s costume is impressive and I always appreciate when an artist pays special attention to the gloves, belt and boots. The line work is incredibly crisp and even in the background imagery, nothing is sacrificed in terms of quality. I really love the inclusion of the nine-panel grid in opening of this issue, which brings to mind the work of Dave Gibbons in the pages of Watchmen. Given the recent events in the DC Universe since Rebirth, this was a smart and welcomed artistic decision by Finch.
The deep, heavy inks add explosive contrast in all the right places, allowing the artwork to truly pop off the page when combined with Jordie Bellaire’s impeccable colors. I wasn’t crazy about the muted palette at first but it’s starting to grow on me and all things considered, this has been one of the best looking books in the new Rebirth lineup.
BOTTOM LINE: A HOME RUN BUT NOT A GRAND SLAM
Batman stories are a lot like pizza. When they’re good, they’re good and when they’re bad… at least they still have Batman. That being said, this was a good issue and while it’s by no means Tom King’s best work, it’s an enjoyable read with beautiful art that I definitely recommend picking up.