The Batman receives a riddle over the internet, meaning that his old adversary The Riddler is back and ready to rock. But when he follows the clues, the Dark Knight finds not just one but a bevy of Riddlers, uncovers a theft, and finds a tie to a bad hombre from days gone by. Check it all out in BATMAN UNIVERSE #1 from DC Comics!
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Nick Derington
Letters: Josh Reed
Cover: Nick Derington
Colors: Dave Stewart
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: July 10, 2019
Cover Price: $4.99
Previously in BATMAN UNIVERSE: A relatively short time ago, DC Comics hired on the legendary Brian Michael Bendis as one of their newest creators. Mr. Bendis was given the keys to the toybox and, as superstar creators are wont to do, proceeded to pick out his favorites and get to work. Besides his wonderful Superman stories, he also wrote for the Wal-Mart Exclusive Batman Giant title. Now, if you were like many, you never even saw one of these issues in the real world, as speculators snatched them up and many suffered the hands of poor stock keeping and shoddy shelving. Now, however, we get to read the Bendis story that started in issues #3 and #4 of that series.
YOU HAVE TO BREAK SOME EGGS…
“When is The Riddler Not The Riddler?” It was a subpar clue, one even Alfred Pennyworth was disappointed in, but it led Batman to the place he needed be. What he did not expect was to find the location rife with multiple Riddler impersonators. Making quick work of the roustabouts Riddlers, Batman locates the real Riddler and puts a premature end to his escape attempt. You see, he had already deduced the goal of the crime was to steal a priceless Faberge egg which was on loan to the Gotham museum. Standing over the prone body of his foe, he begins his interrogation, only to have it end when he is surprised by three bright lights and a mysterious beam. Wakening to find himself surrounded by Gotham’s finest, he discovers that the multiple Riddlers have all been taken down town, while the real one has gotten away. The story from the distraction Riddlers seems to match up, they all thought it was part of a new prank show they had been hired to participate in.
High atop the Gotham Police Station, Commissioner Gordon and the Caped Crusader compare notes. Batman believes the Riddler was scared and being used, why is unknown. Gordon, for his part, has information on the Faberge egg. While it was a descendant for the original owner who donated the egg to the museum, the original owner was a man known as Jonah Hex.
What comes next takes Batman to door of young Jinny Hex, then across the world to confront one of the world’s most dangerous men and get a little help from an old friend. Will he be able to crack the riddle of wind up with egg on his face?
…TO GET THE CHICKEN ACROSS THE ROAD!
Brian Michael Bendis (Man of Steel, Action Comics) was already well on his way to thrilling the DC readership when it was announced he would be writing a Batman story for the DC 100-Page Comic Giant Batman which was to be sold exclusively through Wal-Mart stores all over the country. Despite how that initiative faired, we now have a chance to read his story from that run in the form of Batman Universe, a six-issue series from DC Comics. Bendis has become known for having a particular voice and way of letting a story unfold which he has been known for many years at his previous position. I honestly expected see that, to feel those beats and that familiar pattern. What I got with this issue, however, was not familiar, not at all. Maybe it was the original format of the story that consisted of 12 pages per issue over multiple issues, but here it felt different. It felt… DC. That’s an odd way to put it, but its true. Something of the dialogue, a very casual type of back and forth, was evident, but the gravitas has changed. It reads differently than his other work, and this is a good thing. Anyone expecting to pick up this issue and get a Marvelized version of the Dark Knight would be surprised, as it seems to go in a different direction. It’s good, and it has a feeling as if it is grounded in the DCU in a way that some of his Superman work seemed to lack.
On art duties this time around is Nick Derington (Doom Patrol, Mister Miracle) whose work has been gaining praise whether it is in the Fourth World or the Young Animals. Here his Batman has a gritty quality, which I am going to attribute to the style in which he uses for his inking. It is very reminiscent of brush and ink work, but to be truthful I am not sure if he works digitally or in a more traditional medium. There are wonderful details throughout the page, from minute hands on a clock tower to the myriad of folds within the Batman’s cape. His costume design for the second half’s villain, Deathstroke in cases you missed him on the cover, is excellent. He gives a sense of the character being grounded in the real world. While Batman is a lithe rapier, Deathstroke is a heavily used sword, ready to bash his way to victory but able to slice the skin off a grape if the situation calls for it. And as odd as this sounds, I really like his depiction of hair, especially the facial hair. It looks natural, even in the guest heroes’ single panel appearance.
BOTTOM LINE: PLEASANTLY SURPRISED!
I was surprised, in a very positive way. I have enjoyed Bendis’s work over the years with a multitude of characters, not always to the same degree, but he shines here as being able to adapt to a different type of hero in a different type of world. The writing, the art, even the lettering and colors deliver a great Batman story that has me waiting for the next issue.
If you got the original issues or not, BATMAN UNIVERSE #1 is a chance enjoy a Batman tale with the feel of a classic story while delivering modern thrills.
Batman Universe #1
Save your 100 page issues, pick this one up and pass it around to friends, this is a great beginning to a great Batman story.