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Batman: Creature of the Night #1

by Michael D on November 29, 2017

Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: John Paul Leon
Publisher: DC Comics
Lately, DC has had a really strong showing, consistently putting out amazing books each week. Just when you think they can’t top themselves, they put out a book like Batman: Creature of the Night. I’ll tell you right now, this book is incredible. It should came as no surprise as the book has been billed as a spiritual successor to one of the most critically acclaimed Superman stories, Superman: Secret Identity. If you aren’t familiar with that story than you should fixed that immediately and go read it. To sum it up very quickly, it’s about a young man who lives in a world very much like ours, who unfortunately, happens to have the same name as the most famous comic book superhero, Clark Kent. One day he inexplicably finds himself with the same power as his namesake. It is my favorite Superman story so this book had a lot to live up to. Luckily, Superman: Secret Identity writer, Kurt Busiek, returns to tell this story with artist John Paul Leon.

The story kicks off in the year 1968 with a young book reading a batman comic while eating cereal out of his batman bowl. This is the real world, or at least one just like it. There is no Gotham or Metropolis; instead this story takes place in the much less fantastical Boston. Narrated by Uncle “Alfred”, we are introduced to the characters. Young Bruce Wainwright and his loving, upper middle class parents. Bruce idolizes Batman. He dreams of being batman. He always includes a little pause between Wain and wright. He calls his uncle Alton Frederick “Alfred”. The whole naming thing never feels force but rather charming. This goes for all the allusions to batman. There could have been so many more winks and nods to Batman’s history but instead it focuses on its own story. This becomes abundantly clear when we witness the tragedy that shapes this Bruce Wainwright. It’s not a mugging gone wrong in Crime Ally. There is no pearl necklace. There is no theater. Instead, it’s a home invasion. Parents murdered in front of him but even he isn’t spared when he stands up to them, recounting some Batman wisdom. The rest is a grounded approach to a, now broken, child dealing with the aftermath. He’s mad at the world, he lashes out, and he learns that the world isn’t fair. He also discovers that maybe Batman is real or is it just a coping mechanism?

While the story is being narrated by “Alfred”, we do get the some insight into Bruce’s mind. He’s young, imaginative, and believes that people are just like the people in the comics he reads. His parent’s murder shattered his perception of the world and Busiek does a masterful job and giving him a voice that speaks to this. He is a kid dealing with grief and anger. This Bruce is mad that life isn’t fair, that it doesn’t play out like it does in an issue of Batman. There are some truly heartbreaking scenes of him trying to makes sense of everything but finding out that sometimes there isn’t any to be found. While he is dealing with these very difficult and serious subjects, he still sounds like a child. Eventually, after rumors of a real life Batman and even some dreams, Bruce begins to double down on his Batman obsession. At first, you have to wonder whether it is merely a coping mechanism but then it turns into something more. I don’t want to spoil it here but it leaves the story in a very interesting place when we finally figure out the true nature of this Batman.

The only other major character in this book is Uncle “Alfred”. He provides most of the narration to the book. There is a sense of regret and sorrow in his voice that lend well to setting the tone of the book. We get a sense that while he is watching this unfold; he is powerless to do anything about it. His background, while still a bit of a mystery, suggest another tragic layer to go with the book. Although, given the time period, it might be an easy guess to figure out where the mystery is going. This might be the most interesting take on Alfred and I can’t wait to see where his character arc goes.

John Paul Leon has some big shoes to fill in after Stuart Immonen did the art in Superman: Secret Identity. Well, Leon knocks it out of the park with some career defining work in this book. He sets the tone immediately with a grounded world. The urban environments look great and the time period is captured effortlessly. Leon’s use of color really did a lot of heavy lifting when it came to setting the mood of the story. The glimpses of Batman were amazing but when we are finally introduced to his Batman in all its glory, it’s spectacular.  He manages to create a world that captures the feeling that the our world is filled with horrors, but yet Batman can still be around the corner somewhere. Although, it might not be the Batman we’re accustomed to.

One final thing worth mentioning is the format. DC knows they have something special on their hands because it’s getting a premium release. Just like Superman: Secret Identity, Batman: Creature of the Night is getting the prestige format release, meaning the paper quality is top notch and the page count comes to a total of 48 pages. It also comes with a premium price of $5.99 but at double the page count of a normal book with even better quality, the price is justified.

Batman: Creature of the Night is a breathtaking book. The story will pull you in and make you feel for Bruce in a way that you haven’t before in a Batman book. This book has the potential to be the best book of the year. This needs to be on everyone’s pulllist.

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