In the skies above England, terrorists in Batman masks plan to bring down a plane, leaping to safety themselves. One passenger won’t go without a fight.
Outside Gotham City, Bruce Wayne, in contemplative mood, is saying goodbye.
At the scene of the air crash, the Batman finds he’s not the only hero investigating.
But there’s a villain around too…
I’ve been looking forward to this mini-series enormously. Batman in the UK, fighting alongside Knight and Squire, in a story by one of my favourite comic writers.
And indeed, Tom Taylor of Suicide Squad and Injustice fame produces some cracking moments of action, accompanied by simply edible dialogue. The mood of the piece is strong and there’s a mystery to be solved – I love a mystery.
There are problems, though. That opening sequence on the plane is accompanied by a voiceover which I took to be the thoughts of hero-in-civvies Beryl Hutchinson. I couldn’t marry the narration with what I know of her, so wondered if it was the female terrorist. Turns out, it’s Batman. One of those wee corner bat-symbols in the first caption box could have sorted that out and eased me into the story more quickly. If DC adds that to the inevitable collection, that would stop anyone else being tripped up.
And when is this story set? A quick caption telling us would be useful; I’m not following the current Batman, the pre-Future State set-up isn’t my cup of tea, but I know most of Bruce’s family money has somehow been appropriated by Lucius Fox. So is this Bruce downsizing, having had a rather cool haircut? Alfred is dead and the ‘family’ have moved on, but that could be every second Batman run of the last decade.
Or is this a speculative future tale, as hinted by Beryl being a few years older than last time we saw her, as she took on the mantle of Knight from her mentor, Cyril? Batman’s in a very cool winter look, but is it a future costume, or a logical reaction to the UK being rather chilly for much of the year. He talks about being old and bruised, but that could be mid-life crisis.
As for the art, Andy Kubert, in pencils and ink mode, gives us some excellent moments – the first look at Bruce, the reveal of the spook – and no one beats him when it comes to intense grimaces. There is the odd panel I couldn’t parse, this being the most troublesome.
I really couldn’t tell you which bits of the baddie and Batman I’m looking at.
Overall, though, I love the sequence on the Lancashire moors. That spectre – I’m deliberately avoiding their name – is an old DC villain in a new form and a brilliantly logical surprise. Batman has fought them previously so it makes sense he’s prepared for them to manifest.
As for the new Squire, Amina is as plucky as you could wish, and I hope we see her at the Knight’s side once ‘Beryl the Peril’ recovers from falling out of a plane. Beryl herself is on great form, down but far from out, her sense of humour always to the fore.
And I love Bruce’s musings on his two fathers, and references to his having been orphaned twice – Taylor gives Alfred the respect he deserves.
Taylor and Kubert’s partners in crime are colourist Brad Anderson, whose choices enhance the mood of every scene, and Clem Robins, the veteran letter who never makes a misstep – I especially like his alternate series logo on the splash page.
The cover logo is great too, I think it’s a take on one that would pop up on Nineties graphic novels. As for the image it accompanies, Kubert’s composition, attractively coloured by Anderson, sharply announces the series USP – Batman in the UK.
At six chapters, Batman: The Detective promises to be a tight, smart, good-looking series and, first issue snagging points aside, I thoroughly recommend this debut.