By: Gregg Hurwitz (story), Mico Suayan & Juan Jose Ryp (pencils), Vicente Cifuentes (inks), Sonia Oback (colors)
The Story: Kids, if you’re going to investigate your own parents’ murders, wait till you’re 18.
The Review: Reading my last couple reviews on this series, I realize I’ve been rather hard on Hurwitz since he took over the title. But weird and creepy as it sounds for me to say this, I do it only because I care. During my teaching days, I tended to be most critical on my smartest, most ambitious students. I figured if you were smart and talented enough to know better, why should I have to tolerate sloppy, uneven work?
Clearly, Hurwitz doesn’t want to tell your run-of-the-mill Batman story, where a villain does something horrible and Batman cleans it up with prejudice. You can always tell from the script that Hurwitz wants to find the bigger meaning out of the plot, to establish some kind of theme he can work around. Therein lies a part of the problem. As anyone who’s done some writing can tell you, theme can’t be generated; it can only be developed, often without intention.
You can see this kind of futility reflected in a young Bruce’s search for his parents’ killer. He’s convinced some kind of conspiracy was behind the murder; it’s the only way he can force some kind of sense into the chaos left in his life after losing his mother and father. In some ways, I would’ve been disappointed if his theory turned out true. It would’ve undermined the whole existence of Batman if his pain could be reduced to a personal vendetta.
Instead, Bruce must face up to some facts which bear a striking resemblance to reality. Once he finds Joe Chill, he realizes there was “[n]o secret order of mob bosses. No Court of Owls. No gunman on the grassy knoll. Nothing but a broken man. A two-bit drunk. At the end of the day, my parents died because a guy wanted a pearl necklace.” Sadly, people in the real world have died for less. The anguish of this revelation, if anything, seems to surpass what Bruce suffered even at the very beginning.
Perhaps then he realizes that if he can’t find meaning in the cause of his parents’ death, he will have to settle with finding meaning in the result. If he can’t channel his pain toward a plan of revenge against a specific person, then he will have to project it against the nameless figures “waiting in [the world’s] dark alleys, peering out with glinting eyes and a bullet in the chamber.” Thus the beginning of his world tour at the end of the issue. Thus Batman. Every time he beats some Gotham crazie, he’s taking revenge.
Suayan and Ryp team together to produce some fairly remarkable art, though it’s a good thing they get a solely civilian storyline to work with. Bruce pulls off some unnatural physical feats under their hands, like kicking in a door with both legs in the air or levitating flat on his back two feet off the ground as he strikes every single one of his surrounding attackers. Outside of these instances of strangeness, Ryp and Suayan keep the art grounded in the reality. Especially impressive are the props and details of Bruce’s adolescence. It’s the first time I remember getting a glimpse of his pampered life of luxury, a world of private schools, uniforms, sweater-vests, and squash games.
Conclusion: Hurwitz comes at one of the oldest stories in comics from a unique angle and mostly succeeds, though he only manages to add a mere ounce of fresh air to the Batman mythos.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – I actually really like the idea that Bruce hears the sound of rain as his mother’s pearls falling upon the street (and thunder as gunshots). That’s a really great way to portray his trauma as perpetual and life-lasting.