By: Too many to list—check out the review.

The Story: Batman gets owned by a butler, teases a robot, and prevents the kidnapping of some fish.

The Review: Some people might say this point is arguable, but I firmly feel there is such a thing as too much Batman—in the same way that you can have too much Superman, Wolverine, X-Men and Avengers.  I made it pretty clear in my review of Batman: The Dark Knight #11 that I felt we had one Batman title too many already, and adding one more seems like definite overkill.  This just feels unashamedly exploitive to me.

Still, it turns out that there are still plenty of stories left to tell where the caped crusader is concerned, especially if one isn’t bound by continuity.  What you may find interesting about all the features included in this issue is all without exception portray a pre-relaunch Batman.  The old-school costume, underwear on the outside and everything, is the least of it.  Each feature has its own strangeness for anyone who’s already used to the new-52 history.

Damon Lindelhof’s “The Butler Did It” manages to tell a story where continuity is irrelevant.  Geoff Johns in Earth One portrayed an early Batman still working out the kinks in his physical skills, but more interesting is Lindelhof showing a young Bruce ignorant of his psychological blind spots.  Seeing him behave so cockily may startle you a bit, but this seems a necessary step in his evolution into the Dark Knight.  But more than the fact that the story makes sense, it’s also a well-told bit of drama between Bruce and Alfred, proving the butler has more value to his master than making dinner and drawing hot baths.  Alfred sees Bruce’s interior more keenly than even Bruce himself—and that’s a very important point to know.  Lemire’s is a very ungainly style of art; no one will ever describe it as beautiful.  But he has a unique visual logic that makes his work stand out and even look innovative at times, like the mosaic of Batman getting pummeled overlapping with the image of his pulped face.  Jose Villarubia knows simplicity works best in coloring Lemire’s lines, and the feature looks quite distinctive, if nothing else.

Lindelhof’s contribution shares a common point with “All of the Above” by Jonathan Larsen, namely Batman’s freedom from superpowered vulnerabilities.  This proves handy in his single-handed battle with Amazo, which he uses as an opportunity to test his mettle against that of all his fellow Leaguers.  Larsen’s use of Batman’s tactical mind is highly impressive.  A lot of writers don’t play with that aspect of our hero’s abilities enough, usually setting it aside in favor of implausible prep-time feats instead.  But every step Batman takes to stay ahead of Amazo has impeccable logic, and I’d dearly love to see more of this kind of thing on his current League adventures instead of the banal Batarang-throwing.  J.G. Jones delivers some very attractive, straightforward work, the exemplar of DC’s school of art.  If only he could work on interiors on an ongoing basis, but we all know that’ll never work.  Paul Mounts provides lush, glowing colors on this feature, giving Batman and Amazo’s satellite duel that much more intensity and pizzazz.

Perhaps the most interesting feature of all is Tom Taylor’s “The Crime Never Committed.”  After reading his uneven venture on National Comics: Rose and Thorn, I didn’t really have much desire to read any more of his work, but what he does with Batman certainly stands far above what he does with high-school girls with multiple personalities.  He uses more brevity in his dialogue, letting the story carry itself without too many distracting lines.  And he picks a very potent story, where Batman chooses a completely unexpected tact in his mission to fight crime.  We don’t often see the Dark Knight take such intimate interest with the folks he saves, yet his rooftop exchange with a would-be fish thief feels completely natural.  It doesn’t hurt that Nicola Scott (Wayne Faucher on inks and Allen Passalaqua on colors) gets to render the whole deal.  Her timing and wild switches in perspective lend the feature its momentum, and the humanness of the characters can be seen in every face she draws.

Conclusion: One of the most impressive uses of the showcase format I’ve seen.  Each piece stands on its own quite well, and each offers a different dimension to the mythos of Batman that you haven’t quite experienced before.

Grade: A-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – I’m guessing, by the lack of short-shorts, that’s Tim Drake as Robin in “The Crime Never Committed.”