Batman: Universe #1
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Illustrated by: Nick Derington
Reviewed by: Joe Bones
Genre: Comic Books, Superhero
This may be a bit blasphemous, but I have found Brian Michael Bendis to be a bit overrated. I just haven’t been enjoying a lot of the work Bendis has been doing since starting at DC Comics. Don’t get me wrong, I respect the guy as a writer. Jessica Jones is an amazing character, and Miles Morales is an awesome take on Spiderman. The descriptions of his creator owned titles, though they haven’t interested me enough to pick them up yet, sound thoughtful and engaging. However, everything I’ve read so far that he has written for DC just hasn’t grabbed me. I find his stories in Superman/Action Comics to be a bit boring. I made it through the first three issues of Young Justice before giving up and removing it from my pull list. Despite that, because of my love for Batman, I decided to pick up Batman: Universe. After reading the first issue, I was very disappointed.
The story opens with the Riddler stealing a Faberge egg. After fighting his way through the Riddler’s latest gimmick, Batman catches up with him and realizes the Prince of Puzzles doesn’t seem to be in his right mind. The Riddler manages to escape and Batman begins the task of tracking him down so that he can discover who is really behind the theft of the Faberge egg.
I came into this first issue with low expectations, and even then did not enjoy this book as much as I thought I would. Considering the tone and themes of the various Batman titles DC has been publishing over the few last years, maybe my brain is just conditioned for darker Batman stories. I found Batman: Universe to be really silly and unfocused. Yes, it sets up the story that will be told over the next five issues, but it does it in a very disjointed way. Even though Batman and Riddler get the main focus, this story felt like it could feature any two characters.
The dialogue is very witty, but almost too fast paced to follow. Especially because I found the line work to be rather unclean and the color choices muddied the images in many of the panels. Derington rendered the panels of the Bat-Mobile in a really cool way, but his style did not seem to translate well to his renderings of the characters. Most of the side characters seemed to basically have the same face, with only their clothing or skin color designating one from another. The action sequences and fight scenes are also very hit and miss in terms of their clarity. There is a fight at the beginning of the comic between Batman and the Riddler’s minions, then a fight between The Bat and Deathstroke toward the end. These fights look like they were drawn by different people, even though Derington is the sole illustrator. That is just one example of how disjointed the art is in this issue.
Going back to the dialogue, I did enjoy the banter between Alfred and Batman over their communication channel. The fact that the characters in the room with Batman could hear him talking to Alfred, and thought the Caped Crusader was talking to them, was a pretty funny gag. With the exception of those bits of dialogue, I felt like the story would have benefited from a little less wit and a little more explanation.
If you enjoyed the campy fun of the Adam West Batman show from the 1960s, then you might actually like this comic. If you prefer grittier, more realistic tales featuring the Dark Knight, then this mini-series probably isn’t for you. In either case, if you want to read it, I’d skip buying the single issues and just wait for it to be released in a trade paperback.