sj_esposito's Batman: Gates of Gotham #1 - Part One: A Bridge to the Past review

A Perfect Gotham City Tale

The Writing

A Bridge to the Past is exactly the type of Batman story that makes me realize just how much I love Batman comics. The story is masterfully crafted -- a dark, contemporary detective story. What's really brilliant is the connection that Snyder and Higgins establish between the past and present. It's something that could have gone very wrong, but instead, they nailed it.

Higgins is credited with the dialogue, and I must say, it's really what makes the script pop. The conversation between Gordon and Batman is amazing, and the tension between the characters in nearly every scene really gives the reader a feel for the pressure that they're under. Higgins's dialogue between Tim and Dick is perfect -- there are points where you feel like it's Dick's Nightwing talking to Bruce's Batman, and that really drives home the point of Tim's maturation and the equality between Dick and Tim.

The Art

The plot and dialogue in this issue are about as good as comics get. The narrative is the type of story-telling that only comics can establish, and it melds perfectly with Trevor McCarthy's stunning art. There are cityscapes in this book that will remind any reader of just how dark a place Gotham really is. The neo-gothic architecture of the buildings mixed with the giant art deco style statues that most of us remember from Tim Burton's films give a sense of the city's age and personality. While the backgrounds are beautiful in there own right, it's McCarthy's portrayal of the characters and action that really stands out. There's a conscious effort by the writers to let everyone know who's wearing the cowl, but it really becomes apparent through the art.

The Story

I think the best Batman stories are character driven. There are a lot of comics that can get away with rather generic hero or villain stories, but Batman isn't, and has never been, one of them. The character driven quality of the stories that Scott Snyder writes is what makes him perfect for writing Batman. Kyle Higgins proves here that he can swing that bat -- no pun intended -- just as well.

This is a part one story that does exactly what every good part one should do: it sets things up. This is traditionally a problem area for mini-series; a lot of them are either too sluggish or too snappy with the setup, and the story can really suffer. Here, though, is a different story. The pacing is just right, and the opening scenes are very intriguing. The transition from past to present is flawlessly done and it doesn't feel forced or even stretched.

The action scenes are really well done and tasteful. There's one particular scene in the early goings that really looks awesome -- like a scene from a Nolan film.

As everyone knows by now, there is a Cassandra Cain appearance, and in my opinion, it works really well. I think Cassandra is such a fan-favorite character, that to have her included would have been a smart move almost any way it was done, and the fact that it was done here in a manner that's connected to the story makes it that much better. Cassandra's appearance here also shows the value of Batman, Inc.. Having operatives all over the world is an important tool, and that idea is used here in a way that makes sense, but isn't overly pushy. This is a good example of how the concept of a world-wide network of crime fighters could be used, and it brings Batman, Inc. a necessary grounding that has been missing from Morrison's work lately. It's good to see that the concept hasn't been lost completely outside of Bruce's travels, and it reminds the reader of the era of Batman that this story is taking place in.

Most of the latter portion of the book is interaction between Dick, Tim, Cass, and Damian, and it reads really well. The characterizations are clear and, once again, the use of tension in the art and dialogue adds to the tone. Also, there's something we don't see too much of anymore: a footnote! And editor Mike Marts gets a plus 10 for that! Something about the little asterisk makes me nostalgic.

The conclusion, as one may have guessed, is a cliff hanger, and it really keeps the reader wanting for more. Although, I think I was reluctant to close the book way before the last page. I'm really excited to see what Snyder, Higgins and McCarthy have in store in the coming months and I'd recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in the Batman mythos.
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