Andy Kubert was the first artist to work with Grant Morrison on the Dark Knight’s strangest tale since his Silver Age antics, and one of the most bizarre was the one-shot Batman #666 in which Damian had taken the mantle of the Bat after his father was killed in action. It makes sense, then, that he would be the artist who revisits the idea (and controversial uniform) in a limited series. The art is the absolute standout of this book, Kubert has always been a master of sharp, ultra-detailed characters and crisp, hard-hitting linework and that absolutely shines through here. The colors by Brad Anderson add to the grim, messy visual style of a Gotham even more vicious than the one that predated Damian’s reign of terror.
The storyline overall is a solid one with Damian getting a much more solid, differentiated characterization (until now, the only way he truly differed from either Dick Grayson or Bruce Wayne were in his methods. Which is a key difference, I’ll grant, but not a particularly character-driven one) and peering under the curtain at how horrifically conflicted he’s been this whole time. We also get a great example of his slipping sanity in a new character that adds some much needed levity to a very dour, grim story.
While the characterization and overall stories are good, the panel-to-panel dialog is still clunky and needlessly expository. A flaw I’ve noticed with lots of artists who also write is a tendency to over-explain what’s happening in dialog when the visuals are doing a perfectly great job at communicating plenty of what’s going on to the reader. I’m not sure if it’s because of inexperience or because they tend to take words and make them visual, so the process also runs somewhat in reverse, but it makes the book’s pace off and languid, even when it should be fast and kinetic.
It’s also a much more grounded, “realistic” story, eschewing the surreal and supernatural aspects of Morrison’s 666 universe in favor of more straightforward, standard villains. No doubt not everyone will see this as a detractor, but I especially loved the bizarre religion that had sprung up as Gotham burned to the ground.
This is still a title well worth looking into, one that tells an interesting story and leaves off on a potentially amazing reveal. The art is truly the reason for the season, however, and Kubert’s art is absolutely worth looking into and really takes off in this issue. I feel like this was the issue that made me truly believe this concept was a good one and if the next issue remains high quality, this will go down as a great, self-contained tale.