The first of the "New 52" Batman titles starts with a gritty look at an early point in his career. It all starts with a bang as the Joker is involved. The fact that the GCPD is after Batman as well isn't going to make things easy for him.
One of the concerns many had with relaunching all of DC's books was seeing stuff we'd already seen. We know Batman's origin. His parents get killed and young Bruce dedicates his life to fighting evil. We have a few different Batman series and this one is set in the five years ago period as introduced in Justice League #1 last week. Because we have a slightly different take on Batman, it almost feels like we're jumping after the movie has begun...and that's a good thing. It's actually a little surprising to find this little sense of mystery appealing. I actually enjoyed not seeing what differences there might have been in the events that lead up to this point.
From the cover you can see that Joker is involved. Over the years we have seen many different versions of the Joker. Part of it simply depends on where his mind is at. To enhance the gritty tone of the book, this Joker isn't the pushover version. He's actually a bit of a beast. Throw in some new villains and this is a flashback story of Batman unlike any we've seen.
The writing and art by Tony Daniel has a different feel from his last Batman run. Daniel has to set up the Batman universe with this issue. There aren't major changes but all the tiny ones are more than enough to make a noticeable difference. Often when this is the case, the pacing suffers. Daniel keeps the action going with plenty of splashy scenes and explosions. If you're looking for Batman-action, you will definitely find plenty here.
Despite the sense of wonder in jumping in the middle of a story, there is still a little sense of confusion. Yes Joker is a homicidal killer but what is his connection to the mysterious new villain? Clearly this is something we will discover on the way. We also are left wondering where is the rest of the Bat-family? This Batman has a dark and cold feel to him. He may simply be focused on nabbing the Joker but it's almost hard to imagine Batman in this stage having a Robin.
Another complaint might not fairly be directed at this title but considering this is a Batman early in his career, he seems to have quite a bit of tech in his arsenal. It feels like he has more high-tech gadgets than he did before the "New 52." It does make things a little interesting but does give a feel that makes if feel further from the Batman we all knew before.
The first "New 52" Batman arrives and gives us a grittier Batman than we might have expected. Faced with the Joker, a new villain and being hunted by the GCPD at the same time, this Batman is going to have to rise to the challenge asap. The version of the Joker we see not the silly clown version we sometimes see. This is a Joker that isn't going to mess around with Batman or anyone else that gets in his way. Tony Daniel sets up this early period in Batman's life, establishes his place in Gotham as well as the details of the Batcave and his new arsenal all while jamming plenty of action and suspense at the same time. The look of Batman's armor feels a little odd here and there and he has a high-tech feel but with the way things are going, Batman will need all the help he can get. If all that wasn't enough, the ending will leave you scratching your head wondering how the heck the next issue is going to begin.