We all know the root of Batman‘s origin: Bruce Wayne sees his parents murdered as a child and becomes the world’s greatest crimefighter, that pain nipping at his heels the whole way. But most origin stories skip over the fact that Bruce witnesses a near-unthinkable event at an age most of us argue about which cartoon is more awesome. Batman: Creature Of The Night, in the first issue out today, doesn’t. In fact, Kurt Busiek and John Paul Leon focus on it , in the form of Bruce Wainwright, a Batman-obsessed kid in 1968 Boston who suddenly finds himself in the same place as young Bruce Wayne in a mix of ghost story and tragedy.
Busiek is no stranger to this idea. Back in 2004, he wrote a limited series with a similar premise, Superman: Secret Identity. But the journey of young Bruce Wainwright is both darker and more fractured. Bruce is an orphan, alone, left to grapple with concepts adults have trouble with and that nobody can explain to him. Nobody seems to notice and nobody seems to care, not even his one blood relative who can never explain why Bruce can’t stay with him. Bruce begins to snap, even to believe Batman is real. He’s not, of course, except suddenly there’s something on the Boston streets, hunting criminals.
John Paul Leon mixes an absurd number of styles and ideas here, from thick-lined ’30s panels to careful realism capturing an American city at its worst moments. Leon and Busiek are both clearly in love with, yet critical of, Batman. Leon’s depiction of the specter suddenly haunting Boston is nightmarish, and Busiek doesn’t shy away from the fact that there’s a gap that the adults in Bruce’s life can’t cross. It’s a story about a child in pain, lashing out…and isn’t that every Batman story?
Kill Or Be Killed #14, Image Comics
Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, and Elizabeth Breitweiser finish up what would seem to be the finale of their deconstruction of the urban vigilante. In fact, this whole issue is structured like the finale of a solid B-grade action movie. Except the very end, which underscores that, no, Dylan can’t just kill his way out of his problems. In fact, it’s just the opposite, especially when he hasn’t solved those problems in the first place. This issue brilliantly brings the worrying question of whether Dylan is sane back into focus while at the same time being illicitly thrilling anyway. But it’s a small moment, between Dylan and his roommate, that might be the most chilling of all.
Darkhawk #51, Marvel
Granted, it’s annoying how Marvel is ordering these one-shots, as this is a mostly standalone story. But Chris Sims, Chad Bowers, and Kev Walker offer a pretty good summation of one of Marvel’s more ’90s characters while credibly reviving him and asking a fairly interesting question. If your powers stop working, if your time as a hero is done, well, what next? If this gets another issue, that will be an intriguing question.
Mystik U #1, DC Comics
Alisa Kwitney, Mike Norton, and Jordie Bellaire send DC’s entire mystical universe back to college in this amusing take on DC’s horror past. Kwitney strikes a good balance between in-jokes and accessibility: You don’t have to know who Sargon the Sorcerer is, or have ever cracked an issue of Plop!, to follow along, but Kwitney quite obviously does and has. Norton, meanwhile, no stranger to horror, humor, or realism, keeps the whole thing carefully realistic, right up until the squishy monsters show up, and in all, makes for an amusing update of some of DC’s lesser-known ideas.
John Wick #1, Dynamite
Greg Pak, Giovanni Valletta and David Curiel take on the job of transferring Keanu Reeves’ balletic, icy action franchise to the page, and do a pretty good job of it. Valletta’s loose artwork and Curiel’s watercolor-like work give the action scenes a feel much like the movie’s, and Pak wisely doesn’t try to make it more than it is. John Wick will always be a story about how stupid it is to go after John Wick, and that’s all it needs to be.
Black Magick #9, Image Comics: Rowan Black’s job as a detective slams hard into her secret life as a witch in Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott’s lushly appointed noir.
Venom #158, Marvel: Venom is protecting dinosaur-people who live in the sewers, and has to fight off Kraven the Hunter. That Mike Costa and Mark Bagely can deliver this kind of old-school silliness with an utterly straight face makes this a far more entertaining read than it has any right to be.
Dark Ark #3, Aftershock Comics: Cullen Bunn and Juan Doe show just what happens when you put a lot of monsters on a very small boat in this witty, creepy horror series.
Kaijumax Season 3 #5, Oni Comics: Every prison story needs a moment where it goes wrong, and that’s just what we get in Xander Cannon’s brilliant mix of prison drama and giant monster story.
Quarry’s War #1, Hard Case Crime: It’s hard not to wonder why Szymon Kudranski’s art is so rushed in places, but Max Alan Collins’ return to comics, with Quarry a right bastard and Boyd behind the binoculars, makes this worth a read.
This Week’s Best Collections
Charles Burns’ Black Hole: Fantagraphics Studio Edition, Fantagraphics ($150, Hardcover): The stunning graphic novel about a sexually transmitted disease that changes the bodies of teens gets a gorgeous hardback to admire the art.
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, Mariner Books ($16, Softcover): Off the back of the musical, the graphic memoir that inspired it is back in print, and Allison Bechdel’s remembrance of her childhood remains some touching, heartbreaking work.
Ghost Fleet: The Whole Goddamn Thing, Image Comics ($20, Softcover): Donny Cates and Daniel Warren Johnson’s blend of B-movie cheese and raw emotion gets a well-deserved collection of its whole run.