Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Review: BATMAN: Creature of the Night #1


[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

STORY: Kurt Busiek
ART/COLORS: John Paul Leon
LETTERS: Todd Klein
COVER: John Paul Leon
48pp, Color, $5.99 U.S. (January 2018)

Rated “T+” for “Teen Plus”

Batman created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger

Book One: “I Shall Become...”

Batman: Creature of the Night is a four-issue, prestige comic book miniseries published by DC Comics.  It is written by Kurt Busiek and drawn and colored by John Paul LeonTodd Klein, one of the all-time greats, does the lettering for this series.  Creature of the Night takes place in a real world-like setting in which Batman is a fictional character.

Batman: Creature of the Night #1 (“I Shall Become...”) introduces an eight-year boy named Bruce Wainwright, who is a huge fan of Batman.  Of course, he loves reading Batman comic books, and he surrounds himself with products bearing Batman's image.  Frankly, the little fellow is obsessed with Batman.  In fact, when Bruce tells people his name, he pronounces it “Wain...wright,” putting an obvious pause between “Wain” and “wright.”

Bruce has an great-uncle, Alton Frederick Jepson (the only living relative on either side of Bruce's family).  The boy has taken the “Al” in the first name and “Fred” in the second and turned his uncle into Uncle Alfred, like Batman's butler, Alfred Pennyworth.  Bruce even thinks of his hometown of Boston as Gotham City.

It is all fun and games, until that Halloween night when Bruce's parents, Carole and Henry Wainwright, are brutally murdered.  As Bruce's grief and rage grow in the aftermath of his parents' murders, something strange takes flight in Boston.

Batman: Creature of the Night is apparently the spiritual companion to the 2004 miniseries, Superman: Secret Identity, also written by Kurt Busiek (and drawn by Stuart Immonen).  Batman: Creature of the Night puts a spin on the world and fictional mythology of Batman.  This series seems to ask, what if Batman could exist in the real world?

This first issue, however, focuses not only on young Bruce Wainwright's grief and rage over his parents' murders, but also on his bitterness about his fate, especially because he feels abandoned by those who should care, to one extent or another, about him and what he needs.  In a way, this first issue deals with a child who experiences a break from reality, something that seems possible because of his total obsession not only with Batman, but also with being like Batman.  All of it is in the context of the great loss which he has suffered.

Kurt Busiek delivers powerful character development.  Busiek does not focus only on Bruce's Batman obsession; he also depicts a child in crisis, struggling with where his life is going, even as those who could help him to truly move forward only lie to themselves that they are doing what is best for young Bruce.  The result is potent and engaging character drama, simply because the reader can find young Bruce Wainwright fascinating or a fascinating character study.

Artist John Paul Leon conveys all of this in art and graphics that capture not so much a gritty reality as it does a tortured soul.  Leon creates effective storytelling that depicts Bruce's crisis and perhaps, his fanaticism and the fantastical elements, all of which are equally powerful and interesting.

Todd Klein, as always, is not merely a letterer; he is a graphical artist as much as the illustrator.  His lettering captures Busiek's shifting points of view from character to character – not just in external dialogue, but also in the internal monologue.  He does this using an array of visually striking fonts.  Klein plays a big part in keeping the readers in suspense regarding the mystery of Batman: Creature of the Night's phantom player.  Is it a break with reality or the arrival of something fantastic, but real?

Batman: Creature of the Night #1 is the real deal.  It is not just another Bat-book, and it certainly makes me want to get the second issue.

9 out of 10

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

The text is copyright © 2017 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


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