100 Page Comic Giant! Batman #3 // Review
Note: The review copy provided by DC did not contain a table of contents or the reprint content. As such, any said reprint content is taken from recent press releases
With the announcement of DC’s marketing tie with Wal-Mart to release mass-market re-releases of their content in new 100-Page Giant Comics, there was one item of news that surprised everyone. Brian Michael Bendis, who of course made waves recently announcing his move from Marvel to DC and who had just taken over writing duties for Superman, would also be writing a completely original Batman story for the Dark Knight’s quarter of the production. However, it would only begin with issue 3. With the first two issues having passed, fans open the third issue of Batman 100-Page Giant to see if the wait (and hype) was worth it. Does the other content included also make it worth the cover price?
The first story of the issue is the much-awaited Bendis tale, Batman Universe. Bendis is joined by artist Nick Derington, colorist Dave Stewart, and letterer Josh Reed. The story seems simple at first, with Batman rushing through Gotham to stop the Riddler’s newest scheme. The riddle seems…beneath Edward Nygma’s usual fare, and that makes Bruce think something may be off. To his surprise, he arrives at the scene of the crime to see dozens of Riddlers, all gathered as some sort of lime green and purple flash mob. This is where the mystery begins, and it looks to be a good one.
Bendis has become known for his dialogue on books like The Avengers and Ultimate Spider-Man, for better or worse. However, by including Alfred over Batman’s communications system to provide commentary, advice, and even dry humor, Bendis is able to harness his ability to write entertaining dialogue that works fantastically for Batman and guides the story forward without seeming too wordy or inorganic. There is a running joke where bystanders believe that Batman is talking with them rather than Alfred, and it helps provide levity in a generally serious story without breaking Batman’s character as a mostly-serious crime fighter. As the first part of what has been advertised as 12 issues, this story only sets things up for later, but Bendis has a nice cliffhanger for part one that will leave fans of one genre of DC Comics wanting more.
Luckily, the quality of Derrington’s artwork is up there with Bendis’ writing, making for some excellent scenery. There is a delightful sequence for the first two pages, each a six-panel layout from Batman’s point of view. Little touches, like Batman readying his grapnel in the car followed by him shooting it out through the sunroof of the Batmobile, really help build tension and show what it must be like to be Batman. This is paid off with a beautiful splash page of Batman sailing down from the skies, cape billowing out behind him and grapnel cable in both hands. Eagle-eyed readers may also notice a few familiar alternate Riddler costumes from the franchise history in the multi-Riddler melee, a “Where’s Waldo” for any Bat-fan. Derington has a fantastic eye for detail here, and he is really bringing out his A-game for what could have been just a vague sketch on the page.
Stewart’s colors are also worth writing home about. That previously-mentioned splash page with Batman sailing down from the rooftops has an utterly gorgeous night sky above, and the shades of colors are utterly wonderful, bringing a realism to this Batman that the gothic noir sometimes lacks. The “Army” of Riddlers, for lack of a better term, also run with different shades of green to make the page not turn into a sea of bland bodies with a Batman shaped hole in the middle. It works incredibly well. Even the letterist seems to have had some fun here, with Josh Reed’s sound effects feeling like a part of the action and implying motion all on their own. It makes the comic that much more immersive.
The comic seems to have been worth the wait, at least so far. However, some super Bat-Fans may wish to wait until the eventual teased-at-but-not-yet-confirmed trade release. The reprinted books contained within are relatively recent, so many readers may have already encountered these tales before.
Batman: Hush reaches its third chapter: The Beast, originally printed in Batman #610. Written by Jeph Loeb with pencils by Jim Lee, this is one of the definitive Batman stories published since the turn of the millenium. Scott Williams provides the inks for Lee, Alex Sinclair the colors, and the letters were placed on the page by Richard Starkings. Newcomers to the Giant Size reprints may be lost at part three, but it is hard to find a serious Bat-fanatic who hasn’t read Hush yet.
Nightwing’s first New 52 relaunch issue, Welcome to Gotham, comes next. The creative team is all great, with the story written by Kyle Higgins, pencils by Eddie Barrows, inks by J.P. Mayer, colors by Rod Reis, and with Carlos Mangual providing the letters. The comic is a very solid setup for Dick Grayson’s return to the Nightwing mantle after taking over as Batman for a while, featuring some excellent action and a touch of character development for Dick that brings him back in line to being the acrobatic mostly-fun-loving hero fans remember. Being originally published in 2011 though, means many fans may have already read this or picked it up in a back issue bin in the seven years since publication.
The final story for the collection, issue one of 2014’s Harley Quinn ongoing series, is another solid entry. With the story written by the delightful Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, the story focuses on Harley trying to find gainful employment beyond crime, and generally making a mess of things. It’s a fun little tale, with art by Chad Hardin, colors by Alex Sinclair, and letters provided by John J. Hill. However, once more, it’s likely that die-hard fans will have read this before.
Most casual fans will likely not notice that Brian Michael Bendis is writing Batman, and Bendis himself isn’t even mentioned on the cover. While the content is great, the editorial staff in charge of the books seems to be making some really strange decisions with the meat of the book. The $4.99 price tag is very pricey for just the new 12-page content, but fans who’ve not read the reprinted content before, or those who don’t mind getting it again, are in for a real treat with this comic.