It’s fascinating how the Batman origin story has had so many interpretations and new perspectives on it by the many writers who have tackled the character. How it motivates him, the new details revealed about that night, or even who killed his parents have been changed over the years. Enter Kurt Busiek and John Paul Leon’s new approach in Batman: Creature of the Night, which tells a whole new kind of story set in the real world.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
In a world where Batman is only a comic book character, young Bruce Wainwright is starting to feel a surprising strength and power grow inside him…and after years of mourning the loss of his parents, that power feels good–intoxicating, even! The question is, to what use will he put it?
Why does this matter?
These are 48 page issues which pack a lot of content into the comic book format. Busiek is creating an interesting story as it postulates a Batman that was created in part because the hero read Batman comics. It’s his love of Batman and obsession with all things Batman related that has put his mind at ease after his parents were killed in Boston. This issue carries that story forward with the character who is now in college and has taken an interest in funding outreach programs to help kids who lost their parents with the substantial money his parents left him.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This weeks adventure has our heroes rolling in!
This issue continues from where Bruce Wainwright left off and shows he’s a good soul deep down. He wants to help others and seems to point his internal compass in directions related to Batman. A company named Pennyworth? Buy it. A little girl named Robin lost her parents? Set up a foundation to help her. The character is similar to Bruce Wayne in that he’s determined and steadfast that he must do the right thing. It’s fun to see how Busiek weaves in things like the commissioner who happens to be named Gordon or how he does the right thing by hiring a black businessman who otherwise would have been ignored due to racism. He’s altruistic and hellbent on living his life doing as much good as Bruce Wayne did in the comics.
As the story progresses we get more scenes with the mysterious shadow Batman. This is a real creature of the night and monster like, yet we get some key scenes that suggest it has a conscience. This leads to a major reveal later in the issue that plays with the sometimes dangerous nature of obsession. Busiek does a great job pacing this story so that the ending will come as a shock and prepare you for a very different approach come next issue.
Leon’s art continues to be excellent. His homage to classic Batman comics is as fun and cheesy as it should be, while his rendition of Boston and the characters within are done in a darker tone that suits the world Bruce Wainright inhabits. You gotta marvel at the detail Leon can fit into panels, from beautiful stained glass windows in cathedrals, sweeping city shots or the shadowed Bat-Man creature with its hard edges that poke out from the darkness. There’s a myth-like feel to the story and a lot of that has to do with the art.
Batman looks different, eh?
It can’t be perfect can it?
There is a darkness in Bruce that’s evident from the captions and how he’s drawn from time to time, but I still don’t have a strong grasp of who he is. A lot of his character is conveyed via his do-gooder acts. We get a brief montage of him sleeping with girls across campus in college and it’s nice to see how Busiek weaves in Alfred’s personal life into Bruce’s opinion of him, but he’s still very closed off. This of course can be a character trait, but the ending of this issue suggests there is a much darker side to this character that’s not immediately evident. It makes the turn seem slightly unearned. That said, I expect Busiek will explore that further in issue #3.
Is It Good?
What a great comic set in the real world, given the right amount of supernatural and psychological undertones to draw you in. There has never been a Batman story like this. Batman fans will gobble this up if they want something less about tights and capes and more about the internal struggle we all face every day.