What if a young boy who idolized Batman to the point where he thought he was a young Bruce Wayne lost his parents? How do you cope learning the world doesn’t have heroes and sometimes bad guys don’t get caught? Kurt Busiek and John Paul Leon join forces to deliver a new kind of Batman story.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Young Bruce Wainwright lost his parents in a violent crime…and in the real world, no superheroes exist to save the day. But as grief and rage builds inside Bruce until he feels he can’t keep it inside anymore, something strange starts taking wing in the Gotham night! Perhaps Bruce’s grief isn’t inside him after all?
Why does this matter?
If you enjoyed Busiek’s Superman: Secret Identity you’re going to love this as it puts a fresh and realistic sort of spin on a classic origin story.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
What a beautiful first page
Some would scoff at the price, but this is the kind of comic you can curl up on the couch and read for quite a while. Busiek doesn’t skimp on captions and the extra-sized length is entertaining all the way through. This may not be a superheroes with capes action fest, but it’s a well written origin story for a young boy who idolizes Batman. I think it’s safe to say most of us idolized Batman or some other hero like the boy does in this story which makes him instantly relatable.
Set in Boston in the late 1960s and 70s, the story opens with an excellent full page splash of a classic Batman breaking through a window and taking out some thugs. It’s easy to see how a young boy would see this page and never want to pull his head out of his comics. Busiek mixes in the boy’s uncle’s captions as he tells the story in the future tense. This allows Busiek to infuse the story with anticipatory reflections and set up the eventual conflict.
Much of the book is about the protagonist dealing with the loss of his parents. It’s an interesting focus since Batman never really got this kind of attention during the fallout of his loss. Busiek uses this to explore how the loneliness and anger could realistically form a strong, well mannered, and focused child. It’s in this aspect we see how the Batman origin could work in reality. This boy may not be donning a cape (just yet), but his dealing with the loss is incredibly realistic.
There is, however, a supernatural element to the story. I won’t say much more to avoid spoilers, but it suits the Batman origin vibes this book is going for. I can’t say it makes a ton of sense, but it’ll get you thinking and, if you’re lucky enough, talking with friends about the amazing events that transpire in the issue.
The art by Leon is fabulous and every bit as good as you’ve seen from him before. The opening page of the classic Batman is gorgeous and poster worthy for sure, while cuts to old school comics to convey the protagonist’s point of view are excellent. The supernatural element I brought up in the last paragraph? Flipping awesome. Gothic, scary, and incredible, these images showcase a force of nature that you hear Batman trying to imbue, but Leon actually captures it. This is a deeply personal story for the child and Leon’s realistic style will make it all the more believable. The use of lettering — a somewhat scratchy font for the protagonist as if he’s writing in his journal and cursive for his uncle — help convey the personality of each character as well.
This kid loves Batman.
It can’t be perfect can it?
What exactly is happening when criminals end up in piles at the police station is anyone’s guess. I may need to read this two more times to really understand it, because it’s not outright clear. As I said before, it does make you think and want to talk about it, but it’s quite a confusing element. I wouldn’t say it’s a failing since it’s most likely on purpose, but it did make me want answers! Alas, maybe that’ll come in issue #2.
Is It Good?
An excellent first issue that should be read by every Batman fan worth their weight in salt. The book is meaningful, realistic, and an incredible twist on the Batman origin story.