By James Tynion IV, Eddy Barrows, Alvaro Martinez, Al Barrionuevo, Eber Ferreira, Raul Fernandez, Andriano Lucas and Brad Anderson
“Rise of the Batmen” is instantly the best Batman comic since Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo launched their now infamous Batman series, and this one basically picks up where they left off. James Tynion IV writes a compelling story with such precision that it seems too impossible for one person to pull off. But, make no mistake this is the work of a fine storyteller and someone who understands Batman and his world perfectly! If you’re an old school fan, or if you’ve only been reading Batman for a short time, dedicated fans know it’s easy to tell when the writing is off. If that’s true, then they can also spot signs of greatness after just a first few pages, and that is without a doubt the case here. Remarkable! Five stars based on the story alone!
In this fist volume we get all of the classic Detective Comics elements, with plenty of mystery and bizarre twists and turns throughout. Volume one is a genuine detective story with Batman doing his usually top notch investigating and uncovering secrets he might not want to know exist. This is a story about crisis, defeat and betrayal running as deep as the Wayne family tree. It’s a Batman-family epic, but the odds are stacked against the team. Batwoman leads, Spoiler, Orphan and Red Robin while they take center stage, as Batman goes up against an army of soldier-like Batmen, known as the Colony. There’s more than one twist that keeps things very intriguing all the way to the last page. The team, as it were, is tasked with rescuing Batman, Gotham, and perhaps the world, from one of their most dangerously powerful threats yet. Luckily, the only classic villain actually appearing in the series, Clay Face, is on the side of the good guys this time, and that provides a huge advantage and more fun than we may deserve.
Tynion deserves a lot of praise for his writing on this title. It’s as if he’s been writing Batman for decades the way every character is given authentic dialogue and emotional reactions. The stakes only increase as the book progresses and we see all sides of their respective personalities whether it’s fear, loneliness, pride, arrogance, courage or hubris. No one is perfect, although they are rendered perfectly thanks to the writing. Tynion tells thoughtful backstories, strategically placed at the start of individual issues, which are revisited throughout the story for more dramatic effect. It works so well that you don’t mind a break in the action one bit and the overall effect is a terrifically well-rounded comic. It’s extraordinarily rich with subtext and detail in a way that the book almost couldn’t fail and that’s without evening mentioning the art yet.
“Rise of the Batmen” is a gorgeous book that goes beyond typical mainstream comic book standards. Pencilers Eddy Barrows, Alvaro Martinez and Al Barrionuevo all maintain a level of consistent finesse here as if they each took part in every page. Composition and panel arrangements are designed with expertise in ways that keep it interesting to the point where you just want to pause and take it all in for a moment. Whether in average settings, like someone’s kitchen, or when he is in action, Batman feels like a guy in a costume rather than a standard issue comic book design. The illustrations are dynamic yet real, inventive yet believable and everything you’d want out a comic, especially a Batman comic. Pages are packed with information, but instead of overwhelming the reader you get a masterfully curated collage of images that only help tell the story in the best way possible.
Inkers Eber Ferreira and Raul Fernandez handle their renderings with an equal level of professionalism. There are times where images feel softer, attentive, refined even, which is a testament to their ability to nurture the line work without overpowering. The end result is a playground of black and white pages poised and ready for colorists, Andriano Lucas and Brad Anderson. These guys are incredible. They use appealing painterly techniques that create a charm found in classic illustration and animation. What feels like a potentially painstaking process comes across as a flawless use of unique palettes and stylistic dynamism. “Rise of the Batman” is bright and colorful, which may sound like the wrong direction for a Batman story, but it isn’t. It just helps solidify these fantastic characters and storylines in the real world while exaggerating tones and saturation just enough to take full advantage of the medium’s potential. In the end, rest assured, you still get all of the dramatic tension and style required for a Batman book.
As if this first volume wasn’t sensational enough, it all leads up to a fascinating ending that will have you clamoring for the next issues as soon as you can get your hands on it. This book is a remarkable achievement and an all-new level for Batman and his sub-universe under DC’s Rebirth banner. And say what you want about Rebirth, and whether you like what they’re doing or not, DC got this one right. Seriously, you will not want to miss out on this, especially now that it’s been collected. Supplemental material, including a lengthy cover gallery, serve as an added bonus, but it’s nothing more than that, because the real treat here is the comic itself. Well done, James Tynion IV and company! This is the Batman creative team, that will have fans rejoicing for a long, long time.