Batman Vol. 1: I Am Gotham (Rebirth)
By Tom King, Scott Snyder, David Finch, Mikel Janin, Ivan Reis, Matt Banning, Danny Miki, Sandra Hope, Scott Hanna, Joe Prado and Osclair Albert, Jordie Bellaire, June Chung and Marcela Maiolo
The Batman of DC’s Rebirth is a genuine superhero. He is emotionally accessible, outwardly kind, friendly, and a ray of hope in the otherwise dark and crime-infested city of Gotham. He is more capable than ever at confronting evil, even more so than actual super-powered beings and, as of the first few pages, there is almost nothing he can’t do. After decades of redefining the character – in both major and minor ways – Batman has almost always been as the brooding dark knight who, despite having youthful sidekicks and a growing number of teammates, has kept his feelings locked away in a vault. But here in Batman Vol. 1: I am Gotham, we find Bruce Wayne not only more inclusive than ever, but also welcoming change. You get the usual Batman here in this first volume: unblinking in the face of death, masterfully outwitting his foes, and working around the clock to make his city a better place. But he also offers guidance and support, while even giving out compliments in ways readers may not be used to. This new level of transparency makes him more heroic, more admirable, and well…different, but in the best possible way. This is a great spin on the caped crusader and a welcomed shift in tone.
The story itself, written by Tom King with Scott Snyder, is equally accessible and straightforward. The introduction of new heroes in Gotham City offers a pleasant contrast to the usual story lines, one where Batman is accepting instead of resistant. That alone changes everything, and the dynamic becomes more about mentorship than ever and takes the plot into somewhat uncharted territory. Batman doesn’t mind change as long as it gets the job done in what turns out to be a character driven series. It’s easy to follow, but it’s still an exciting must read for long-term fans as much as it is an excellent jumping on point for new readers.
Make no mistake, tonally the character may be a bit brighter, but the story line is as heavy and dire as ever. This is a highly cerebral psychological superhero thriller. Things happen in this world that change people, leaving them scared and mentally unbalanced. Batman can handle it, but he’s aware that not everyone has that same ability to persevere. He’s mindful of his counterparts’ shortcomings and supportive, affectionate even. But when it comes down to the wire he’s all business and the writers give us a ton of action to witness. Lesser-used villains take center stage in ways that will give you new appreciation for what may have been a silly concept originally. The villain Calendar Man, for example, has never been such a worthy member of Batman’s rouges gallery. He is creepy, powerful and done so well you may wonder why no one thought of this same angle before.
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Mega star David Finch leads a team of artist including Mikel Janin, Ivan Reis, Matt Banning, Danny Miki, Sandra Hope, Scott Hanna, Joe Prado and Osclair Albert. Though Finch has a lot of assistance it’s definitely his book. You’d be hard pressed to see the hand of the other artists, which is a good thing really. There are no stark transitions or entire issues where finch’s presence isn’t felt and then some. He is a master of detail and realism while maintaining his own personal style. His take on Batman is fantastic, but his cityscapes are even better. Gotham is as much a character as anyone. There is so much depth, detail and finesse, that you would think David Finch was spending weeks on each page. He can draw anything and handle any character, but seems to be more at home with Batman. Everything about this book is exceptional, but Finch makes it feel perfect. The rest of the art team, including colorists Jordie Bellaire with June Chung and Marcelo Maiolo, only continue to round out what is possibly the most downright fun Batman series in a long time. The colors are as emotional as the plot with dashes of purple in place of draping black shadows and vibrant blues, greens and yellows in place of de-saturated grays and moody browns. There’s a textured element that blends with Finch’s work in ways that heighten the overall storytelling, without shoving it in your face. It’s a subtle new level of excitement that seems as apparent among the creators as the end results.
This brand of comic book, as it should be, let’s you know what it’s like to be blasted out of a cannon without sacrificing genuine dialogue and character portraits. It’s witty, funny even, but as daring and creative as ever. There’s plenty to love and almost nothing to hate. Even when things start to feel as if they may be taking too sharp a left turn, it turns out the book is faithful to its legacy. This is practically a Batman for everyone and 100% worth checking out, especially now that it’s collected in trade paperback. On top of that, you get all of the variant covers in a single gallery along with a bunch of supplemental material including some of David Finch’s pencils. Really, with Batman Vol. 1: I am Gotham, there’s nothing to lose.