Writer: Warren Ellis
Pencils: Bryan Hitch
Inks: Kevin Nowlan
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Richard Starkings
Twenty years ago, Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch revolutionized the superhero comic world with their groundbreaking comic the Authority. The Authority ushered in the era of widescreen comics with decompressed storytelling that became the norm for superhero comics. I adored the Authority and it’s still one of my favorite comic book runs of all time, one that I still reread yearly. So I was floored a few months back when it was announced that these two master class creators were reuniting on a new Batman book, the Batman’s Grave. My anticipation only grew as sneak peaks of new pages were released and I could not wait for this book to reach my hands, which it finally did last week and it was worth the twenty year wait to see Ellis and Hitch together again. The Batman’s Grave #1 was an incredibly engrossing first issue that captured all the beats one would want from a Batman story with enough Ellis weirdness and psychological study to appease all of his fans with absolutely gorgeous art from Bryan Hitch and stunning inks from the great Kevin Nowlan, a renowned Batman veteran Batman creator in his own right.
The Batman’s Grave #1 opens with a somber Alfred narrative as he tends to the graves of Thomas and Martha Wayne and how they sadly built Bruce’s tombstone alongside theirs and now Alfred dreads when he will have to bury Bruce next to them. It’s a poignant piece of dialogue that truly captures Alfred’s fear or losing Bruce but also his greater fear of abandoning his surrogate child since he knows Bruce will never stop being Batman. The story then jumps to another crime ridden evening in Gotham, that looks like a cramped urban metropolis jammed full of people and problems. Ellis writes a great establishing piece for anyone who doesn’t know the Batman (which is really no one by this point) which Hitch draws to perfection of Batman disabling a group of thugs daring to harm a couple and their child after a night at the movies. It’s a great juxtaposition to Batman’s own origin and gets to the root of who Batman is as an urban vigilante. The story then jumps to a murder, a murder that the police aren’t responding to since 911 are sending calls to voicemail as the reports are coming in to fast for them to keep on top of. The focus of the story then navigates to Batman’s other character root as a master detective. Batman investigates the grizzly crime scene and finds a man whose death has little to no evidence other than an unhealthy obsession with him, the Batman. The murder becomes a focus for Batman and will no doubt set the stage for what this twelve-issue maxi-series will be as Batman’s investigation leads to a chilling cliffhanger that will leave the readers wanting issue #2 right away.
It was such a delight to see Ellis and Hitch together again. Warren Ellis is still one of the industry’s most interesting and inventive writers and if this issue is any indication, he is going to put Batman through his paces over the next year. Bryan Hitch is still a superstar artist whose style hasn’t changed drastically since his days on the Authority and the Ultimates as it is still detailed and dense but his output certainly has picked up in recent years. Once known for being notoriously slow Hitch has really been turning out some great work at DC as of late and on time, which is an added bonus. His twelve-issue run on Hawkman breathed new life into that character last year and his hyper detailed cinematic style looks great on the Batman’s Grave this year. I can’t wait to see what these two have up their sleeves with the rest of the Batman’s Grave.
Verdict: Buy! The Batman’s Grave #1 is a great first issue that hits all the beats a reader wants from a Batman comic wrapped in gorgeous artwork from Bryan Hitch. It’s great to see Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch together again on a comic and this looks like it is going to be a fantastic maxi-series.