BATMAN: CREATURE OF THE NIGHT #1 BY KURT BUSIEK, JOHN PAUL LEON, AND TODD KLEIN
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
BATMAN: CREATURE OF THE NIGHT #1 explores the connection between Batman, imagination, and trauma to make one of the most intriguing comics of the year.
95 %
Grade A comic storytelling
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In 2004, DC Comics released SUPERMAN: SECRET IDENTITY. The four-issue limited series centered around a boy suddenly gaining superpowers in a world without superheroes. The “superhero in the real world” plot has only grown in popularity since then. Various properties like KICK-ASS, SUPER, and MISFITS ask what it would be like for a superhero to suddenly pop into existence. Kurt Busiek’s spiritual sequel to that book is BATMAN: CREATURE OF THE NIGHT #1 (art by John Paul Leon), is a fascinating look at how that same story would play out for a “real world” version of Batman. 

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A Story Retold

Busiek plays with similar story conventions as he did with this book’s predecessor in SUPERMAN: SECRET IDENTITY, but also makes this story a foil to his previous work just as Batman is a foil to Superman. In SECRET IDENTITY, Clark Kent hated his connection to Superman, but embraced his namesake’s heroic nature when he discovered his powers.

The hero of CREATURE OF THE NIGHT, Bruce Wainwright, is a Batman fanatic. It’s said fanaticism that makes Bruce force parallels to Batman into his own life. Bruce frequently refers to his uncle, Alton Frederick, as Alfred. The officer investigating the murder of his parents, Gordon Hoover, becomes his Commissioner Gordon.

It’s this obsession with the Dark Knight that lingers as a disturbing undercurrent throughout the book. We usually see comics as a harmless, sometimes inspiring, form of escapism. Bruce’s narration feels like a pre-teen Travis Bickle. This book is a slow boil to the issue’s final reveal.

Much like Clark Kent of SECRET IDENTITY, Bruce’s life also parallels Bruce Wayne’s life, but in a slightly off-kilter way. Following his parent’s death, Bruce is shipped off to a boarding school, traveling the world with other neglected rich kids. Wainwright’s life following his parent’s death plays like a tragic parody of Bruce Wayne’s worldwide training.

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Return to Year One

Besides SECRET IDENTITY, Busiek also appears to be in conversation with Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s classic BATMAN: YEAR ONE. Busiek uses a similar dual narrator convention as YEAR ONE by having the story narrated by young Bruce Wainwright and his Uncle “Alfred.”

Even John Paul Leon’s gritty art style feels like a Mazzucchelli homage. Letter Todd Klein even copies his own lettering work from that original comic in the parallel narrations. Busiek and Leon are using Batman’s most famous origin as a stylistic lens to tell their own “Batman” origin.

Creature of the Night
Above: BATMAN YEAR ONE; Below: BATMAN: CREATURE OF THE NIGHT.

Structurally, it’s a smart idea to use this hugely popular arc as a jumping off point for BATMAN: CREATURE OF THE NIGHT #1. However, the choice seems purely aesthetic at the moment rather than having a deeper significance. Perhaps the later issues will reveal Busiek and Leon’s intent with this pastiche. Leon’s gorgeous art, however, can’t be critiqued.

While it does seem to be harkening back to Mazzucchelli, the attention to detail in bringing to life the Boston setting is stunning. Readers could spend hours pouring over Leon’s line work in each minute detail of the city. Leon’s artwork is especially powerful in the final pages with the reveal of this version of Batman.

BATMAN: CREATURE OF THE NIGHT #1
BATMAN: CREATURE OF THE NIGHT #1 page 46. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Final Thoughts on BATMAN: CREATURE OF THE NIGHT #1

Busiek has chosen to explore Batman with some magical realism. Rather than Bruce Wainwright taking on the mantle of Batman after years of training, this Batman is a demonic beast that seems spawned from Bruce’s imagination. It’s an interesting personification of Batman as a literal object of wish fulfillment. Leon’s rendition of the Dark Knight is an inky black with red accents. A monster rather than a hero.

The creative team seems to be heading in a darker direction with the plot for this series compared to SECRET IDENTITY. BATMAN: CREATURE OF THE NIGHT #1 is shaping up to be a unique exploration of the effect of the imagination at times of trauma. Will Bruce’s dream to become Batman end in a nightmare?

One Comment

  1. Nerd Blogger

    Nerd Blogger

    December 2, 2017 at 11:33 pm

    Anyone who’s played intense logic games probably knows they would not want to be batman… Stress sucks…

    Reply

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