BATMAN SECRET FILES #1 by Tom King, Mikel Janin, Ram V, Jorge Fornes, Cheryl Lynn Eaton, Elena Casagrande, Jordie Bellaire, Jill Thompson, Tom Taylor, Brad Walker, & Andrew Hennessy
Although not the start to a new series, BATMAN SECRET FILES #1 gives different perspectives on who Bruce Wayne really is. In no more than six pages, creators manage to articulate a full story will well-developed characters. The art is done in classic Batman style, which reinforces that we're looking into who Bruce Wayne is as a person rather than a hero.
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By now, everyone knows the story of Batman. We know his parents were shot, we know Alfred is his butler, we know a lot about his life. However, BATMAN SECRET FILES #1 gives us something different. Instead of being a standalone story, BATMAN SECRET FILES tells five Batman stories by different writers and artists. These creators give us glimpses into Bruce’s life that we haven’t seen or considered before.

Each writer and artist in the issue gives us something unique. Instead of getting the story from Batman’s view, we get a glimpse of Gotham from a third person perspective. We see the thoughts of the characters that surround Batman, giving us a more rounded view of his world.

BATMAN SECRET FILES #1 page 4. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Five Plots – Five Stories

The whole point of BATMAN SECRET FILES #1 is to address side stories or ideas that don’t come up often in the Batman mythos. This gives room for creators to poke at ideas and notions that most readers wouldn’t have thought about. By doing this, we get a more well-rounded perspective of who Batman (and Bruce Wayne) truly are.

“True Strength,” written by Tom King with art by Mikel Janin, is the first story within the issue. The story delves into Batman as a superhero, but also Bruce Wayne as a person. Batman questions whether or not he has the strength to be a hero, and we’re not just talking super-strength. “The Nature of Fear,” written by Ram V with art by Jorge Fornes, follows “True Strength”. The story centers on Officer Fielding, a man who was exposed to Scarecrow’s Fear Toxin. We get a glimpse of how Batman manages to survive the nightmare gas, and how some people just aren’t as lucky.

“One,” written by Cheryl Lynn Eaton with art by Elena Casagrande, addresses how Batman never seems to leave downtown Gotham. It also suggests that Batman has a role within crime, other than fighting it. “Enough,” written by Jordie Bellaire and drawn by Jill Thompson, delves a little into Bruce Wayne’s paranoia. The issue wraps up with “The World’s Greatest Detective,” written by Tom Taylor with art by Brad Walker & Andrew Hennessy. Detective Chimp requests Batman’s help to find a kid that Bobo is indebted to.

Although each story is a standalone, the function of BATMAN SECRET FILES #1 is to go deeper into Bruce’s world. The creative teams have found new things to explore within Gotham, which is difficult considering Batman has been around for so long.

Fully-Fleshed Out Characters

Although each story doesn’t exceed six pages, the characters within the world are fully-fleshed out. There are parts where the creators rely on the readers’ knowledge, but overall this issue is good to pick up even if you’re relatively new to reading BATMAN.

Each story provides us with a new perspective. The one that stood out to me was “One”. Within it, we see minor characters living in the outskirts of Gotham who are openly afraid of Batman. Rarely do we see the Dark Knight leave Gotham, making the areas surrounding the dark city an awesome place for story-hunting. This tale gives us more insight into the world around Batman and moves the focus from in Gotham to outside of it.

We also get more insight into who Bruce Wayne really is. Two of the stories address insecurities within Bruce, something he refuses to let others see. These moments of vulnerability give us a more realistic human character. They’re issues that readers are aware of, such as Bruce Wayne’s lack of strength compared to other Justice League associates. Yet, instead of providing us with an answer, the creators leave it up to interpretation. This gives us a new way to look at an old character because you’re able to take the characterization we got from this issue, and see it within other BATMAN stories.

BATMAN SECRET FILES #1 page 20. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

How To Stand Out Visually

Although created by different people, the art is fairly consistent throughout the story. It’s done in classic Batman fashion: where there’s a lot of hyper-realism and heavy use of blue. Although great in theory, it was a little difficult to tell when one story ended and another began. However, a few of the stories strayed from this line of thinking, which made them stand out a little more visually.

The trickiest part of having five creative teams in one issue is ensuring that your story stands out. “The Nature of Fear” is one such story. Artist Jorge Fornes and colorist Matt Wilson do an amazing job of playing with reality and fantasy. Fornes use of the art isn’t as clean-cut as some of the other tales, which leaves readers to question whether or not the story is based in reality. Additionally, this part contains mostly pale yellows and gem purples rather than the usual Batman blues. Wilson’s choice to shy away from the classic Batman colors pay off, making it the most distinctive.

There should also be an additional shout out to Jordie Bellaire. Jordie colored most of the stories within the comic, as well as writing one. This gave the stories consistency, ensuring the readers are always within the realm of Batman.

Overall Thoughts on BATMAN SECRET FILES #1

What’s nice about this issue is you get five stories for the price of one. We get to explore more of Batman’s world than we’ve previously been able to. This gives new readers a chance to get a better feel and understanding of Bruce and everyone around him. However, I could see some already familiar readers getting slightly impatient with these stories too. They give us exposition about the world, but rarely do we receive a concrete conclusion. We’re left to our own devices as readers, which may turn off some fans.

Still, I thought it was wonderful. I love looking at the world in different ways, which made this comic much more fun of a read. If you’re new to the BATMAN series, or just want to dive a little deeper into Bruce’s world, this is a story I’d recommend!

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