The Batman’s Grave #1 is a wonderfully minimalist, detective procedural story from Warren Ellis, Bryan Hitch, Kevin Nowlan, and Alex Sinclair, but it’s also a saga of man who is obsessed with death, both his parents’, those of the cases he takes, and his own. So, it’s fitting that Ellis and Hitch open the comic on a panel of the Waynes’ graves as Alfred dutifully trims the area around Thomas and Martha Wayne’s final resting spots and Bruce’s future one before going into the action/murder mystery bits. It gives the comic a somber, thoughtful tone, but Hitch and Nowlan are always there with the big splash page, kick in the teeth, or superhero action scene while Ellis is quick with a quip like a Gotham family thinking that a copyright friendly version of It is family fare. (Maybe, it is in a city where the Joker tries to poison the water supply on a weekly basis.)
My personal favorite part of The Batman’s Grave other than Nowlan’s inking giving Hitch a more explosive, cartoon-y art style than, say, his work on Ultimates is how Warren Ellis writes Alfred. He is world weary, worldly, deeply caring, and also deeply concerned about how Batman is spending his life. Ellis gives him the voice of a million socially conscious Batman fans when he says that buying Gotham City would be better than him going around to poor neighborhoods and beating up criminals like he does in the first action scene of the comic.
But Bruce Wayne: Philanthropist would make a pretty boring comic, and Ellis knows this as he lets Hitch, Nowlan, and Sinclair loose with a cape trailing, Gotham skyline-featuring double page spread very early on and then treats us to some close-ups of Batman fighting goons, who threaten a police officer’s kid. It’s more unique than your usual superhero fight scene with Nowlan adding cool details like showing the grooves on Batman’s boot when he kicks. The extra detail doesn’t take anything away from the motion and the fact that the fight scene shows that Batman beats the shit out of people to get a small measure of catharsis in his life even if it won’t heal his neverending sadness.
However, The Batman‘s Grave is more of a psychological detective comic than an action book, and Alex Sinclair’s colors add a precision to Batman’s virtual lab where he gets into the mind of a murder victim. His investigation acts as a bit of a character study too, and Ellis, Hitch, and Nowlan give us a fairly detailed story of a man, who became overwhelmed with his job in the Gotham D.A’s office and turned to Batman as a metaphor of stability and justice. These extra character details kept me connected to the case instead of nodding like it was a Law and Order SVU rerun and also expertly set up the final page cliffhanger with Hitch and Nowlan indulging their horror side just a little bit.
The Batman’s Grave #1 is a fantastic Batman detective story and character study for both super fans and those who have only kept up with the Caped Crusader via other media or the occasional trade paperback. Bryan Hitch, Kevin Nowlan, and Alex Sinclair’s are the right blend of epic and psychologically searing while Warren Ellis’ script is sharp and momentum filled. I love the humanity that he brings to Alfred and the murder victim, Vince and kind of pity Batman after reading this one. His car is still cool though.
Story: Warren Ellis Pencils: Bryan Hitch
Inks: Kevin Nowlan Colors: Alex Sinclair Letters: Richard Starkings
Story: 8.5 Art: 9.2 Overall: 8.9 Recommendation: Buy
DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review