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Batman Universe #1 Review

‘When is the Riddler not the Riddler?’

I’ve been really looking forward to finally checking this story out. It’s been serialized in the Batman Giant issues in Walmart stores, but I’m sure I don’t have to tell most fans how much of a hassle it seems to be to track some of those down.

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On the plus side, it was well worth the wait, as this has the makings of everything I like in a classic Batman mystery story: a cool hook at the beginning, a red herring villain, a mastermind pulling the strings, globetrotting action, and all the snarky Alfred dialogue a reader could ever ask for!

DC Comics

After responding to a veritable convention of Riddler imitators commiting a robbery, Batman senses that something is up with one of his oldest foes. His riddles are weaker than usual and most of all, he’s scared. This is the first tip-off that something is wrong and it’s a really clever move on writer Brian Michael Bendis’ part. The Riddler is always so cocky, almost to a ludicrous degree, so to see the villain out of sorts and unsure of himself, sweating in a public place and unable to deliver a cogent thought? It’s very unsettling for longtime Batman readers, as well as for the Dark Knight himself.

The artwork from Nick Derington is fantastic. I especially love how he draws Batman himself: lithe and agile, not a bruiser. Even during the fast-paced fight sequences, this Batman appears to be more thoughtful, more methodical, using his opponent’s inertia against them in some of the more crowded fights and in the brutal one-on-one with Deathstroke.

DC Comics

This thoughtful look to Batman also carries through into the rest of the book, lending him a more inquisitive demeanor in the more tender moments, such as his back-and-forth with Alfred and his questioning of Jinny Hex.

Speaking of, it was great to see Jinny pop up here, seemingly in the midst of understanding her heritage and the name she wants to live up to. Her amused reaction to Batman’s appearance at her front door made me literally laugh out loud.

The balance between humor and detective work is excellent here, which makes the globe-trotting nature of this story really fly by. It’s always interesting to see Batman leave the Gotham City sandbox, but it’s especially fun here. This is a Batman who actually gets along with the police, rather than simply coexists with them, which is a relationship that hasn’t really been seen like this since the days when Dick Grayson wore the cape and cowl.

Dave Stewart’s color choices are well done here, too. The whole thing has kind of a dusty noir feel to it, but the big city sequences, particularly the night club toward the end, are appropriately bright and busy looking. It’s almost like Batman brings the dirtiness of Gotham along with him to Amsterdam, which I love.

All in all, this was a fantastic first issue. I feel like I’ve been missing out on a very fun ride, so I’m glad to see this story making its way to comic shops in this format.

Is it good?
This first issue kicks off an intriguing mystery involving some of Batman's greatest foes. It's also the perfect issue to grab for someone who needs a gateway into Batman without tons of backstory.
The mystery is interesting and relies on reader expectations of Riddler's usual M.O.
The artwork is spectacular. Nick Derington can straight-up draw Batman forever and I'd be okay with it
This story is finally collected in a print format that's a little easier to track down for comics fans

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