Bryan Hitch blew me away with his fight choreography in issue #5 of The Batman’s Grave. It took up the brunt of the issue, which might make you think this book is all fight-comic and very little substance, but when you take a closer look, it’s a deep book. The sixth issue picks up where we left off, with Batman knocking skulls inside the halls of Arkham Asylum which is all action, but once again, upon closer inspection, there’s real character development and detective work going on.
This issue opens with a quieter beat between Commissioner Gordon and Batman as they walk the halls anticipating another attack. In this brief moment, the two characters talk amongst themselves and you can gather a rich history between them. It’s fun to see Gordon call out Batman for being paranoid and it shows how they differ. Gordon is an average guy in a lot of ways while Batman is obsessive and superhuman in his planning abilities. We see this again when Batman and Gordon walk amongst a crime scene and their approaches are much different. Warren Ellis has a surgical precision in probing Batman so that it reads naturally and in such a way that allows the reader to piece things together on their own. You must analyze Batman’s behavior and what he says to figure him out making the readers detectives in their own right.
This issue also contains a key scene with Alfred, further developing his backstory fighting in Berlin. Making Alfred an expat adds a layer of understanding and perspective on Batman’s antics so that he can rightly judge him and also give him advice. It makes so much sense given their relationship, too. It’s also fascinating to hear Alfred talk about killing people when he’s currently operating with someone who kills no one. It adds a layer of reality to Batman you sometimes miss in other books.
The book, of course, also has intense action sequences that are fun to follow. A few times in this issue Hitch draws a movement that forces you to piece together how he slides or kicks, adding a new dimension of movement. It’s an exhilarating way of drawing you into the action. The precision he uses to fight lends to his precision of planning and detective work. Once this series is finished and collected, many will likely pinpoint overarching themes that connect all the facets of Batman, further proving this series is incredible in its approach.
One downside of serial storytelling is how the narrative can take a hard turn and read awkwardly in the 20-page format. Likely this will smooth out in trade paperback, but there’s a hard shift at one point that is jarring and might take you out of the book. After two disparate scenes, we get back into the field of detective work, but it takes a hard juke to get there.
This issue is another great chapter in the life of Batman that probes his perfectionism across his duties while also revealing the man underneath the cowl. This is an exciting look at Batman that feels fresh and new.