Timing really can be everything, and in The Batman’s Grave #7, the timing is off. This issue contains imagery of protestors burning a city, and Batman’s reaction is to strong-arm them, and then there’s some heady suggestion that Batman may need to inflict some torture on a bad guy. It’s a lot to take in considering the protests going on in America, and while I think when you really think about the issue it’s not as bad as some might take it, I do think it’s the wrong time for the issue to come out.
Being completely impartial and not thinking about the world outside my window (however impossible that is), I’ll say this is another fine issue in the series. Writer Warren Ellis has a great handle on the characters — weighty but interesting detective work is done via dialogue between Alfred and Bruce, and some great visual ideas work comedically and for the action set. The opening of the issue ending with the Bat-mobile exploding, and then Batman having to walk past a bus stop is hilarious. The meat of this issue is a long scene between Alfred and Batman that’s solidly written if you’re looking for clues and trying to pay attention. It’s like a great bit of The West Wing.
The book also looks great as always. Bryan Hitch gets to draw some awesome vehicles and the explosion of one of the three cool vehicles is pretty damn good too. A lot of attention is spent on when to close in on a character, when to flip around them, and playing each character’s reaction off each other. It’s good scene blocking, and done well enough that the lengthy dialogue never feels boring.
Alex Sinclair’s colors are spot on, too. The early morning sunlight is well done in the opening pages and it factors heavily into the clues required to break open the case. The use of green light in the Bat-cave is a nice touch, creating an earthy tone that helps juxtapose the technology well. Batman isn’t a robot, after all. Letters by Richard Starkings do well to break up the dialogue and place the word balloons in smart places.
But to get back to the timing aspect of this issue, I foresee many feeling a bit uneasy with some of the imagery. If you treat this issue as if it lived in a vacuum I think many would love it, but the real-world parallels are impossible to ignore and the imagery is hard to swallow. In a world where police are brutalizing peaceful protestors, it’s hard to stomach how this issue ends and I’m currently wrestling with the very real idea that it’s unfair to judge the book itself for this.
Is it the fault of the book, or the fault of our culture which tends to think big tanks are cool and a hero using force on a bad guy we assume to be bad as just? The fact that I’m pondering these things may actually be a sign the imagery is a good thing to mull over in our entertainment while the world continues to protest and find justice. In that respect, this is a deeply powerful issue, but likely not in the way the creators intended.