Cruel and Unusual. These two simple words subtitle Batman: Reptile #2 and echo across the following pages. Garth Ennis and Liam Sharp’s trippy horror entry into the Batman mythos kicked off with a mysterious monster tearing through Gotham’s underworld. With this beast now on the titular hero’s radar, the world’s greatest detective must track down this ravenous villain. Though this issue continues to deliver a unique approach, it does not rectify the slow pacing and other issues from the previous entry.
Picking up immediately from the last issue, Batman continues to devote himself to finding an elusive reptilian creature preying upon Gotham. Though the creature seems to be doing Batman a favor by taking down his rogues gallery, he cannot have another creature of the night stalking his streets. The issue keeps the detective work center stage for a Batman story sorely lacking in most modern iterations. He gathers clues and samples before heading back to the cave for analysis and consultation with Alfred.
Alongside this, Ennis’ pitch black comedic dialogue pervades the issue. His version of Batman is prone to insults and callous remarks that make for a distinct reading experience. It doesn’t match any typical iteration of the Dark Knight, but works here. This ends up striking a fantastic balance between the book’s grim humor and grisly imagery.
Sharp’s abstract and experimental style continues to impress here. Scenes blur into one another with an almost dreamlike quality, blending the lines between reality and the nightmare that unfolds. His depiction of the Caped Crusader works best in these moments. Batman appears as one with the shadowy recesses of Gotham, encased in them on one page before springing forth like a demon the next. These moments are when the artwork is at its peak.
Unfortunately, the dark color palette at times hinders the reading experience. The shadows and colors have a tendency to blend together in a muddy haze that makes it difficult to discern what is happening on the page. Thankfully it’s not a constant, but its occurrence across both issues thus far does not do the series any favors. While the art style here might not work for a general audience’s tastes, it makes for a wholly unique experience one cannot get anywhere else.
One third of the way through the story, one would hope for more development at this point. The mystery continues to deepen, but the lack of reveals or any reptiles thus far may leave some wanting. Despite the pacing issues, the pairing of Ennis’ grim dialogue and storytelling with Sharp’s unorthodox art style continues to make it one of the most unique offerings from DC Comics.
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