Batman vs. Bigby! A Wolf in Gotham #2 is a vast improvement over its predecessor. Some of the missteps in the opening chapter remain, but the solid characterization and strong writing make Batman vs. Bigby #2 a much better read through. In addition, the plot is picking up considerably and has more than enough compelling series to pique the reader’s interest. Considering the series’s brief run, the second issue tends to be a make-or-break moment that determines whether readers will see the series through to the end. Fortunately, Batman vs. Bigby delivers enough incentives to have fans coming back for more.
DC’s synopsis for issue #2 is as follows:
Taking down the big bad wolf is at the top of Batman’s agenda, but the Dark Knight is the least of Bigby’s concerns. He has the pulse of more sinister forces at work when he takes to the streets to track down a magical book that’s gone missing from Fabletown!
The opening chapter of A Wolf in Gotham appeared to be on a path of predictability. Thankfully, writer Bill Willingham takes the story in a new direction in chapter 2 to satiate even the most jaded of fans. The expectation is that Batman and Bigsby would quickly see eye to eye after an initial misunderstanding. Comic crossovers 101: Hero’s meet, incorrectly assess the situation, battle one another, then quickly come together to combat a familiar foe. However, Willingham never allows Bigsby or Bruce to settle, permitting their animosity to fester.
Willingham perfectly reads into each hero’s narcissistic personality and leans into it. Batman is sure that Bigby is guilty of the string of murders; granted, the evidence points in that direction, but there is a bigger picture Batman isn’t seeing. Meanwhile, any fan of Fables is aware of Bigby’s surly disposition, as well-intentioned as he may be. Setting the focus on their growing tension works in spades, with each man believing he has the other’s number. To hammer this point home, Willingham includes a scene where Bigby and Bruce come face to face at a charity event. All the cards are put on the table, and the tension is palpable. It’s a fine example of building tension and filling a scene with unease, with all the back-and-forth action taking place in a verbal game of one-upmanship.
With the case continuing to weigh heavily on Batman’s mind, Willingham pulls from the current status quo in the pages of DC. Batman comes to Robin to use his army of Robins to lend a hand in the case. But, he also pulls out all the stops, calling in favors from all their informants for more information. In Batman vs. Bigby #1, a particular standout factor in the series is Willingham’s ability to write a mystery, tapping into Batman’s “worlds greatest detective” side with aplomb. That clever writing continues as he uses all the tools at his disposal to solve a progressively challenging case.
All the while, the subplot – the ominous group behind the mystery – comes to fruition. While Batman is chasing down a serial killer, Bigby searches for a specific book, the same book the mysterious group is after with ties to Fabletown. Willingham manages to begin to tie all the plot points together as the issue has a few revelations, culminating in a massive cliffhanger that begs readers to pick up the next issue.
Unfortunately, while the story is picking up considerably, the art is lacking. There are some genuine pages and details of note, but the art is hit or miss from one panel to another. For example, the shadows and ink set an ominous tone and work to raise the art, only to be sabotaged by inconsistent line work. In one panel, Bruce is inexplicably grinning from ear to ear when being awoken by Alfred, only to continue his brooding ways in the following pages.
That’s not to say there isn’t anything of merit here. Continuing from the trend of the first issue, the pages are laid out in increasingly creative ways, even playing into the context of the story. For example, as Bruce studies broken shackles in the Batcave, the page is framed with chains throughout. In another scene, Bigby has a mysterious rendezvous on a rooftop with a member of the G.C.P.D. Dilapidated pipes and building frames separate the panels. It’s a beautiful touch to a medium dependent on visuals; sadly, the line work doesn’t always match.
Batman vs. Bigby is taking steps in the right direction and beginning to hit its stride despite some oddities. The artwork is a mixed bag, but the narrative is strong enough to carry the series. The opening chapter had a few too many crossover tropes weighing it down, but Batman vs. Bigby #2 proves to be a stronger outing. The narrative pieces are starting to come together, and there is more than enough in issue # 2 to pique fans’ interest in investing in the series.
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