Batman: Fortress has been a real trip, taking DC Comics’ biggest characters and throwing them into the thresher of ideas Gary Whitta and Darick Robertson can throw at them. Starting off with an alien invasion that sent cities into chaos, then in the second issue killing off a few major heroes, the third issue out today features Batman with fewer options than ever. Superman is gone, but the alien threat seeks to kill him – or kill all of Earth in the process.
Batman: Fortress #3 opens with Batman attempting to hack into Cyborg’s head. Due to the events of the last issue, Batman is running out of options. It’s pretty dark, and Alfred obviously sees that as he tells Bruce Wayne they’re out of coffee. Whitta explains much of the frustration Batman is going through in this opening scene, which leads to him calling for help from certifiable godlike characters. It’s these story ideas that make the book feel different and new. Bold for sure, but if you’re interested in more mainline Batman comics, I’m sure it’ll feel off.
The rest of the issue takes place over two sequences. The first involves the alien threat continuing to hunt Superman. This leads to a major death, but also a bit more info. Up until this point, we thought Superman may have abandoned Earth, but it sounds more like he’s planning something. That increases the anticipation for a showdown later on.
The last sequence involves Batman attempting to lock down help from one of his greatest enemies. Once again, there’s a lot of talking between these characters. The old adage of “show don’t tell” is thrown out the window in this sequence and the whole issue. The scene lacks any surprise due to the cover spoiling it, further reducing the impact of the sequence.
The dialogue is well written, though, and there’s a good back-and-forth that ends the issue. If these characters were doing something while talking, though, the story would flow better. It also occurred to me while reading this last scene that it’s a bit of a surprise the plot didn’t get to this point earlier in the series. Issue #1 could have ended with this cliffhanger, and the series may been better for it.
Robertson’s dark and heavily inked work continues to look great. His specialty in this issue is making the strange aliens look unique from each other and quite fantastical. Robertson also does a good job capturing a tired and worn-out Bruce Wayne. Dude needs sleep. Diego Rodriguez colors the issue by adding nice color variation in the bat cave to make it feel larger than the pencils immediately indicate. There’s good detailing around a Batman hologram message as well.
With so much dialogue, Simon Bowland makes it all flow quite nicely. There are at least three pages where there’s so much dialogue it could have easily been tricky to allow for good flow.
More and more, Batman: Fortress reads like a too decompressed story with little plot movement and too much talking. It’s not bad by any means, but once collected it’ll likely be far more enjoyable as not a lot has happened in three issues. But heck, it’s fun to read an alternate take on Batman facing off against impossible odds.
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