This is not the first time we’ve talked about The Batman’s Grave, the new 12-issue maxiseries from comics legends Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch. It won’t be the last time, either. It was almost certainly going to get a tryout, just on the strength of the creators – you get The Authority creative team back together and there’s no way I was going to let it sneak by. But now, based on the strength of these preview pages, I’m pretty locked in for the full run.
The last preview we got was limited to black and white pencils and inks from Hitch and longtime collaborator Kevin Nowlan. They were good, but the new color pages tell so much more of the story. Rather than jump around, we’ll post all the preview pages at the end, but I really want to focus on the final three images. A police officer and his husband leave a movie theater onto a crowded Gotham street with their daughter in tow. They duck into an alley and get nearly killed, but before that can happen, Batman swings through, kicks the would-be killers’ teeth in, and swings away.
Now look at how much of the story is told simply from the neon colors of the street scene.
On that first page of the sequence, we’re established in the street by the first panel. On the next panel, you see that it’s a very short alleyway – an attack there seems impractical enough to be impossible, and that it’s being tried there is a sign that there’s something else going on. Then on the next page, when Batman arrives, peeks over his shoulder or behind his cape of the neon-lit street scene help ground the reader as the camera starts swinging around to catch the thrust of Batman’s physical action.
This is all information that can also be inferred from the other creators’ contributions. The dialogue from the attackers sounds stiff and almost ideological, implying there’s a greater point beyond random senseless violence. You can also get a sense of the length of the alley from the dumpsters Hitch and Nowlan put along the side, and the dumpsters are fixed points of reference in the fight scene. This isn’t to say that Sinclair is the reason it works. It’s meant to point out that the exceptional quality of the creators is why it works so well.
I could easily go on about other aspects of the preview – the way Ellis’ Batman sounds almost playful with Officer Nguyen, or the way Hitch pulls the camera in really close on Batman rather than pulling way far out like he used to on action scenes and how I think that’s indicative of an exciting approach for the rest of the book. But you really should be looking at these pages. Check them out…
The Batman’s Grave #1 arrives on Oct. 9.