Batman: Gotham Nights #1
“Medal of Honor” by Sal Giunta, Brad Meltzer, Jim Lee, Scott Williams, and Alex Sinclair
To save a friend from seemingly insurmountable odds, the Dark Knight Detective must summon every ounce of his skill and bravery! This tale is based on the true story of U.S. Army Specialist Salvatore A. Giunta, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his service in Afghanistan—the first living soldier to receive that honor since the Vietnam War.
“Honor Code” by Larry Hama, Mirko Colak, and John Kalisz
Katherine Kane has worked hard to establish herself as one of Gotham’s most intelligent and strategically cunning vigilantes. But before she was Batwoman, she was a West Point cadet—and when she gets drafted into a covert mission as brigade XO, she’ll need every bit of training that the Army gave her!
Batman: Gotham Nights from DC’s Digital First line is an interesting creature composed of two stories– “Medal of Honor” and “Honor Code”. Both stories are military-centric, with the first being autobiographical and the second being fiction. The artistic draw of the book on the surface would be the obvious return to Batman by Jim Lee but in fact Lee is outshone by the lesser known Mirko Colak in this volume. Lee’s art is strong but seemed somewhat unfocused and not quite as clean as we’ve come to expect from an artist of his caliber and talent. By contrast, Colak’s art was far cleaner and more dynamic in how it approached movement on the page as well as space on the page. The colorwork throughout was exceptional but that should come as no surprise to anybody given that the colorists were industry veterans like Sinclair and Kalisz. Likewise, the lettering by Lanham and Eliopoulos were predictably of the highest professional quality. I’ve been reading a lot of self-published books during this quarantine period so to see the contrast between professional and amatuer letters really helps to refocus on the difference in lettering skills.
In “Medal of Honor”, Brad Meltzer adapts the true story of U.S. Army Specialist Salvatore A. Giunta’s great acts of bravery in Afghanistan that earned him the Medal of Honor. The story transposes Giunta’s story onto a classic Batman scenario which sees Batman aiding and assisting the GCPD in a firefight, turning the wounded and KIA Soldiers into Gotham police and the enemy insurgents into Gotham villains.
Accuracy of the narrative was a given thanks to Meltzer’s own penchant for research coupled with the involvement of Giunta. Giunta’s story is one I am quite familiar with and it read clean throughout. Perhaps it was my own knowledge of the story that somehow lessened the power of the tale for me as a reader. There is something about the repositioning of the story into a superhero perspective that doesn’t quite sit right with me. On the one hand, yes, it gestures towards the massive capabilities of real world heroes but on the other hand, it almost has a quality that feels like it cheapens the extraordinary actions of Guinta by turning those actions into “just another night” in the saga of Batman. I may be somewhat overly sensitive but that was my gut reaction to reading what felt like should have been a far more powerful and emotional story.
In “Honor Code”, Larry Hama dusts off his military vernacular honed during his time with GI Joe: A Real American Hero to deliver a tale about Kate Kane while she was still at Westpoint, long before she donned the cape and cowl of Batwoman.
First off, I’ll say that sending a Westpoint Cadet on a mission like this one is silly in the same way that the mission in Stripes is absurd. But setting that aside, this story was quite interesting in the sense of its portrayal of military mission that felt entirely plausible, an act comics are not well known for when it comes to fictional war stories. I’d like to say that the dialogue was so full of cliches and stereotypes that it bordered on parody but I’ve spent enough time around people that actually talk like this to say it strangely is fairly accurate. The lexicon deployed by Hama will certainly be the cause of many Google searches for many readers! All in all, a solid story and it was well suited to accompany “Medal of Honor”.
Batman: Gotham Nights features two Digital First stories-- "Medal of Honor" (Giunta, Meltzer, Lee, Williams) and "Honor Code" (Hama, Colak, Kalisz)-- that take a heavy military influence to create two distinct tales of heroism in combat.
Batman: Gotham Nights #1: Honor and Commitment
Writing - 9/10
Storyline - 8.5/10
Art - 8.5/10
Color - 10/10
Cover Art - 9/10
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