Batman Secret Files #1
Delve into Batman’s case histories and discover brand-new stories by some of comics’ most exciting talents. The BATMAN team of Tom King and Mikel Janin provides a framing sequence, setting up our hand-picked teams of creators to take a look at Bat-mysteries past and present. Featuring a bevy of Batman villains, including a look at how the Scarecrow’s fear toxin affects the common man, and a special story written by Tom Taylor with art by Brad Walker that teams the Dark Knight Detective with Detective Chimp.
Batman Secret Files kicks off with Tom King’s ‘True Strength’ story about Bruce Wayne’s internal struggles as the Dark Knight. Although the story is somewhat uneventful, it uses temptation to explore the cost of wearing the cape and cowl. The story is effectively summarized by the last line spoken by Bruce when he asks Alfred, “Am I enough?”. Although brief, it is a heartfelt moment that makes the story worthwhile. The artistic direction for this story is interesting enough, but without any superhero antics, the visuals struggle to inspire anything particularly memorable.
Next is the up-and-comer writer Ram V’s story titled ‘The Nature of Fear’. While the artistic direction was unremarkable aside from a few more appealing larger panels, the story brilliantly explores the meaning of fear and the consequences of Batman’s relentless quest for justice. A GCPD officer is struck with Scarecrow’s fear gas, making everything he sees strike fear into him, and this effect devastates him to his core. This man is the central part of the story, with Ram V using Batman instead as a catalyst for both invoking both fear and offering salvation. It takes some narrative skill to successfully utilize Batman as a side character rather than the main focus, but Ram V pulls it off incredibly well. With a more polished approach artistically, this would have undoubtedly been the best of the issue.
Charyl Lynn Eaton follows with a story simply titled ‘One’. It is a solid mystery from start to finish presented fantastically by a talented creative team. We follow a trail of dead bodies to a witness who claims the crime was committed by drones. This leads Bats to none other than Lucius, who elaborates on the situation by essentially linking it all back to Wayne Enterprises. The story manages to capture many different important aspects that all contribute to making this such a great story, such as those who feel left out of the quest for justice, the impacts of poverty as well as wealth, and even the merit of deadly tools. This is the story that has everything a fan could want in a quality Batman issue.
Writer Jordie Bellaire’s ‘Enough’ story is up next, and it is one that uniquely delves into Batman’s “no killing” rule. While I understand that the story was meant to take Bruce out of his element and put him in a situation in which you could explore how his distinct moral compass continues to impact him, I felt this story missed the mark both in the narrative and visually. An accidental killing could be an interesting way to question his moral code, but the story requires a suspension of belief about many of the fundamental characteristics of Batman. This is a story that could work well with many characters who refuse to kill, but having Batman blinded by the snow and killing an animal because of it comes across as haphazard for a character known for his effective contingency plans.
Wrapping up the issue is Tom Taylor’s incredibly well-done story ‘The World’s Greatest Detective, and Batman’. Staring Detective Chimp, the story is another example of a quality mystery that is full of heart and heroics. Bobo’s humor offers the perfect counterpoint to Batman’s sometimes melancholy antics, and their chemistry helps to make the emotional impact of the story’s ending much more heartfelt. It is a classic case of tracking down the Riddler, but this time one of his goons is a boy that Bobo believes can still be saved. The boy serves as a great example of what Bruce could have easily been if only his path had been slightly different. Although Bats tries to catch him, Bobo allows him to leave so that he may forge a better path for himself, effectively showing that the World’s Greatest Detective truly may not always be the Dark Knight. This story has all of the best parts of a quality mystery story with some great action sequences, all presented magnificently by the creative team. This is the can’t miss story of Batman Secret Files!
Overall, the issue is a very personal collection of tales that all explore introspective aspects of the character. Either as Bruce Wayne or Batman, he faces incredibly complex issues in his quest for justice, and these stories delve into the impact of his actions and the potential consequences that can come as a result.
Batman Secret Files #1 is a primarily an exploration into the internal struggles of Bruce Wayne as Batman. It is a collection of stories that each delve into personal aspects such as fear and retribution that help to define the character of Batman and his relentless quest for justice. Though the artistic quality fluctuates, it's well worth reading for any fan of the World’s Greatest Detective.
Batman Secret Files #1: Am I Enough?
- Writing - 7/107/10
- Storyline - 8/108/10
- Art - 6/106/10
- Color - 6/106/10
- Cover Art - 7/107/10
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