THIS WEEK: Batman Off-World #1 shows us Batman’s first-ever adventure in space! Plus, through three issues, Wonder Woman is one of DC’s best ongoing titles.
Note: the review below contains spoilers. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdict.
Batman Off-World #1
Writer: Jason Aaron
Pencils: Doug Mahnke
Inks: Jaime Mendoza
Colors: David Baron
Letters: Troy Peteri
This week’s Batman Off-World #1 marks the first major work writer Jason Aaron has done for DC Comics following a long stint at Marvel, which saw him pen long runs on marquee books like The Avengers and Thor. He’s starting off with a six-issue limited series, set in Batman’s past. In fact, this book is the story of Batman’s very first jaunt into space, set (as best I can tell) not long after the events of Batman: Year One.
And that’s a fine Batman concept. It inherently won’t do much for readers who prefer Batman grounded, kept street level and forever gritting his teeth through his war on crime in Gotham City. This book is by design more fantastical. But it finds what I believe is an untold Batman story, a neat little gap in continuity, and it tells it well.
Aaron’s characterization of Batman is solid if familiar. He’s a tough guy, of course, with a maniacal drive to stamp out injustice. He can take a punch — even from a massive, overpowered alien — without flinching, despite it shattering his nose. And as the circumstances become grimmer and grimmer, he continues to plan, to keep some measure of control. Also, he finds a love interest. This is all well and good.
But friends, the real appeal of this book is not the writing — it’s the absolutely fantastic sci-fi artwork deliver by the team of Doug Mahnke (pencils), Jaime Mendoza (inks), and David Baron (colors). There are visuals in this book that made me pause and say ‘wow’ (albeit internally, as I’m not some weirdo who talks to himself while reading superhero comics on my iPad).
Yes, visually this comic is an absolute stunner from start to finish. Mahnke’s alien and robot designs are wonderfully imaginative. They don’t get so wild as to distract, yet none of them feel played out or familiar. Within the space of 20-some pages here, I found myself anxious to keep going to see what else on this ship we’d discover, and what it would look like. Mendoza’s inks bring it all into strong focus. The alien world is bright thanks to Baron’s color choices (some of which are expertly timed pastels), yet Mendoza still gives Batman shadowy corners to brood within, to lurk, to escape and hide.
The script knows all this too. After the sci-fi world is established and Batman’s plight relatively settled, the script lowers the panel density, allowing the artists to unfold giant splash panels of robot kill guards and Batman wielding a cosmic chainsaw. From a craft perspective, this comic is dynamite.
And so ultimately I enjoyed this comic. It’s a high-production book, delivered at $3.99, which feels a little surprising in the current marketplace. Finally, one last thing I find intriguing about this is the way that DC editorial has treated these seemingly one-off Batman miniseries of late. Batman: The Knight, for example, felt like an isolated rehashing of Bruce Wayne’s training, but it’s now having ramifications for Chip Zdarsky’s run on the main Batman title. That makes me curious if similarly Batman Off-World is laying track for more Aaron comics with DC…I suppose we’ll just have to wait to find out.
- I’ve been hot and cold on the current run, but I thought Catwoman #59 was fantastic. It’s got a really cool nine lives concept going (which I can’t believe hasn’t been done but also makes so much sense given what happened at the end of the Batman/Catwoman war storyline), and it’s starting to build on plot from the start of the run. Writer Tini Howard has done a great job seeding all this, and it’s really showing. There’s a fantastic villain here too, a great Latin American setting, and just a really well-paced, good-looking comic, drawn by Stefano Raffaele with colors by Veronica Gandini and letters by Lucas Gattoni.
- One of the best runs of the year keeps humming along this week with Superman #8, where we continue explore the idea that Lex Luthor has a rogues gallery he has long kept in check. This is a high-action battle kind of issue, illustrated essentially in two parts, with art handled by Gleb Melnikov, Norm Rapmund, David Baldeon, and Jamal Campbell, with colors by Alejandro Sanchez, and letters by Dave Sharpe. This Superman run remains at the center of what has been a very strong year for Superman comics overall, one in which DC has really invested in this faily of titles and characters.
- I don’t know what to say about Wonder Woman #3 that doesn’t start with WOW. I think we’re looking at some of writer Tom King’s best work yet with this book. It’s maybe easy to forget that King — who has become essentially ubiquitous with prestige DC Comics of late — has only really done one open-ended run in his entire career, with that being Batman of the Rebirth Era. King has primarily written maxi-series, to great effect. With this book, though, it feels like he’s been waiting until the exact right opportunity to do an ongoing story presented itself — and through three issues, this certainly feels like the one. A resident of Washington, D.C. who has documented espionage experience, King is really leaning into the political elements of the Wonder Woman character, and it’s a great choice, giving this storyline an intense and timely feel. Also, these comics look amazing, thanks to artist Daniel Sampere, colorist Tomeu Morey, and letterer Clayton Cowles. I find myself eagerly reading this title first any week that it’s out, the highest praise I can give a superhero comic.
Miss any of our earlier reviews? Check out our full archive!