Review: Batman: The Merciless #1

I am old enough to know that there is only one Merciless in the universe and that’s Ming, so unless Flash Gordon has somehow gotten himself mixed up in the crazy that is Metal, there must something else afoot.

When it all comes down to it, Batman is born out of tragedy.  Whether its his parents in an alley, Alfred or some dude called Sylvester the impact is almost always the same; Bruce Wayne going postal.  This issue is no different with his love  for Wonder Woman being his next big loss.  Seeing her slain by Ares leads Bruce to take up the fallen helm of the God of War and wreck a terrible revenge.  Of course this being Metal, we have the now obligatory Batman Who Laughs appearance to bring the newest Dark Batman into the fold.

Peter Tomasi is no stranger to Batman and Wonder Woman, having worked on the  Batman and Robin book and the Superman/Wonder Woman book respectively.  I was one of the few who really enjoyed the Superman/Wonder Woman book.  Sure it got caught up in too many crossovers with the Superbooks, but Tomasi had a good interpretation of who Wonder Woman is.  This is massively important as its her almost non appearance in this book that causes the main fulcrum of the story.  Back in new 52, Diana was also the God of War.  But the powers she had were tempered by the good she saw in mankind.  Bruce doesn’t have that balance.  He is practically anger, on top of vengeance and throw in some justice for good measure.  Without the inherent belief in the good of people, Bruce falls to the truism of power corrupts and god like power corrupts, well you get the picture.  Tomasi has Bruce down pat; the noblest of intentions swayed by his inner darkness.  Where this book differs slightly, is that we get to see the main battle and it’s impact on the non super-powered as A.R.G.U.S, S.H.A.D.E and more impressively Amanda Waller come up against something that neither of them can control.

The art for the book is by Francis Manapul who has spent time with the Dark Knight over in Detective Comics.  Manapul has a style that can be seen as a different approach, if not quite other-worldly.  I loved his art on Detective and am impressed by both the panel layout and the figure work.  The former is a great mix of tense smaller panels leading to a splash payoff.  The splash pages are spectacular with Manapul hitting the right beats of hopelessness in both the war room and in part, felt by a Batman who sees what he is doing as only the natural way of things, which to be fair, has always been Batman’s kryptonite.  Manapul provides the colors for the book in his usual excellent manner.  Over the last few one-shots, the colors have almost been kinetic,  Here a muted approach is in play, which should come as no surprise to fans of Manapul’s work.

This books works well in a number of ways, from seeing who strong a character Diana is, to possibly how weak Bruce is to let the power corrupt him, all the way to seeing how these books fit into the main story, which does give the impression that we are seeing at least some progress toward the end of these one shots.

Writing – 4 Stars
Art – 5 Stars
Colors – 5 Stars

Written by; Peter J. Tomasi
Art & Colors by; Francis Manapul
Published by; DC Comics

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