Echoes are sound waves that are reflected back to the listener, distorting the original wave, even minimising the effect of the original sound. You may ask what this physics lesson has to do with Batman; after reading the first issue of this new mini series from DC, echoes are exactly what I thought I had read.
The story is quite simple. In essence its a flip book, flipping the Batman is the good guy and the Joker is the bad guy paradigm. From the nugget of that idea, the almost “do it all” creator Sean Murphy adds layers upon layers to give the book some weight. Batman and the Joker are going through their regular rituals, with the Joker in a particularly chirpy mood and Batman being “uber” obsessive. As the chase climaxes, there is a step taken too far which leads into the main thrust of the story.
Sean Murphy’s previous work is driven through social awareness, often taking parallels from the political real world and creating statements and conversation starters with a clever approach. Fans of his work may well feel that going “main stream” weakens Murphy’s work in some way, after all you can’t really change that much about one of the most recognisable characters in the world. Or can you? Murphy takes the relationships in the book to the logical extremes. The Batman in here reminds me of the obsessive version shown in the last season of Batman The Animated Series, following the minor reboot. This echo is helped by his interaction with Mullettwing…I mean Nightwing and Batgirl. Even the relationship between Batman and the Joker gets an echo, sounding like part of the Lego Batman movie. The Joker is even given an alter ego that will be recognizable to many a Batfan.
The echoes continue with Murphy’s art; the drawbridge scene has been seen in a couple of places and the Joker’s room is covered with little and not so little Easter eggs. The art has an edgy feel to it with an “almost our world” view that is engaging for new readers whilst also giving the more experience fan a few smiles. The panels work well with very few splash panels. This may be by design as the book is quite wordy, at least in a crazy one-sided kind of way. All the character designs work; Batman looks sufficiently menacing and threatening, the Joker is chaotic and the police force have an almost run-down, sick of the crazy resignation to the events. A quick word about how great Batgirl looks in this book. Another example that maybe her current look in her own book may not be working as well as it once did. The colors by Matt Hollingsworth are fantastic, with darkness almost ochre tinge gives the book a sense of despair, whilst adding to the world-weary histrionics of the familiar hero and his, some would say, arch nemesis.
The timing of this book strikes me as unusual if I am honest. DC are currently putting out a wealth of “alternative” Batman books as part of the Metal event. As such, this may well get missed by some in the crush of product on the rack. That would be a shame, as this books, very much like Gotham City Garage and Nightwing New Order are presenting a different DC universe that actually feels like it could lead to an ongoing series, rather than the “make a buck, quick” nature of the aforementioned Metal books. I am sure that, with all the nods and echoes in the, book there might be a few people who will criticise; when are too many Easter eggs enough? (Please no French jokes). For me, I am very interested in seeing where this book is going.
Writing – 4.5 Stars
Art – 5 Stars
Colors – 5 Stars
(W) Sean Murphy (A/CA) Sean Murphy