“The Batman’s Grave” – Part Four
Review by Max Byrne – WARNING Minor spoilers follow.
Based on the events depicted in The Batman’s Grave #4, a pattern seems to be emerging in this title. Issue #2 was an action packed book, with issue #3 being a more considered, cerebral affair. This new instalment, from the blockbuster creative team of Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch, goes back to dialling up the action all the way to 11. With these pages the reader is treated to a fight scene that lasts for 13 pages. Yes, 13 pages. Normally I would be inclined to label such an elongated scuffle as overkill, but this is certainly not the case here.
Hitch’s flair for depicting visceral, hard hitting fisticuffs is unparalleled. Each panel pops off the page in an explosion of kinetic energy. As fist and foot meet bone and sinew, the physical damage being inflicted upon Batman’s adversaries is truly palpable. In the immortal words of Carly Simon, nobody does it better. As the blood starts to fly, I found it hard not to mentally start making punching noises in my mind, as this is really an involved scene. Working in perfect tandem with Hitch’s pencils is the color work of Alex Sinclair. His pallet choices are spot on here, the dark selections juxtaposed nicely with the explosions of vibrant color provided by the mysterious pharmaceutical discharged by Dr Hellfern.
Ellis does give a reason for all this carnage though, as the Caped Crusader is using his fists to work the case. The plot is mostly certainly starting to thicken, and we get less answers and more questions as we journey further down the rabbit hole. The mention of “The Scorn Army” is a tantalising one, as it hints at a larger and more formidable adversary for Batman than we first thought. The fact that Dr Hellfern is willing to take a potentially fatal overdose rather than act as an informant suggests that this is no ragtag bunch of street thugs. As we’re now a third of the way through this 12 issue limited series, I think the pacing is being executed perfectly. Ellis is in no hurry to reveal all, instead preferring to give us the merest tidbit of information with each issue, laid in amongst the action.
Ending the issue with a semi-playful exchange between Bruce and Alfred is a deft touch, as it switches up the mood of the book and ends it on a relatively lighter note, after so much physicality. Alfred’s wonderfully dry sense of humour is at full strength and highlights the gap left by his death in the current main continuity. With no return on the cards any time soon, we should enjoy this series as our source of all things Pennyworth for now, at least on the printed page.
The Batman’s Grave #4 is a worthy addition to the series. Full of life and certainly one that all action junkies will enjoy, this series is shaping up to be a highlight of 2020. A visual feast, there’s something for everybody to enjoy here. Action, detective work and genuine moments of levity, roll on issue #5.
Images Courtesy of DC Entertainment