“The First Knight Among the Stars”
Writers: Jason Aaron
Artists: Doug Mahnke, Jaime Mendoza
Color Artist: David Baron
Letterer: Troy Peteri
Review By Eric Lee
Minor Spoilers Ahead!
Batman: Off-World #1 is a fun, rip-roaring adventure that drops the Dark Knight in a very different setting.
Batman With No Back-Up
Initially, the premise of Off-World where Batman travels to an alien planet comes up as a big “So what?” This is not that unusual to see Batman interacting with aliens. He practically travels to an alien world or dimension every other week with the Justice League. However, writer Jason Aaron explains why this story is more special than a standard Justice League adventure in one elegant piece of storytelling exposition; Off-World takes place a little after Batman’s first year as a crimefighter.
This small detail instantly makes things much more interesting. Despite Batman systematically dismantling some alien thugs in the opening action scene, he’s still relatively new to all this. Also, since he’s still a rookie crimefighter, he probably hasn’t even met Superman or the other League members yet, so there are no super-powered beings coming in to back him up. There probably won’t be any Deus ex machina in the form of Superman swooping in to get Batman out of a jam. Knowing this automatically makes Batman feel more vulnerable and isolated, making the story more engaging.
Aaron also introduces another twist, late in the issue, that makes this tale a standard above a typical alien invasion plot. I won’t spoil it, but it brings up some fun, intriguing questions.
Speaking of fun, Doug Mahnke always delivers high-caliber art. He is the perfect artist for this kind of comic. His tenure on Batman shows that he can handle the gritty, shadowy bits with no problem, and his lengthy Green Lantern run proves he has the chops for big, far-out galactic adventures. Here, Mahnke continues to bring amazingly detailed art that can fit in either one of those comic runs. The inks and colors by Jaime Mendoza and Dave Baron are also extremely good.
Fun, But Shallow
Despite glorious visuals and a snappy plot, Off-World does lack some depth. It has crowd-pleasing moments, cool character designs, a twist, and high-level concepts. Aaron brings the blockbuster appeal but the issue’s missing deeper meaning or characterization. While it is refreshing to see Aaron writing Batman, it’s ultimately the same formula that he has been using for years on his Avengers run.
While Aaron and Mahnke have given readers an amazing opening issue, with a clever conceit, Batman: Off-World #1 tends to prioritize style over substance. Perhaps it will evolve as the series continues, but for now, it is an entertaining detour from the mainstream Batman comics… and it is only the first issue.
Images Courtesy of DC Entertainment