Batman: Reptilian #1 – Garth Ennis, Writer; Liam Sharp, Artist
Ray – 7/10
Ray: This new Black Label series has had a long journey to the page, originally being written more than five years ago for the late great Steve Dillon. Writer Garth Ennis eventually did bring it to life with the help of Dillon’s friend Liam Sharp, who has a very different style. As you might expect, Sharp’s art is brilliant, but if you’re familiar with his hyper-detailed style from other DC books like his recent Green Lantern run, this is not that. This is a unique style from Sharp that I’ve never seen before—it’s haunting and surreal, similar to a more realist Sam Keith. But then, Sharp’s always been a bit of a chameleon when he wants to be, and the look of Gotham is supposed to look very different from DC space.
But while the art here is excellent, the writing has a lot more issues. Garth Ennis has always been an acquired taste, veering between bizarre shock art and brilliantly bleak crime thrillers—often on the same properties. But what works for Punisher doesn’t work for Batman, and to a large extent this comic loses me right out of the gate with an elaborate scene where a rich prizefighter beats rape and assault charges—only for Batman to appear right outside of the courthouse and goad him into attacking, upon which it’s implied Batman cripples him in front of hundreds of onlookers. That’s purely Miller-esque, a Batman that only exists in fevered grim-and-gritty AUs—which I suppose is what this is.
The main plot, such as it is, focuses on a series of brutal attacks targeting Batman’s villains. A-list rogues are being torn apart like animals by an unseen enemy, and it all seems to go back to a meeting between the villains where everyone was taken over by some sort of horrible animal instinct. Batman is able to blackmail a hapless Russian criminal into going undercover for him, and then the issue is basically over. Liam Sharp is a brilliant artist, and I’m looking forward to what disturbing scenes he’ll unveil as this story continues, but the story feels like it’s barely even a batman story and portrays a version of Bruce Wayne who is both casually cruel and reckless. This reminds me of early books in the Marvel MAX line before it was given a touch of maturity by… Ennis. Ironic.
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GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.