Thursday, June 2, 2011

Review - Flashpoint - Batman: Knight of Vengeance #1

Flashpoint - Batman: Knight of Vengeance #1
Written by: Brian Azzarello
Art by: Eduardo Risso

Confession time: I have never read Azzarello and Risso's critically acclaimed series, 100 Bullets.  I've heard great things and flipped through pages from time to time, but I've never had the time or the means to work my way through all one hundred issues.  For the moment, it remains on my ever-growing "To Read" list of comic books.

Nevertheless, when I heard that the same creative team was reuniting to make the Batman Flashpoint tie-in, I was quite excited.  Though I'd never encountered the two together, I've thoroughly enjoyed my experience with their other works.  Having read through the first issue, I must say that this dynamic duo has lived up to all the hype.

The miniseries seems to fit right into the style of earlier Elseworlds titles: change one key element from a well-known story and rebuilt from there.  In this case, the difference in Batman's world is that Thomas Wayne, Bruce's father, is the family member who survives the tragic shooting in Crime Alley.  Perhaps a small change, but as we well know, even the smallest changes can have great consequences.

That's the setup and Azzarello and Risso make great use of it to present a world that is both familiar and strange.  Both Batman and Gotham City are much darker, more cynical, and far deadlier than what we're used to seeing.

The issue manages to present all necessary exposition while at the same time moving the plot along at a brisk rate.  It's well executed and manages to keep the reader engaged, wanting to discover more of this strange new world, wanting to see how this malicious Batman will solve the problems before him, and most of all, wanting to know what comes next.

I'm incredibly impressed by Azzarello's writing in this issue.  Dialogue is crisp, rarely bothering with more words than necessary.  There is a strong sense of unity throughout the issue, as themes and motifs are presented and developed naturally through the words and events of the book.  Azzarello conveys a wealth of information in a curt and concise manner, providing just the right combination of quick pacing and slower moments to maintain the reader's attention and interest.

It's clear that these two creators worked together for so long and to such great success, because Risso's art is to be the perfect compliment to Azzarello's script.  The world Risso is tasked to depict is a dark and desperate one, and he manages that with seemingly little difficulty.  Often in settings of this nature, the artist can overdo things, going over-the-top in an effort to insist on how "grim" and "gritty" things are, a pitfall that Risso avoids completely.  His art just works.  In my view, the Gotham he presents is exhausted.  Depleted.  It's a living, breathing place, but it is also a place without hope.  It continues on because it sees no option but to continue on.  The perfect allegory for this story's Batman.

Closing Thoughts - You should be reading this book.  It may just be a tie-in to DC's Flashpoint event and it may not "count" when it comes to continuity, but that doesn't matter.  Azzarello and Risso are telling a great story and that should be enough.

The only downside to all this is that I'm clearly going to have to work my way through 100 Bullets far sooner than I was intending to do so.  Fortunately, if it's anything like Batman: Knight of Vengeance, it'll be a great read.

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