Writer: Warren Ellis
Pencils: Bryan Hitch
Inks: Kevin Nowlan
Colours: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Richard Starkings
Release Date: 9th October 2019
The prospect of Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch collaborating on a grounded, detective-focused Batman series is pretty much all I needed to know to guarantee I’d be picking up the first issue of The Batman’s Grave. While Ellis has perhaps been a little hit-and-miss in recent years, the sheer potential of watching him sink his teeth into his first full-length Batman story in 25 years has to be worth a roll of the dice, right?
As it turns out, this is very much an on-form Ellis, delivering a confident take on the Dark Knight as Bruce tries to solve the murder of a mysterious loner in the bed of his own apartment. This is the perfect tonic for readers tired of watching Batman fighting space aliens and ancient gods, and shows a shrewd focus on what a lot of people consider the true core of the character.
That said, while the murder investigation which runs throughout the course of this first issue certainly keeps things moving forwards, it’s the frustrated outburst by Alfred midway through the issue that provides the real meat of the story. We’re all familiar with Alfred as the loyal support, expressing some occasional concern for Bruce’s welfare, but for the most part falling into step with his master. Instead, Ellis gives us a wearier Alfred, clearly frustrated and slightly disillusioned by the whole “Batman” shtick, and worried about the inherent risks in Bruce’s philosophies.
As expected, Bryan Hitch does a great job with the artwork for the most part, with the usual caveat that he’s much better drawing stationary characters than ones in motion, as a couple of awkwardly posed paged of fisticuffs emphatically prove here. Kevin Nowlan’s inks and Alex Sinclair’s colours bring some much needed depth and shadow to the visual side of the book, with a suitably subdued palette and wonderfully imposing rendition of Dark Knight.
This is a stripped-down, street level Batman detective tale with a genuinely disturbing denouement, but it doesn’t quite feel like the first issue of a series just yet. Whatever direction this is going, Ellis is clearly keeping his cards close to his chest so far, although the solicitation info suggests that the aforementioned denouement is likely to have a profound effect on the psyche of the Dark Knight moving forwards – and rightfully so. So at the end of the day, you’re even remotely a fan of Batman the detective, this is definitely worth a look.