By Dustin Cabeal
I have some regret for not putting this on my best of 2017 list. It’s likely to get a spot on this year’s list because already two issues in on this series, and it’s one of the best comics I’ve ever read. The mixture of the real-world and fictional DC world is balanced brilliantly making you forget that this too is a fictional world.
Bruce Wainwright has become like Bruce Wayne. From his parent’s death, he has become incredibly wealthy with the help of his Uncle Alfred. Bruce is a golden child of business, everything he seems to touch goes well, and like his idol, he’s popular with the women. His Batman is still present. Their connection isn’t explained fully yet as Bruce is still learning. We do quickly learn that Bruce’s Batman only cares about one thing, keeping Bruce safe.
It’s hard to put my finger on the journey that Kurt Busiek is taking Bruce Wainwright on. It’s not all roses and sunshine, but then neither is Batman’s fictional life. The thing is, he is mirroring something. Every little bit of Bruce’s life echoes some aspect of Batman’s, if not by chance, then by force. Perhaps I’m just not as well versed in Batman lore as I need to be in order to figure this all out, but there is a twist in this issue, much like there was in the first. The twist changes everything and pulls the direction of the story.
It is my very random guess that overall message of the series will end up being something about the law enforcement system. That or another twist could be that Bruce will become the thing that he hates and continue the cycle of violence that took his parents from him. Who knows at this point, but that’s one of the best things about this comic series, it makes you guess. When you first get into comics, you just want to read and see where things go. Then after reading so many books, the formulas start to play out and those hypothetical conversations about where a story was going, run their course because there’s nothing left to guess. Batman: Creature of the Night brings back that feeling of, “what’s going to happen, here’s what I would do…” That is the feeling so many people are trying to capture or express when they talk about comics. The long serial form, similar to wrestling, allows for your own imagination and familiarity to fill in blanks that aren’t yours to fill in.
The writing is superb. Busiek will go down as one of the greatest comic book writers period, but this work, in particular, shows that he hasn’t lost his touch in the least. He is one of those rare creators that continues to deliver stories at their highest level. This isn’t meant as a petty jab, but not every creator will be able to say that at the end of their career. The narration continues to be the strongest aspect of the writing, and the way it switches back and forth between Bruce and Alfred is terrific.
As I said in my review of the first issue, John Paul Leon is delivering career-defining work. This story lives and breathes at the tip of his pencil. Because it’s not just Bruce’s story, but all the classic Batman comics and panels that Leon is creating and molding to this new story. It’s a Batman story told over the years and as Batman changes so does Bruce. The visuals are sharp as they command your attention and drive the story. The narration is golden, it’s fantastic to read, but so much is conveyed just through the art. What the story can’t say, the art does, and that’s what a robust comic collaboration looks like. It looks like Batman: Creature of the Night.
When a series like this comes around, it’s a double-edged sword for a reviewer. You want to review each issue and look forward to it, but then you wonder how many time and different ways you can say, “I love this book with every fiber of my comic reading body”? I don’t know, but we’ll find out because I will absolutely be back for the rest of this series. By far the best book DC is publishing, and if Busiek decides to tackle another DC character, in the same way, I’ll be the first to put my pre-order money on the counter. Plain and simple, you should be reading this story, regardless of whether you read DC Comics or superhero books.
Batman: Creature of the Night