DC ROUND-UP: Zdarsky & Di Giandomenco fill in Bruce Wayne’s lost years with BATMAN: THE KNIGHT #1

The latest look at Batman’s origin gets off to a strong start.
THIS WEEK: Chip Zdarsky & Carmine Di Giandomenico’s imagining of Bruce Wayne’s ‘in-between’ years arrives with Batman: The Knight #1!
Note: This piece contains spoilers. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdicts.

Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Carmine Di Giandomenico
Color Artist: Ivan Plascencia
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
Cover Artist: Carmine Di Giandomenico
The period of Bruce Wayne’s life between the murder of his parents and his hitting the streets of Gotham dressed as a large flying rodent is, aside from a scant few stories, largely unexplored. In the two-page first telling of Batman’s origin in Detective Comics #33, it ranks just two panels, in which it’s said Bruce becomes “a master scientist” and that he “trains his body to physical perfection until he is able to perform amazing athletic feats.” Of all of the aspects of Batman’s origin, this period is arguably the one most up for interpretation. Enter writer Chip Zdarsky, artists Carmine Di Giandomenico & Ivan Plascencia, and letterer Pat Brosseau’s Batman: The Knight, a new imagining of those years of Bruce Wayne’s life that after one issue looks poised to become a pivotal entry in the Batman mythos.
The Bruce Wayne of The Knight’s first issue is a teenager, a student at Gotham Academy. The structure of the issue is immediately engaging, jumping around in time with most of the story told in flashback, with a framework of Bruce in a therapy session with a familiar psychologist who I’ve always found to be a fascinating and underutilized foil for Batman. It’s a structure that echoes something Bruce tells a girlfriend at one point, that he lives in both the past and the future simultaneously. Batman has always been a character driven by the tragedy of his past, and working toward a future where no child will ever have to suffer the way he did, so it’s interesting to see that aspect of the character laid out so plainly and so cleverly as a storytelling technique.
Zdarsky’s script also captures, perhaps more than any other story has, the volatile anger of young Bruce. He feels like a time bomb that could go off at any moment, far from the measured calculation of the Batman readers know now. Along with that, though, we get maybe the scariest Bruce Wayne we’ve ever seen. There’s one moment in particular, a conversation between Bruce and Alfred, that gave me pause in a great way. It’s easy to see how Bruce’s life could have gone in a very different direction, which adds an interesting sense of uncertainty to a story that we ostensibly already know the ending to.
It’s in the relationship between Bruce and Alfred where the issue truly comes alive. It’s clear from the start that, without Alfred in his life, young Bruce Wayne would never have developed into the man we know now. The absence of Alfred in the current Batbooks gives his appearances and his interactions with his young charge in this issue even more weight. Hopefully that relationship will continue to play a central role in this series, even as Bruce begins his globetrotting studies.

I’ve talked a lot about story and characters, but it can’t be overstated how fantastic Carmine Di Giandomenico and Ivan Plascencia’s artwork on this book is. Best known for their bright, highly-kinetic work on The Flash, the pair bring an entirely different feel to The Knight. Batman’s world is one of heavy shadows, but for an adolescent Bruce Wayne Di Giandomenico and Plascencia find a middle ground, with darkness hovering over Bruce’s therapy session and a few of the flashbacks broken up by naturally-lit Gotham Academy scenes between Bruce and his classmates and friends. The storytelling feels appropriately grounded and straightforward, which allows the characters and the events of the issue to take center stage without distraction. I’ll be curious to see how the storytelling shifts as Bruce’s travels lead him into more action-packed situations.

Batman: The Knight #1 is an excellent debut issue for the series. I must admit, when I saw the announcement of yet another telling of Batman’s origin, I was skeptical, but I’m happy to admit that I was wrong to be. Zdarsky, Di Giandomenico, Plascencia, and Brosseau appear to be more than up to the task of putting a fresh spin on and adding new depth to a well-documented story.
Final Verdict: Buy.

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