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Comics | ‘Batman: Reptilian’ #1 Review



DC’s Black Label imprint has been in full swing for a few years now, attracting some of the best writers and artists to come back to DC for short, out of continuity, runs on the best characters DC has to offer. When “Batman: Reptilian” was first announced, the title alone intrigued me but hearing that writer Garth Ennis and artist Liam Sharp would be the team tackling this dark Batman tale, it was a must buy for me.

When you see that Garth Ennis (The Boys, Preacher) is attached to write a book, you know you’re in for quite a wild ride. The book opens with Batman confronting a rapist boxer, Edgar , leaving a courthouse. After Batman eggs him on with the list of atrocities he’s committed, Licchario takes swing at Batman only to fall and do some heavy damage to himself (leaving it up to the reader how badly hurt he is). 

Back in the batcave, Alfred points how unusually public his confrontation was but Batman explains that he wants to keep people guessing what his usual m.o. is, keeping people off guard of what his techniques are. Batman then gets a call that both Scarecrow and Mad Hatter have been found violently mutilated but still alive. 

Batman hits up a dive bar, pressuring the bartender into giving him the whereabouts of Konstantin Volkov, one of Scarecrow’s lieutenants. During this encounter, he throws a batarang at the seat of a patron, narrowly missing his “lower region” and telling him to “rinse it off first” before handing back to Batman. Again, Ennis playing around with the expectation on how Batman should act.

On the rooftops nearby, Volkov is surprised by the presence of Batman. Volkov explains that at a monthly meet-up with Batman’s A-list villains, they all felt the sudden and uncontrollable urge to start killing each other. As quickly as it started, the feeling went away and Volkov quit his post as Scarecrow’s number 2. 

Batman compels Volkov to join Joker’s gang instead, reminding him that “The Batman never kills” and that he’s far worse than the Joker can ever be for that reason. 

At first glance, this is a fairly short simple story: Batman finds out something weird is going on and finds a criminal he can manipulate to get down to the meat of the mystery. In all honesty, that’s what Garth Ennis does the best. Taking such simple premises and digging deep and releasing unexpected twists from that simple beginning. Especially given that this story arc isn’t attached to anything specific in Batman’s continuity, Ennis is sure to drop some jaw dropping details in the next few books. 

For this first issue, it took a couple rereads to really understand where Ennis could be heading to. Titling this arc “Reptilian” seems to be a purposeful misdirection. Everyone expects the title to refer to Killer Croc (to be far it still could be about him) but it seems to be pointing to something more primal in the characters coming up in the story arc. 

Personally, the real stand out from page 1 is Liam Sharp’s art. Any fans of his work know that he delivers on every book he touches. The great thing about Sharp is that he keeps fans of his work guessing from project to project.

In this first issue, Sharp imbues the story with a dream like quality. Batman’s cape unfurls around him almost like octopus tentacles. Sharp’s Batman stands almost twice as high as the character he is menacing. My favorite is in certain panels when both his eyes and mouth opening disappear into the shadows of his cowl, giving you the impression that the man in the costume is no longer there and only the Bat exists in the moment. 

The only real complaint this that I wanted more from this story right now. I wanted all the issues in a big hardcover to devour all at once, then again I am a very impatient person (DC, I will gladly take the rest of the issues right now, if possible. DM me for my home address, digital issues will not do).  It may take the reader a few rereads to really get into the world that Ennis and Sharp are setting up, but once you really start to get the Batman and the very specific version of Gotham that they are creating, i think you’ll be hooked. I have a feeling this run will easily become a legendary Batman storyline that is talked about for years. 

Writer/Podcaster/Cat Tiki-Toker. Currently either reading comics, watching movies or eating too much pizza.