12 issues of Warren Ellis & Bryan Hitch on "The Batman's Grave"? I can dig it!

Writing: Warren Ellis, Art: Bryan Hitch, Inks: Kevin Nowlan, Colors: Alex Sinclair, Letters: Richard Starkings.

The Brit creative team of Ellis and Hitch that gave a grateful comic book world The Authority is reuniting for a 12-issue series that will take The Batman on a metaphysical journey that addresses the meaning of life and death, and the fine line between the two. The duality symbolism starts on a heavy-handed note on the front cover.

If there’s one thought that kept entering my head while reading this story, it was “That’s different!” So forgive me in advance if I use that word often.

Issue #1 deals with a man found dead in his apartment who was very obviously obsessed with The Batman. His apartment was literally wallpapered with Batman photos and clippings accumulated over years. On this case, finding his killer will mean getting into the minds of both the killer and the victim. So deeply, that it can be easy to lose one’s self. I am looking forward to Ellis’ take on highlighting the criminal/procedural/detective aspects of Batman that we don’t see nearly enough of these days.

Hitch has illustrated a very practically uniformed Batman before (JLA and Justice League), but his version in this story includes cowl bat-ears that are a bit different, curving inwards slightly for an even more batlike appearance. This armored suit does not include Bat-shorts on the outside, thankfully. Hitch’s widescreen Batcave reveal doesn’t disappoint, in all its multi-level grandeur, gadgetry, and detail. This Batcave does not double as a trophy hall, though…this is a no-nonsense cave that is designed to be all business for a scientist and a detective.

Ellis and Hitch’s Alfred is a bit different too. This isn’t the frail butler with the stiff Brit upper lip and comb-over, but an ex-military David Niven lookalike who puts his sock feet up on Bruce's coffee table and has a nightcap in front of the fire.

Letterer Richard Starkings takes a different approach to his work on this series as well. Instead of the traditional ALL CAPS lettering in speech or thought balloons, upper and lower case is used. It’s a welcome visual and subliminal volume change that I wish more letterers used more frequently. With ALL CAPS established in social media to indicate shouting, perhaps this comic book tradition needs to change. Leave the ALL CAPS for times when yelling or emphasis is actually required.

Kevin Nowlan has always been one of my favorite artists. However, when he inks someone else’s pencils he has always had the tendency to overwhelm and obscure the penciler’s style with his own so completely, it often isn’t easy to tell who the penciler is. That is not the case here thankfully; Hitch shows through loud and clear. It’s a very different Nowlan inking job than we have see before, more light-handed and faithful. So much so that it isn’t easy to tell he is the inker. How’s that for a twist?

Colorist Alex Sinclair’s skill and eye for detail is impressive, down to small touches like shadows cast under Batman’s cowl, nightvision-protecting red lighting in the Batmobile, or hard water stains in an apartment sink. All these little things add so much to the reality of a scene.

The Batman’s Grave #1 from DC Comics is on sale Wednesday, October 9, 2019.

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