The book opens with a look at Batman tangling with the Scarecrow, who’d recently escaped the confines of Arkham Asylum. It’s a strong opener that allows Kelley Jones to flex some sinister artwork, but he Scarecrow debacle is little more than a Launchpad for something greater, and far more hazardous.
Hell is slowly breaking loose in Gotham, and as it turns out, Scarecrow didn’t slip from Arkham alone. The Axeman also joined in on the psyche ward break. The Axeman has also rounded up a slew of local thugs. Caught in an ambush, Batman devours enough slugs to turn Bear Grylls into a babbling mess.
And while the book winds down with a group of petty crooks celebrating the death of Batman, we the reader know the chaos has only just begun. Batman: Gotham After Midnight promises the caped crusader will toe the line with plenty of familiar faces. Can he prevail and continue his reign over Gotham is a different question.
Steve Niles brings some great humor to this story. But the beauty comes in Niles’ overall balance, because there’s a clear edge to the book that draws the reader in immediately. And, I can’t spend my time praising Niles alone. Kelley Jones also deserves a wealth of praise, as this is a Batman that while familiar, also sports a few (minor) atypical physical traits. Jones plays off of Niles’ narrative wonderfully, and if the first book of this 12-issue arc doesn’t leave you eager for more, you may want to check your pulse.
I’ve piled the praise on heavily, but I should note that I prefer the profoundly dark Batman books (thing The Long Halloween, and sharper tales of that nature) to those that could appeal to the younger comic book reader out there. There’s nothing wrong with Niles’ story, it’s just a little bit… lighter than I’d prefer. Regardless, this is a strong enough book to warrant a strong rating.