Story-Arc: Creature of the Night.
Writer(s): Kurt Busiek.
Artist(s): John Paul Leon.
Colourist(s): JOHN PAUL LEON.
Letterer(s): Todd Klein.
Publisher: DC Comics.
Release Date: March 31st, 2020.
Genre(s): Comics, Science-Fiction.
My Overall Rating: ★★☆☆☆.
There’s nothing more reassuring than to imagine the world protected by our favourite superheroes. To know that somewhere out there, there’s a Superman or a Batman who secretly helps law enforcement take down the bad guys and keep us safe in our everyday lives. It’s only as we grow older that we learn that heroes might not come in the form of super-powered alien beings from other planets, that heroes are born out of an unselfish desire to help others, whether it’s by arresting criminals by wearing a legal badge or extinguishing fires that no one in their right minds would otherwise dare to confront. Unfortunately for one kid, his pure love for a superhero was envenomed by a devastating robbery that will trigger a chain of psychological events and turn him into an obsessive and mentally-ill boy. A spiritual companion to Superman: Secret Identity, writer Kurt Busiek attempts to explore a dark, twisted, and terrifying mind through a child’s love for Batman.
What is Batman: Creature of the Night about? The story follows a young nine-year-old boy by the name of Bruce Wainwright who happily indulges Batman comics, innocently viewing the world as the Dark Knight. It’s upon a horrific tragedy that strikes his parents that his life absorbs a dramatic shock that will turn his mind into a fragile territory for a nightmare like none other. Psychologically-devastated, unable to understand the unfairness of the world in which he lives and the lack of a Batman to help him avoid such tragedies, he desperately wishes that his favourite superhero would seek vengeance upon the people who dare steal his happiness, to cleanse his city of the evil and the corrupt for once and for all. Unfortunately for him, there was no one there to tell him to be careful about what he wished for, for now, a strange dark creature roams the night and there’s nothing he can do about it.
For this four-issue graphic novel to enamour the reader, there is one premise that readers will have to believe in: that the gazillion of coincidences found between the life of Bruce Wainwright (from his name to the insanely numerous number of characters who have similarities with Batman’s lore) and Bruce Wayne are original, striking, and plausible. If the constant attempt to link this character to Batman does not throw you off already, allow the writer’s attempt to reconstruct and explore the superhero’s personality and the universe to suffocate you with an unappreciative exploration of a superhero originally driven by sacrifice, justice, retribution, and hope. There is simply no love for Batman here.
This is a story that disapproves of the hero and voices a statement on the hero’s toxicity to people and society. The story also suffers greatly from the character’s obsession with fixing the unfairness that he suffers in his life. Many subplots are poorly developed and rarely ever manage to capture the reader’s attention by continuously bombarding the same ideas whilst building up the almost inevitable and obvious plot twist. There’s simply no moral to this story that could impress the reader beyond establishing that the idea of Batman is a delusional projection of our inability to protect ourselves from danger.
While the story might not have worked as well as I’d hoped it did, the artwork by John Paul Leon is quite remarkable. Channeling his inner David Mazzucchelli (Batman: Year One), he brilliantly draws Boston in the same vein as Gotham while capturing the darkness that it is engulfed in. The shadow work that is crucial to the storyline is also perfectly executed, allowing the story to bring out the dual-tonality that is often associated with the character. This representation of good and evil, through light and darkness, allows for an immersive experience that also gives us the opportunity to immediately understand the parallels between Bruce Wainwright and Bruce Wayne, beyond the obnoxious and obvious characters incorporated into the narrative.
Batman: Creature of the Night is a poor attempt to explore a fan’s love for Batman following a derivative tragedy that will send him down a dangerous path.