The Batman’s Grave #1, published by DC Comics, is written by Warren Ellis, with pencils by Bryan Hitch, inks by Kevin Nowlan, colors by Alex Sinclair, and letters by Richard Starkings. The debut issue of the series follows Batman and what seems like a normal night on patrol. After being informed by Alfred that 911 is putting callers on hold, Batman investigates a call about an unexplained death. Once Batman puts himself in the mind of the victim, Vincent Stannik, he begins to go down a dangerous path.
The Batman’s Grave #1 is, at its core, a murder mystery, but it also does something every great Batman book should do: question Batman’s own sense of twisted morality. It does this primarily through Alfred. The issue opens with Alfred cleaning the Waynes’ graves and like most wealthy families, the Waynes had a plot built for their son. Alfred ponders Bruce’s future grave, realizing there is a strong chance he will see his pseudo-son die before he does. Alfred also later pushes Bruce to explain what exactly he thinks he is accomplishing as Batman, even at one point remarking he could do more good by just buying the city of Gotham as Bruce Wayne. This is a question that was similarly raised in Batman: White Knight and again in Batman: Curse of the White Knight. Alfred also compares his time as a solider to Batman’s crusade against crime and points out a lot of the hypocrisy in his no-kill rule.
The book not only grapples with the theme of Batman’s morality but also Batman’s humanity. Batman’s obsession with death won’t just get him killed, it is slowly killing him. Batman is losing his will to live as his days and nights are consumed with the thoughts and lives of the now deceased. From his parents to Vincent Stannik, Batman has thought more about death than the grim reaper. It put it bluntly, he is obsessed.
Ellis perfects the pacing of this issue. The start with Alfred is the perfect set-up to what otherwise would feel like a traditional murder mystery in Gotham. The twist of connecting it all to Batman’s own psyche elevates the story and adds more stakes as the reader feels Alfred’s pain and the fear of losing Bruce. The Batman’s Grave #1 reads more like a thriller than a straight-up horror comic, but Hitch’s artwork of Vincent’s decaying corpse and the final panel are haunting and the right amount of disgusting. Additionally, Nowlan is able to add a lot of dimension through the ink work while Sinclair creates a color palette that feels like Gotham. The city is dingy and dirty while the fluorescent lights of the buildings leave everything covered in a sickly green hue. It fits the city’s tired and weary aesthetic perfectly.
Overall, The Batman’s Grave #1 is a solid start to the series and is a Batman story that has a lot of classic elements while playing with uncomfortable and existential themes. Alfred’s fears are palpable on the page and Batman’s sure death may come sooner than Bruce expects. Either way, I look forward to the next issue.
The Batman’s Grave #1 is available now wherever comic books are sold.