Reading the first issue of "Batman: Gates of Gotham," I can't help but feel like we've seen this story before. Or should that be this story in reverse?
"Batman: Gates of Gotham" #1 is a lot of set-up; the Batman supporting cast is assembling (including a character whom a lot of readers will be happy to see make her return), bridges are exploding, and we've got hints that it connects to 19th century Gotham City. It's not a bad start, plotted out by Scott Snyder and Kyle Higgins, and scripted by Higgins. But it's moving a little slowly in places. The scene where Batman questions the Penguin, for instance, feels almost like Batman-on-autopilot. (How many "Batman" comics these days involve Batman questioning the Penguin, who despite his dirty hands is never actually involved in what he's being questioned about? It's a surprisingly high number.) And the last page reveal of another character actually made me groan, because I'd hoped we were finally rid of him, after showing up far too often over the past five years.
The really odd thing is that this feels like the "Destroyer" crossover that ran in the three Batman comics back in 1992, to tie into the "Batman" film and Anton Furst's beautiful city designs he'd created for the movie. There, the explosions were meant to reveal the older, more elegant buildings that were hidden for so long. Here, though, we're seeing the older bridges targeted; rather than erasing the modern to bring back the old, the old is being erased to bring about... well, that's the big question, right?
Trevor McCarthy's art looks great, a mixture of Jason Pearson's clean character designs and Chris Sprouse's carefully delineated faces and body shapes. It's a little cartoonish, a little sculpted, and in the process McCarthy is carving out his own distinct style. It lends itself well to the action sequences (like the bridge rescue), bounding and exploding across the page. But for me, the scene that stood out above the others was the quiet moment where Batman is underwater, surrounded by the bodies of those that didn't survive. His, "I think we need to be much faster," wouldn't have the same emotional punch without McCarthy's rendering of the scene.
"Batman: Gates of Gotham" #1 is a solid opening, but now that we've got the foundation out of the way I'm hoping things kick up a notch. With this creative team it has the potential to be great, and in a crowded (and overall strong) Batman group of comics, it's going to take great to truly stand out from the rest of the pack.