Don’t be fooled by the big number one on the cover; this is “Batman: Odyssey” #7. On the title page, the comic is called ‘Part 7’ and it picks up where the sixth issue left off many months ago. This wasn’t a case of issue six completing a story arc; the seventh issue simply did not come out, leaving fans of the series to wonder if, perhaps, DC had scrapped the whole thing without an announcement, hoping everyone would forget about it and move on. Instead, it’s been ‘relaunched’ as volume two without anything to distinguish it from a seventh issue except for the number on the cover. What I’m trying to say is: this is not a jumping-on point, it’s not a change in direction, it’s not a new story, and, if you didn’t like “Batman: Odyssey” already, then you best leave this comic at the shop. For those who did like “Batman: Odyssey” and the weird story Neal Adams was telling, get ready, because things get even weirder in this issue.
To a degree, this issue is ‘new reader friendly’ with the opening pages devoted to a shitless, hairy-chested Bruce Wayne recounting recent events to a listener (who’s hands we can finally see) like previous issues have all begun. Wayne’s rundown is less a coherent recap of what’s happened than it is rambling reminder of plot points, revelations about what scenes from previous issues meant, and the introduction of new information. It’s hard to say if it actually explains things in a manner that a new reader would understand, but it’s definitely helpful for anyone who hasn’t read the first six issues since they came out.
Basically: Ra’s al Ghul’s son, Sensei, wants to kill his father, and al Ghul has turned to Batman for help. In the process, Batman has possibly learned that his entire vigilante career is a conspiracy to keep him focused on Gotham instead of the ‘bigger picture’ and, now, he has to journey to the center of the planet with a Neanderthal who calls himself ‘Bat-Man’ and his kid sidekick that appears to have evolved from a dinosaur. And all of this may just be a smokescreen for Adams to promote his ‘Expanding Earth’ theory.
On the surface, this entire comic is the sort of book that you would either assume is ironic and purposefully striving to be read as ‘insane’ or some insane artifact from decades ago that demonstrates that ‘comics were crazy back then.’ Dig deeper and Adams shows an oddly casual sensibility that veers wildly between ‘realism’ and ‘outrageous fantasy.’ He draws a casual, coffee-drinking half-naked Bruce Wayne exactly how you’d imagine he would be: completely unselfconscious. His Ra’s al Ghul is awkward and lost, finding himself in a situation where he’s useless and everyone knows it. And, honestly, a giant conspiracy to keep Bruce Wayne in his cape and cowl is the best explanation for the revolving doors at Arkham I’ve ever heard.
Yet, this is side-by-side with Batman riding a giant bat below the surface of the planet, Robin literally falling over in shock when it’s revealed that his Bat-Man counterpart evolved from a dinosaur, and a page devoted to the wonders of geodes. This is the most unpredictable comic book either of the big two has released in years and it’s completely sincere and utterly wonderful. “Batman: Odyssey” volume 2 #1 looks and reads like nothing else on the shelf and I’m thankful it has returned to complete the story it began months ago.