Batman Dark Age #1 featured Reviews 

“Batman: Dark Age” #1

By | March 28th, 2024
Posted in Reviews | % Comments

A unique take on the origins of Batman comes to its beginning with “Batman: Dark Age” #1.

Cover by Michael and Laura Allred
Written by Mark Russell
Illustrated by Michael Allred
Colored by Laura Allred
Lettered by Dave Sharpe

Meet Bruce Wayne, Gotham’s favorite delinquent son. In an origin story like no other, witness the boy become a dark knight shaped by a city in turmoil as it marches towards its prophesied doom.

Set against the backdrop of actual historical events, Gotham comes alive, filled with the iconic characters who’ve loved and hated Batman over the years like you’ve never seen them before.

Spinning out of the Eisner-nominated Superman: Space Age, Mark Russell and Mike Allred return to give audiences a look at Batman as a figure in American history fighting for justice in a world gone mad.

The origin story of Batman is very famous, in no small part due to numerous film, television shows, video games, novels, and more. A young, wealthy boy sees his parents killed in an alley after seeing a film, classically The Mark of Zorro from 1940. Thereafter, said boy, with the help of his butler to one degree or another, learns the ways of terror, stealth, combat, and more to become a caped crusader against crime in his city, aided by his father’s company.

Well, this is not that story. Or at least, it isn’t yet. Instead, crafting an origin that seems to be for the Bruce Wayne from “Superman: Space Age” (though the timelines do not quite match up), Mark Russell, Mike Allred, and company have a different, albeit familiar, idea in mind. Rather than jump right into Batman, they posit what would happen if the story dwelt on Bruce Wayne more before he took up the cowl. How does this creative team do at pulling together disparate threads to make something new from the renowned tale?

From a narrative perspective, Mark Russell does a phenomenal job. At first, the story feels all too typical, all too familiar, barring the highly advanced city of the near future. “Batman: Dark Age” #1 is tale told in flashback, as if to say the specifics do not matter, since we know certain characters survive for quite some time. From the Waynes and Alfred Pennyworth to people in height society or the dredges of the underworld, fans are apparently expected to know what they are getting into. However, there is a hard pivot early on, and this story is shaping up to be something very different. Sure, the characters are ultimately similar, but their contexts and the scenarios we find them in are drastically different. For one of the less overt elements, The Mark of Zorro was apparently filmed at Gotham Studios, and was small enough that a young Bruce had not heard about it by the showing in 1957.

Chief among those differences is in the antagonists. A lesser-known group (at least to the general populace) is the most direct villainous entity, itself with a possible twist on who seems to be leading them. Moreover, the use of power, rather than superpowers, to shape a city in the 1950s and 1960s marks how Russell aims to differentiate this world from that of classic comic books. Such an examination of the very nature of power provides an interesting groundwork from which Russell can grow this story.

The character of Bruce Wayne himself is under intense examination in this first part of a new Batman origin. Unlike many versions, Russell’s Bruce did not join his parents in going to the showing of The Mark of Zorro, and the fact that he was not a witness to his parents’ murder, coupled with a greater emphasis on him as the heir to the Wayne fortune and legacy, leads to him becoming a much less sympathetic figure. The effect is likely intentional, as the memoirs looking back seem to indicate that an older Bruce Wayne hates his younger self for his selfishness and unwillingness to accept Gotham is a part of himself despite living on its outskirts, though he is resigned to it having happened with nothing that can be done to change that.

Continued below

Michael Allred’s style is sharp, thick, and distinctive, making for a kind of old-time feel that helps this story fit in marvelously with the earlier period it harkens back toward. The style seems focused more on setting scenes, rather than intensity of facial expressions. By keeping that broad lens for the most part, Allred is able to allow readers to focus in on the overall events happening, much like how the narrative is primarily one of an aging Bruce Wayne looking back on his long life.

Laura Allred’s colors work very well with this wider lens. They never quite “pop,” but instead they help to inform the story itself. The brighter colors of the daytime give an impression of possible hope for the future, and one character’s relatively garish palette sets him distinctly apart from the rest. On the other hand, the deeper shadows in the night make it more similar to a classic Batman story, settling into familiar ground so that the writing can trip readers up with new twists.

Final Verdict: 8.0 – A classic story is turned on its head to great effect in this debut.

Gregory Ellner

Greg Ellner hails from New York City. He can be found on Twitter as @GregoryEllner or over on his Tumblr.