Batman is primarily a street-level hero, fighting villains and gangs in the streets of Gotham. Sure, he’s been known to battle against planetary or multiversal threats when they arise along with the rest of the Justice League, but he still tends to stick to planet Earth more often than not.
So what happens when you take Batman out of Gotham and send him to space, where pretty much every alien is tougher than even the strongest human? Jason Aaron explores just that in “Batman: Off-World,” so let’s see how it goes for the caped crusader.
Written by Jason Aaron
Illustrated by Doug Mahnke
Colored by David Baron
Lettered by Troy Peteri
SUPERSTAR WRITER JASON AARON TEAMS UP WITH BLOCKBUSTER ARTIST DOUG MAHNKE FOR THE FIGHT OF THE DARK KNIGHT’S LIFE!
A routine night in Gotham City for a young Batman proves to be anything but routine when the crime-fighter is confronted with a sort of foe he’s never faced before—one from beyond the stars! A universe of possible alien threats leads Batman to make a daring decision—to venture alone into the far reaches of the cosmos for the very first time, where the Dark Knight will face the fight of his life! Superstar writer Jason Aaron delivers his first Batman story ever, partnered with artist Doug Mahnke for a unique, brutal tale!
“Batman: Off-World” takes Batman to the final frontier, presenting him with a new set of challenges. We’re used to a Batman who has his reputation, his gadgets, the Bat-family, and a large amount of wealth to rely on to back him up, so this comic takes all that away by putting him in an unfamiliar environment, leaving him with only his mind and body to rely on. It presents a new set of challenges for Batman, creating a unique story unlike your typical Bat-book.
Writer Jason Aaron is clearly having fun getting his turn at writing Batman. He puts us inside Batman’s head through the use of internal narration, demonstrating a solid grasp of the dark knight’s voice from one of his grittier eras. This is an analytical Batman, who can keep calm even when facing down strange aliens and is willing to take a beating for the sake of his plan. Additionally, this story is set earlier in Batman’s career (just about a year in, as we learn), so he’s still relatively inexperienced and has yet to encounter the many monsters, aliens, and godlike beings that Batman eventually faces as wins—this makes him feel more vulnerable, and puts him in a position to learn all about the space side of DC as the comic progresses.
But outside of the internal monologue, he’s a Batman of few words, relying on Doug Mahnke’s artwork to communicate everything we need to know. That’s not to say there’s no dialogue, of course; most of it is just provided by the various aliens onboard the ship. We’re introduced to a good assortment of characters, both central and secondary, who carry strong voices made all the more powerful and distinct thanks to the lettering by Troy Peteri. Their dialogue helps build the world and the setting, introducing us to the alien warship Batman finds himself on alongside his narration and the cast we’ll be getting to know throughout this mini-series.
There’s a great variety of aliens as well, including more familiar designs like Tamaraneans and Khunds, as well as more bizarre and creative designs that really let Doug Mahnke stretch his imagination. He uses a combination of humanoid designs and distinctly inhuman features, such as insectoid faces or tentacled hands, to make them feel, well, not of this world.
Even aside from the character designs, Mahnke’s artwork is strong all around. His style uses both bold silhouettes and linework along with gritty detailing to add a ton of detail and an appropriately rough edge. Each panel is absolutely filled with little details that add life to the world, from the damaged and weathered background within the ship to the creases of Batman’s cape, each showing all the thought that went into the designs and world. In fact, there’s so much that it runs the risk of getting overwhelming, but never crosses over that line.Continued below
The artwork carries the action nicely, with each panel’s action leading into the next with dynamic motion across each panel. This is, after all, a comic where Batman tears apart alien robots with a space chainsaw, so the creative team clearly knows how to make a fun action sequence. The internal monologue accompanying the action helps build the tension and guide us through the fight.
All the while, David Baron’s color work brings Mahnke’s illustrations to life. The color work complements the gritty, detailed designs well, relying on different scenery shades for different sections of the ship (and Gotham) to help establish the setting while letting the characters (and their distinctive color schemes) to pop against them. The colors aren’t too bright, but make good use of lighting and shadows to add volume and control the atmosphere, while utilizing a nice array of colors for the different alien species. When we shift back to Gotham, it returns to darker tones of gray and blue, contrasting nicely with the wider variety of colors in the alien ship.
Plus, there are some scenes showing off the dangers of space that use a stunning array of vivid shades to really pop off the page.
All-in-all, “Batman: Off-World” #1 is a unique kind of Batman comic, and that makes it all the more interesting. But it’s still allowed to have fun with the characters and setting, giving us plenty of action and a story that slowly builds across its pages to draw us in.
Final Verdict: 8.7 – A good start for a different kind of Batman story, with an excellent creative team bringing the world to life through the writing and art.