The Batman corner of the DC Universe seems so awash with hype for the 'Night of the Owls' crossover, that the launch of this unconnected (so far) series has flown a little under the radar, despite the presence of superstar writer Grant Morrison. It's lack of connection to Night of the Owls is initially a little jarring, but to Morrison's credit he has managed to tell a compelling opening chapter without stepping on any of the other Bat-writers toes too much.
The plot of this first issue is hugely rich, and packed with layers that gradually begin to unravel as its plot progresses. It isn't obviously tied to the other Bat-titles currently being published, but uses them to further its ambitions. There is reference for example to the recent opening arc of Batman and Robin and to Dick Grayson's stint as the Caped Crusader. These are small details, but they add a depth to the story and a feeling of interconnectedness that is often absent from more self contained arcs. Morrison gets right to the heart of what makes Batman such a great character here too - there is intrigue, suspense and a set of rivetingly macabre villains.
Chris Burnham's pencils straddle the fine line between cartoony and realistic, a balance that it is difficult to meet correctly. He manages it with aplomb however, and his work here is varied and detailed throughout, aided by some great colours from Nathan Fairbarn. Some of his layouts are excellent too, and some fine storytelling skills are displayed across the issue.
This may not be tied as closely to D.C's New 52 as other series' are, but as the issue gradually reveals, it promises to be a series that will be highly significant for Batman's world. Chris Burnham's art is excellent, and Morrison's script is straightforward and easy to follow,while still containing the wacky touches that make him such an interesting writer. A very strong start.