DC Comics’ digital division has been turning out a surprisingly high number of good-quality comics lately, and added to that mix now is Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs’ “Batman: Li’l Gotham” #1. Planned as a series of holiday-themed releases, this first issue tackles Halloween and you easily get more than your money’s worth.
Nguyen and Fridolfs’ plot for “Batman: Li’l Gotham” #1 isn’t too detailed; Batman takes Damian Wayne out for patrol during Halloween, and it becomes rapidly clear that growing up with Talia al Ghul didn’t involve any sort of trick-or-treating. It doesn’t really matter, though. Damian’s befuddlement over trying to figure out who’s real and who just a costumed kid is amusing, and even better is his flashback for what he, Talia, and Ra’s al Ghul did for fun back in the day. (Let’s just say that it fits the theme of this issue and leave it at that.)
By the time the final punch line shows up with a horde of people in a local restaurant, Nguyen and Fridolfs have charmed you through and through. They’ve got a strong handle on Damian and Bruce’s relationship, and there are lots of little gems throughout the issue as Damian fumbles his way through Halloween. Even better, that final punch line is really two built into one; it’s a great way to wrap up the comic and shows that they know how to land that final beat.
The big star, though, is Nguyen’s art. He’s been drawing the small, young, adorable (or “chibi-style”) versions of the Batman characters for a while now, so it’s great to see them expanded into a full comic. In many ways “Batman: Li’l Gotham” #1 is meant for the digital medium because it’s great to be able to stop and get a closer look at all of the characters packed into every page. Nguyen’s art looks like it’s been created in watercolors, with colors bleeding across the page beautifully and providing a great mixture of loose and tight lines to provide just the right amount of detail. Some of the visual gimmicks — Batman as a college professor, Poison Ivy’s slurping up a strand of spaghetti, the Joker’s rose clenched between his teeth — are so great that they’re the proverbial icing on the cake. This is a great looking comic from start to finish.
“Batman: Li’l Gotham” #1 is so cute I can barely stand it, but I mean that in the most positive way possible. This is a great usage of the digital delivery medium — a book that might not do quite as well as a print edition but for a dollar is a perfect impulse buy — and Nguyen and Fridolfs show us that they’re well suited to this particular tone and style. Will I be buying the next issue with its Thanksgiving issue? I dare you to try and stop me. With just the right mixture of humor and drama, “Batman: Li’l Gotham” #1 is a winner.