Andy Kubert's "Damian: Son of Batman" #1 marks the start of yet another book in DC's long list of Bat Comics, which -- though rife with gorgeous art -- ultimately adds nothing of substance to the Dark Knight's sprawling run. Taking place in a "possible" future where Damian never died, the book explores the consequences of Batman's death and its toll on Damian and Gotham's underworld. Although Kubert has a wide scope with which to exercise his creativity, his blase debut issue suffers from forced dialogue and faulty characterization, saved only by his incredible artwork.
Kubert's dialogue oscillates between colloquial and clunky, stilted speech. Where Damian sasses Batman in the first few pages with little jabs and occasional profanity, he uses words like "retch" and "melodramatic rhetoric" in the same breath. The diction simply sounds forced and unnatural, especially considering the age and disposition of the character. What's more, Damian isn't the only victim of such contrived dialogue; just about every character has a moment like this, which only serves to take the reader out of the story and remind them that they're reading a work of fiction.
Additionally, Damian's characterization seems out of sync with his previous incarnations. For instance, it's hard to believe that Damian, who is known as one of the cockiest members of Batman's family, would immediately turn to Talia and Ra's al Ghul for help after his father's death and, on top of that, be so shocked that they refuse. The trip also prompts questions that go unanswered in the issue, including, "If Damian did seek help, why did he not go to someone in the Batfamily first?" Damian -- in a nice little character moment -- expresses concern for Tim Drake in the opening pages, yet he and the others are nowhere to be found, even at Bruce's funeral.
Although Kubert's writing is certainly lacking, his artwork represents the opposite side of the coin; it is, in a word, stunning. Each panel reflects the painstaking effort that went into this issue's creation, from a sprawling shot of rain-soaked Gotham to the line detail in Alfred's face. His work with water stands out in particular for its ingenuity; he masters the way water moves and interacts with its environment through his use of refracted light and distorted view. Likewise, his layouts move the story along smoothly and he includes nice little nods to other Batman stories, such as Damian's suit-up montage. Each figure is fully developed; each background, loaded with detail. In addition, Brad Anderson's largely blue, green, and gray pallet sets the mood wonderfully and fleshes out the book's dark atmosphere.
If there is any reason to pick up this book, the art is it. Andy Kubert's "Damian: Son of Batman" #1 is a dazzling piece of artwork. Where Kubert isn't much of a writer, he sure is one hell of an artist.