"Grotesk" (Part 1)
Writer: John Ostrander
Artist: Tom Mandrake, Nathan Eyring (colors)
Publisher: DC Comics
Is it wrong or even Uber-nerdy to want to whoop from joy after reading through a comic? I ask because that is what I wanted to do after my read of this issue of Batman and I do mean, BATMAN, the real one, and not the noob-boob cavorting (out of costume) and bumbling (in costume) around for the last four issues. Maybe the "main" creative team (Morrison/Kubert) should take some lessons from this "fill-in" (Ostrander/Mandrake).
I could start off the main review by commenting about DC’s scheduling confusions and delays, and how Post-IC they have only increased (and not just additively, but by multiples if not exponentially). However, I am in too good a mood to fret over by how the Return of the Joker was bumped down the line. The Joker is my favorite Bat-Villain, but after four months, I am in no hurry to see Morrison’s take on him. Let sleeping Jokers lie, for now.
The main story here is just as much about a true, honest to God, good old fashioned (am running out of flowery adjectives here), BAT-story as it is about introducing a new Bat-villain, one who is looking to join the annals of Bat-Bad Guys. Then again, he might not. After all, just take a look at what a joke Hush became and that too within such a short time. Then there is Jason "I do everything second" Todd (Robin II, Red Hood II, Nightwing II; What next? Power Girl II?).
The story kicks off with a murder-by-burning. One of three that have rocked Gotham within the span of a few weeks. This is not the work of the usual arson suspects: Firefly, Firebug, Fire-put anything here. Instead, it and the others that occur through the process of this issue are attributed to the new-guy-on-the-block, Grotesk (as the press labels him).
As for Grotesk and what/who he is, think about Igor, the subservient Friday (Robinson Crusoe anyone?) to Dr. Frankenstein. Drawn with the similar physical, body and facial, features, Grotesk is Igor’s more confident (and tons angrier) twin. On a crusade to rid Gotham of its criminal element and wrong doers, Grotesk aims for a one and for all solution: just burn ‘em up. Alive!
Adding oil to the fire-mystery is one Dr. Amina Franklin. A medical doctor, Amina splits her time between her "paying" job and volunteer work at the Leslie Thompkins’ clinic. Remember Leslie Thompkins? A close and old family friend to the Waynes and a sort of surrogate mother to Bruce, Leslie went loco (becoming a criminal in Bruce’s eyes) when she let lie..., nah..., when she killed teenager Stephanie Brown, the Spoiler and girlfriend to Tim Drake (Robin). Am not sure how it stands now in the Post-IC DCU, but it seems (as rumors go) that Leslie’s murder of Stephanie has been retconned away, with Black Mask being the one made responsible for it. Then again he (Black Mask) is dead, killed by Catwoman (Selina Kyle) so who is he going to tell? Yay for crackpot old women resorting to cold-blooded murder for an easy way out to..., well..., to prove their point.
Back to Amina and her part here. An ex of Bruce Wayne (then again, which dateable woman in Gotham isn’t that. Even Bat-"still in the closet"-woman has her name in that list), Amina may or may not have some very close ties to Grotesk. Nevertheless, even ignoring that she is already tied into the big mystery here as is her (for now) dead brother, Wayne. The inventor of a new revolutionary medical process/tool, Dr. Wayne Franklin had fallen in with the Russian mafia (as it stands, the Russians are trying to replace (or have replaced) the Italians as Gotham’s Mafioso), and it is probably this involvement that led to his untimely demise. It is this same "money owing" involvement that leads to Amina being tied into the mystery, and with her past with Bruce also coming into play, this Dr. Franklin is a major participant of this chessboard.
The artwork here is truly Batman-esque. Truly because seeing Mandrake’s work here, it is all the more glaring what Andy Kubert and Jesse Deplerdang had been aiming for with their rough lines and dark inks. At least I hope they were. There is an ambience of mature flair here, be it in the BAT or the Bruce Wayne side of things. Even if the colors (Nathan Eyring) do seem a bit dark at times, overall I found this team a better fit for the BAT than the one it replaces/is filling in for. If not on this title, I would like to see more of them on ‘Tec or even the upcoming successor the outgoing Legends of the Dark Knight, Batman: Confidential.
Conclusion: Most clichéd and just for that, the coolest tidbit? I-GOR, Wayne Franklin’s invention, it comes across as a (well deserved) nod to one of the oldest and most, uh, underappreciated characters of modern literature and even more so, movies. Viva la Igor.
You can find more reviews by Bruce Logan at www.xcave.net
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