Image: DC Comics

Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen’s Superman: Secret Identity is one of DC’s most accessible, emotionally charged stories, telling a story set in a world where superheroes like Batman and Superman are fictional comic-book characters. Secret Identity explored the life of a boy named Clark Kent who resents his name because of all the Superman connotations, but then he mysteriously gains Superman’s powers, triggering a new sense of responsibility to help the world.

Batman: Creature Of The Night is Busiek’s highly anticipated follow-up with artist John Paul Leon, who has a similarly realistic, detailed style as Immonen, but is more somber and severe in his linework and compositions. Like Secret Identity, Creature Of The Night is a four-issue prestige format miniseries, and everything about this book spotlights the benefits of the prestige format. The cardstock cover gives it weight, the extra page count allows Busiek to pack in a lot of story, and Leon’s textured inks and delicate colors look great on the glossy pages, which have a thicker stock that makes the book more durable.

Image: DC Comics; cover by John Paul Leon

Unlike the Clark Kent of Secret Identity, Creature Of The Night’s Bruce Wainwright adores Batman comics and wants to associate himself with Bruce Wayne as much as possible. Unfortunately, he learns first-hand the nightmare of his childish Batman dream when his parents are killed, leaving him an orphan aching for his parents and desperate for vengeance. While Secret Identity was part romantic drama, and part sci-fi thriller, Creature Of The Night goes for a crime and horror hybrid as it delves deep into Bruce’s trauma while connecting him to a strange, dangerous being that lurks in the shadows of Boston.

While Bruce descends further into darkness, family friend Alton Frederick, a.k.a. Alfred, wants to bring Bruce into his family but can’t for undisclosed reasons. It’s hinted that Alfred is gay, which means he can’t adopt a child in 1968, adding an entirely new level of tragedy to the Bruce and Alfred dynamic. Creature Of The Night’s dual narration shows how Bruce and Alfred interpret the same events, and while Alfred provides valuable context with his more mature, pragmatic perspective, Bruce’s narration deepens the emotional content of the narrative by showing the intensity of his isolation and need to escape.

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This exclusive preview of next week’s Batman: Creature Of The Night #1 shows Bruce in the day immediately after his parents’ deaths, beginning with his near-death experience after also being shot. There’s nothing sensational about these pages, and the reason these stories work so well is because Busiek and his collaborators do such exceptional work grounding the characters and their world. Leon showed off how well he works in Gotham City with his arc on Mother Panic earlier this year, and he captures the spirit of that setting in his interpretation of 1968 Boston. As striking as his environments are, his character work is what enriches the story most, and the splash page of Bruce at his parents’ grave in this excerpt distills the character’s cold loneliness in one heartbreaking image.

Image: DC Comics
Image: DC Comics

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Image: DC Comics
Image: DC Comics
Image: DC Comics

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Image: DC Comics
Image: DC Comics