Writer: Dan Abnett / Artists: Philip Tan, Tyler Kirkham / DC Comics
One of seven evil Batmen from the Dark Multiverse of DC’s “Metal” event, Batman: The Drowned has the only woman analog to our familiar Bruce Wayne, and all I’m here to say is, Bryce has bars. Bar soap, bar tab, bar exam, bar code, raise the bar, Bartholomew – the calm of voice mixed with the righteous conviction in her cause makes for a chilling inner dialogue as she leaves the ocean to survey the land she wishes to conquer in revenge.
This iteration of Batman has the powers of Aquaman, with whom she clashes in this first issue to dramatic opening effect. Bryce is familiar with the Atlantean despite never having met him, but having met her own universe’s version of them in the past. She met them when, in genuine Batman skepticism and psychopathy, she sought to fight them when they “invaded,” or, as the Atlanteans called it, came in peace. Whose version you believe is up to the reader but it’s clear what we’re led to expect: Bryce Wayne is unhinged.
Cheated from the life and world she once had, Bryce makes for a compelling, scary villain who believes in the rightness of her cause despite employing insane and treacherous means to reach it. Artistically, this shadowed Dark Knight mixed with Aquaman makes for a menacing sight, largely due to the trident that takes our original Batman’s preservation of life off the table. With ashen skin, a fallen Gotham, and an army of de-facto zombies, Tan and Kirkham take the dark blues and aqua greens and mix them brilliantly with the shadows to create this dark underground world evocative of our fears under the surface of the ocean. And the panel progression plays them up to full effect: fast, scary, shocking.
Overall, Batman: The Drowned #1 is one hell of a start, and the beginning of a perfect October read. Look forward to this and other miniseries from this “Metal” event as we see the nightmares of what Bruce Wayne could have been, and what happens when those nightmares, sick of their lot in the multiverse, attack.
Reading DC’s “Metal” event? Find BNP’s other reviews of the series here.