Yes I knew going into this book that this wasn't the Batman I have grown up with for 40 odd years, but as you read the book you quickly realise that this Batman doesn't think things through. He acts on instinct rather than planning and then counter planning any situation that may arise, this is a Batman who is untrained, undisciplined, headstrong, arrogant and angry. He may have grown up, but inside him there is still a spoilt child that due to his actions got his parents killed.
We first see him at the start of the book chasing down a suspect which includes the obligatory jump from building to building, its nothing new we've seen it all before what is new is that he misjudges the ledge and ends up falling flat on his back into the ally. Does he get back up and give chase no this Batman just gives up, he even ignores a shop robbery that's taking place right in front of him as he watches from the ally. We are seeing a Batman who acts like a spoilt child, and if he doesn't get his own way then he's not playing.
This is essentially a Batman Year 1 story told from a different perspective, Bruce wants revenge on the people who were responsible for his parents death and he will stop at nothing to get it. Bruce's back story is told through flashbacks so we get to see the death of his parents and the part he played in it, the origin of their death is still in place and all the known parts are there. However they are tweaked just enough, to give you a different and interesting twist to the tragedy of their murder.
All the usually players that you would expect to find in a Batman story are there, but their connection and interaction to Bruce/Batman are totally different from what we are used too. Bruce's parents are still Thomas and Martha but Thomas sells medical tech and is running for Mayor, while Martha is his campaign manager and had the maiden name of Arkham before she married Thomas. Alfred is an ex soldier who literally will shoot first and ask questions later, while James Gordon is a seemingly broken and down trodden man, a far cry from the Commissioner we all know. Other characters also get a makeover with a very respectable looking but creepy Oswald Cobbelpot, the Dents are referenced and appear in a flashback and there is a surprising but brilliant take on Harvey Bullock. Throw in Barbara Gordon, a gadget wiz called Mr Fox who works in the basement of the Wayne Medical Group and a child serial killer and you have a very entertaining book.
It would be easy to dislike this take on Batman but writer Geoff Johns fills the book with such entertaining and engaging characters that you are drawn into it, and before you know it you are as comfortable with this version of the Bat as you are with the any other.
Gary Frank's art is simply stunning and there wasn't one page that I didn't enjoy, but what makes the art so special for me is that you can see Batman's eyes. This gives us a whole new perspective on Batman just from this one small but brilliant change, I don't know who's idea it was to have the costume designed that way but Franks takes full advantage of it. As his art shows us exactly what Batman is thinking as we see his fear, surprise and even confusion all from the way his eyes are drawn.
I have been deliberately vague in my review because I believe it will be better enjoyed by reading it without too much knowledge of the story, and at £16.99 it is not a cheap book and there are going to be people who love it and those who hate it, I'm in the love it camp.
Finally is the blurb on the back of the book right is this a Dark Knight for a new generation, I don't think so, its a Dark Knight for any generation. I have read that both Johns and Frank want to do another story in the same format, if they do they can count on me buying a copy.