I don’t hide the fact that I am a huge Batman fan. Most people think it’s because of the cool gadgets, the martial arts prowess and the billions of dollars at his disposal. And while all of those are part of what make the character great there’s more to it than that. I could go on explaining why I love Batman and what makes the comics so great, but right now I just want to focus on one and that is the latest Batman graphic novel Batman: Death by Design. I’m sure your thinking “Oh great another Batman graphic novel. It’s only like the billionth one to be made.” And you wouldn’t be wrong in thinking so, but trust me when I say this is one you will want for your collection.
The story is straightforward. A great deal of construction is going on around Gotham City in an effort to restore the city to what it used to be. This reconstruction is being spearheaded by none other than billionaire Bruce Wayne. Of course things start going wrong when very dangerous accidents start occurring at various construction sights prompting Bruce to don the cap and cowl and investigate it. Of course in comes a mysterious stranger who claims to know the truth behind everything begging the question is he friend or foe?
As I said the story is fairly straightforward. There’s no deep look into the psyche of any characters or some giant conspiracy involving multiple villains. What you have is a nice mystery story that moves at a nice enough pace to keep you invested in it. It also helps that the story is not bogged down by various characters from Batman comics. In fact the only characters that do appear are Batman/Bruce Wayne, Alfred, and the Joker. Everyone else is original to the story and if anything that adds to the mystery of who is behind it all. Chip Kidd does a fantastic job of giving the characters life and does an even better job of showing just how corrupt the elite of Gotham City really are. The overall writing gives the story a noir feel to it that is reminiscent of old 1930s mystery films.
However where this little gem shines is in the gorgeous artwork by Dave Taylor. While the writing invoked the noir feel Taylor’s art perfectly captured the look of old movies. This is exactly what a Batman movie would look like if it had been made during that time. What really makes it stand out is the fact that the art has the sketch drawing look. In fact Taylor himself said that he did all the artwork with pencil and graphite using the computer to only add color. No inking, no outlines, just gorgeous pencil drawings. And it makes everything stand out even more. Gotham has never looked more beautiful and Gothic. All the characters look like old movie stars and the Joker’s design is one of the best I’ve seen. I’d love to see more Batman graphic novels from him or perhaps even graphic novels of other DC characters with this art style.
This is one of the few times I would ever recommend buying a graphic novel or any comic for that matter solely because of the artwork. Don’t get me wrong the story is very good and a nice change of pace from most Batman stories you’re use to, but the artwork is gorgeous and you would be missing out if you didn’t add this gem to your collection.