cover image Batman/Deathblow: After the Fire

Batman/Deathblow: After the Fire

Brian Azzarello, Lee Bermejo, and Tim Bradstreet. DC Comics, $22.99 (168p) ISBN 978-1-4012-3772-1

Ten years ago a U.S.-trained black ops hit man named Deathblow, normally ordered after targets across the world, was sent to kill an enemy of the state working out of Gotham City. Now, as the repercussions of that failed operation come back to haunt a friend of Bruce Wayne's, Batman must discover what went wrong and who's still out there in Gotham's criminal underworld, seeking revenge. As the story jumps between Deathblow in the past and Batman in the present, both uncover and must come to terms with how the terrorists they're trying to stop may be secretly supported by the government. Bermejo's (Joker) depiction of Gotham City is remarkable%E2%80%94a mix of a mid-20th-century vision of an industrialized urban megacity of the future and gritty late-20th-century slums, all shown in muted colors that perfectly set the tone. The style beautifully blends the character's origins as a pulp detective with its more modern interpretations. But Batman himself seems oddly out of place in the story, an observer in Deathblow's world of government conspiracies, watching events unfold out of his control. It's not really a Batman and Deathblow story%E2%80%94the two heroes never meet%E2%80%94but it is effective modern noir. (Feb.)