Batman is all Bruce Wainwright has.
I consider Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen’s Superman: Secret Identity to be one of the best Superman stories ever published, so you’d better believe I was looking forward to this book. Batman: Creature of the Night is a spiritual sequel of sorts to Secret Identity. Once again, you have a young boy whose love of an iconic superhero is so great that the boundaries between reality and fantasy begin to blur. Creature of the Night has all the makings of another great superhero story that’s as much about the real-world legacy of that hero as it is the hero themselves.
In this case, Busiek and artist John Paul Leon introduce readers to Bruce Wainwright, a younger whose obsession with all things Batman is only fueled by the fact that he almost shares his name. Like Secret Identity’s Clark Kent, Bruce find his life growing uncomfortably close to that of his fictional idol when tragedy strikes and his dreams become haunted by a demonic bat creature. This isn’t as simple as a story of a boy being compelled to dress in costume and fight crime. There’s something more surreal and compelling to the way Batman bleeds into the real-world setting of this tale.
Busiek paints a bleak but enthralling tale of a boy dealing with hardship with only comic books and his faithful Uncle Alfred to guide him. The tone of the series is generally more depressing and morose than that of Secret Identity, but that’s to be expected given the change in subject matter. Busiek quickly molds Bruce and Alfred into memorable protagonists, particularly as readers learn about the sad series of circumstances keeping the two apart and forcing Bruce to become an unwilling orphan. Busiek’s narrative captions do tend to lean in an overly exposition-heavy direction. That problem is worsened by the use of a hard-to-read script font for Alfred’s captions. Still, this book succeeds in putting a very different spin on the usual Bruce/Alfred dynamic.
Leon’s dark, haunting art style is also a huge boon for this project. Leon’s heavy, stark lines generate a slightly grounded, real-world feel. Like Secret Identity, Creature of the Night feels a bit less removed from reality than your typical DC book. Leon’s style is especially apt given the gritty, late-’60s setting. It’s basically Batman by way of Serpico. But at the same time, Leon is more than capable of channeling the darkness and fury of Bruce’s nightmares. There’s also a great deal of variety to Leon’s style as he frequently shifts gears to mimic the look and feel of Golden and Silver Age Batman comics. I’m really looking forward to seeing how Leon’s style evolves as the story progresses and those nightmares grow deeper and darker.