Since “Knightfall” in the early 90s where Batman’s back was broken by Bane and he was replaced by Azrael, the Batman family crossovers have turned Gotham City into a playground of violence, status quo shifts, and occasionally teamwork. Batman: The Twelve Cent Adventure #1 is the prelude to the yearlong “War Games” crossover, which involved the biggest gang war in Gotham history. The crossover showed that Batman didn’t just have to fight costumed supervillains, like the Joker and Scarecrow, but could also deal with the labyrinthine threat of organized crime. (Even if these crime lords have masked and/or metahuman bodyguards like Deadshot and Silver Monkey.) The Twelve Cent Adventure introduces the major crime players of Gotham in a manner that is a little drawn out as there is no action until the last few pages. However, writer Devin Grayson compensates for this glacial pacing with an in-depth character portrait of Stephanie Brown, who is going by her original superhero name, Spoiler, after Batman fired her.
Even if his panel choices are incredibly conservative, penciler Ramon Bachs portrays Spoiler as hiding behind her full mask throughout the comic and just observing the gangsters through her binoculars instead of actively participating. He and Grayson break down Stephanie’s character throughout the issue using flashbacks and tons of internal monologue. Bachs homages the last two decades of Batman stories showing the tragedy behind his choice in allies from a detailed panel of a tearful Dick Grayson after his parents died to sepia toned smoke from colorist Steve Buccelato to mark Jason Todd’s tragic end. Spoiler brings up a great point that Batman alienates the ones he loves, but there is huge irony in this fact as she sits alone on a rooftop as the odds against her taking down Gotham’s organized crime leaders plummets.
During the almost issue long action scene where Batman attempt defuses a hostage situation, Grayson and Bachs sharply contrast his effortless martial arts, smoke bomb, and batarang-aided beatdowns with Spoiler’s raw inner monologue. This gives what is almost a rote sequence an air of vulnerability and the fact that Batman is maybe being overconfident. (His frankly not very funny “too soon” joke about firing Alfred adds to this feeling as well.) Both Batman and Spoiler’s solo efforts are the direct opposite of the gang lords, who each bring a bodyguard to the meeting that Spoiler is canvassing. Even if this show of force leads to lots of shooting, their strategy seems sounder than Batman cowboying it up and especially Spoiler matching up against dangerous threats, like Deadshot and a dozen other highly trained killers. Grayson belabors the point of Batman not appreciating help or backup, but it does create some doubt in readers’ minds that he might lose someone he cares about in the upcoming crossover.
I would be remiss to not mention the work of inkers of Raul Fernandez and Rodney Ramos whose thick lines and use of shadows and crosshatching make Batman: The Twelve Cent Adventure look like a crime or gangster comic and not a superhero book. Colorist Steve Buccelato tones down his color palette for the majority of the comic, except for Spoiler’s wavy blonde hair on the final page and the costume of Silver Monkey, who gets gunned down by a rival gang. Even the Dick Grayson’s Robin’s costume in a flashback looks like an old, grainy photograph and lacks the nostalgia of those simpler days.
Batman: The Twelve Cent Adventure #1 has methodical pacing and repetitive writing from Devin Grayson. But it does its job as a prelude to the “War Games” event by showing how isolated both Spoiler and Batman are and the breadth of Gotham’s organized crime in the too short shoot out scene. In movie terms, it’s a damn good trailer, but doesn’t stand on its own as a story except for some insights into the character of Spoiler and her relationship to the Batman family.