As a more-or-less random comic featuring the character, it's fine, I suppose, and readers picking it up will get a sense of who Duke is, what his story has been so far, what his deal as the day-time Batman is and who his friends, family and enemies are, but it doesn't seem particularly targeted toward new readers (I still couldn't explain Duke's super-powers to you, for example).
More problematically, it's not a complete story, which one might expect from a one-shot (Future issues entitled Batman Secret Files have different stars and different creative teams; maybe Patrick will pick up on this cliffhanger in the pages of Batman anthology Urban Legends at some point? Or a back-up somewhere...?)
I suppose this is what I get for trying to read a serially-published super-comic. You'd think I would have learned to wait for the trades at this point.
The artwork, by Christian Duce, is quite good, particularly during a two-page action scene in which Duke spars with his Outsiders partner Cassandra Cain (and, remarkably, not only beats her but boasts that she's too slow; I guess he does have home-book advantage, but even that doesn't really explain why she didn't knock him out faster than we could read it. I am fixing the scene in my head by assuming she was going slowly for his benefit, as a way to teach him to be a better fighter, given how little combat training Duke has had for a bat).
All in all, it's quite competently made, it's just been sold to us oddly. If I wanted to find out what happens next, and I kind of do, I literally have no idea where to do that. That's...not how comic should work.
It turns out I really rather lucked out, as whatever's happened in the previous few issues, this is more-or-less a done-in-one that reads an awful lot like an old issue of a Vertigo series (in ways that are mostly good but, I suppose, one could also say are somewhat trite; I mean, V is hardly breaking new ground by scripting a short, thoughtful horror story about dreams, magic and London that is evocative of a line of comics from 30 years ago, you know?)
|My favorite part of Black Widow was that, when designing Taskmaster, they decided to go with a skeleton...dressed as a racecar driver...wearing sunglasses. |
|A copula foxes.|
|Spoiler alert: The film's happily ever after involves the heroes in matching fancy suits tooling around in a new-fangled horseless carriage in London.|
In other areas, Jungle Cruise probably could have used more Pirates inspiration, as it lacks a catchy ear-worm musical motif, and as incredibly charismatic and affable as stars Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt are, they lack the sexiness that Johnny Depp and company brought to their films; it's weird how little heat the two generate, and how sexless the film feels. It's not because the filmmakers were more concerned with something more family-friendly—certainly the film doesn't ogle either good-looking star as it might have, not even letting The Rock take off his shirt for a Marvel Studios-like three-seconds of beefcake—as there is a painfully long routine in which they cast talks about removing a sword from a wound as if they are all talking about jerking Johnson off that goes on a bit too long (and flirts with a bit of gay panic in a way that seems unfortunate, given the otherwise fine portrayal of a gay character in a four-quadrant summer blockbuster from, historically, one of the less progressive film studios).
I found some interesting insights into the book, particularly how the city is somewhat young or new when compared to sister cities Cleveland and Cincinnati, and how that new-ness, as well as the peculiarity of its geography, has allowed it to grow as much as it has in the last 50 years or so, or to, well, boom, really, making it an Ohio city that bears greater resemblance to a sunbelt one.