Author, and comic book newcomer Benjamin Percy is joined by veteran artist John Paul Leon for for Terminal; a two issue story that serves as a planned fill-in for the regular creative team of Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul. While the first issue of the arc isn’t groundbreaking, it shouldn’t be overlooked because of the new names on the cover. Percy and Leon deliver the start of a solid Batman tale that is as action packed as it is genuinely creepy.
The best way to describe this issue is that it would have fit right in as part of the original Legends of The Dark Knight series. In this case I mean that in the best way possible. Percy crafts a story that is light on continuity, and heavy on showing how versatile a character like Batman can be. If you’ve been wanting to pick up a Batman book in awhile but Batman and Detective Comics were in the middle of story arcs, or you find Batman: Eternal too daunting to jump right in to, this is a perfect opportunity for a no strings attached taste of Batman doing what he does best.
The issue begins as Bruce Wayne and Alfred are getting ready to leave Gotham City for what is perceived to be a rest and recreation. Of course this wouldn’t be an interesting story if Bruce was lying out in the sun somewhere for two issues, so before you know it Bruce hears about a problem with one of the incoming planes, and Batman jumps into action at the airport. The result is a really cool five page stretch with little to no dialogue that shows Batman running towards the detestation, and saving lives. Bruce is forced to do some detective work as the story becomes a race against time within Gotham International Airport. It’s a setting that readers don’t see much of in a Batman title. Despite taking place in a bright airport, the issue is more straight up horror story than we have seen lately. The big bombastic action in the terminal in the first half of the issue gives way to some of the more disturbing, creepy aspects Batman is forced to investigate in the later half. Given what has been going on in Africa lately with Ebola, the threat faced in this issue is made even more frightening. It is a nice balance and to see the character work so well both in and out of the shadows is another testament to why he is one of the most popular fictional characters ever created.
There are a few problems that I had with the issue. Mind you, they aren’t enough to take away from the overall enjoyment of the story, they were enough to hinder it a bit. Throughout the latter half of the issue Percy has Batman doing competent detective work, and figuring out what kind of danger he faces. Instead of carrying that throughout, the end of the issue feels rushed and we get the whole “Bad guy reveals themselves and explains their motivations” cliffhanger ending. It might have been a choice forced by the length of the story, but it would have been nice to see Batman continue to do detective work, and figure out a little bit more about the situation that way. Then you have the apparent villain and the afformentioned motivations. There doesn’t seem to be anything we haven’t seen before in that regards. In fact, there was a big story in the mid 1990s where one of Batman’s big name villains had a similar goal, for similar reasons, but on a much larger scale. Despite the lack of originality in the villain and their motivation, it will still be interesting to see how Batman races against the clock next issue to figure his way out of the predicament in this setting. It just started to feel as if the constraints of executing a story like this in two issues will ultimately hinder what could be an amazing story if given the room to breathe.
John Paul Leon was a perfect artist to pair with Percy’s story. Leon has been around awhile, and to be honest he has always been very hit or miss for me. It always depends on who is inking over his pencils, who is on colors, and what character he is working on. With that said, this issue looks absolutely beautiful. It would be a shame for editors to look at how the art in this book turned out, and not try to figure out a way to get Leon and colorist Dave Stewart to do more Batman work together. The balance I mentioned in the second paragraph succeeds because of the versatility in the artwork. If you compare the double splash on pages six and seven to the one on pages fourteen and fifteen you get both extremes. In the first example you have large scale destruction that is rendered beautifully, and feels big like a double splash should. In the second example you have a scene that is just as impactful, but instead of the big destruction, you get a quiet, creepy shot that raises the stakes.
Dave Stewart is one of the best colorists in the business and he shows why here. His work is a big reason why Leon’s art works well on the larger scale scenes in the airport terminal and the more quiet scenes where Batman is doing his investigating. The palate is muted to fit Leon’s style, but that doesn’t stop the art from venturing back and forth between the light and shadows when need be. Together Leon and Stewart make a great team, and it would be lovely to see them, along with Percy, on a longer Batman related project.
Overall, the only problems with this issue lie in the fact that it is half of what is to be a two part story. It starts off well, as Percy shows he has a grasp on Batman as a character, but then near the end it feels quite rushed. The apparent villain has motivations rooted in the real world that we have seen over and over. Their plan, while dastardly, is also something we’ve seen before. It’s like one of those nights where you go out and enjoy yourself, and right when you feel like the party is starting all your friends want to go home. You had a great time, but can’t help but to feel let down at the end. Luckily, one of the “friends” in this situation is John Paul Leon, and his work, with the help of Stewart on colors, is absolutely stellar throughout. Buccellato and Manapul have been doing stellar work on Detective Comics, so for a fill-in creative team to come in and create a story where almost all of the problems stem from it being a fill-in is quite impressive. If the conclusion to the story ends up as good as the beginning, it should only be a matter of time before we see more of this creative team. If you’re a fan of Batman you shouldn’t pass up on this issue because the names on the cover aren’t the regular creative team. If you do pass it up, you will be missing out on a simple, no strings attached, well executed story.
The Verdict: 8.5/10