Well, that does it. Batman Vs. Bigby is my second-favorite piece of Wolf-Bat media, closely following The Legend Of Korra’s pro-bending Wolf Bats. Bill Willingham returns to pen a story that pits Batman vs. Bigby wolf. Willingham’s troubled protagonist is somewhat of a detective himself, making for loads of entertaining crossover potential. This story is every bit as hoaky and formulaic as you might expect, but it’s also wonderful. I had so much fun devouring the pages of the six-issue crossover, and I’m proud to display it next to my full Fables collections and handful of Batman comics.
There’s a terror loose in Gotham, rending rare book collectors in half with its toothy maw. Batman and his squadron of Robins investigate with some help from Jim Gordon and his mysterious new recruit. Things get complicated when Bigby Wolf arrives and neatly fits the killer’s MO. Batman and Bigby squabble until they realize they share a common enemy, at which point they team up to take down the evil force wreaking havoc on Gotham City.
Chances are you’ve seen this plot before in many a crossover. Two characters are at odds, only to realize they’re on the same side, leading to a reluctant team-up. Willingham isn’t breaking new ground here, but he doesn’t need to. He meets the requisite requirements for story structure, giving readers fan service. Bat-fanatics and Fables fans alike will enjoy this story because it puts two famous comic book detectives with incredible powers in the same corrupt playground. Willingham addresses the question of Bigby’s presence in Gotham with a quickfire explanation, and that was plenty for me. Get these characters together and let them loose. I don’t need some drawn-out exposition telling me why they’re occupying the same world. In short, Willingham doles out plot details as necessary, leaving plenty of room for these two protagonists to exist and move around in the world. The story isn’t bogged down by lengthy justifications for its existence, and I appreciate that in a good crossover.
Along those lines, Willingham proffers a few villains that earn their page count but don’t bloat the story too much. The primary antagonist is an interesting character and one I haven’t seen before. He fits the lore of the crossover and adds to the gory noir pastiche.
Batman vs. Bigby surprised me most in Willingham’s understanding of the Dark Knight. He’s written in this orbit before and has clearly done hands-on research to ensure his Batman feels as batty as you might expect. This bleeds into the worldbuilding, too. The Batman of this crossover has an entire training complex dedicated to teaching talented youth to become Robins. Batman has multiple Robins at his disposal, cementing his status as an experienced caped crusader who’s seen some shit. That plays into the crossover itself because Batman has indeed seen some shit. But he hasn’t seen a man who can turn into a giant wolf. The result is a confident and capable cadre of superheroes contending with a challenge they simply couldn’t fathom until it actually happened.
Bigby, meanwhile, is so Bigby I couldn’t stop smiling. Gruff, blunt, and singularly focused on his goal, the big bad wolf is in full form here. My one major gripe? Willingham kinda sorta nerfed Bigby. His wolf form seems small compared to what we’ve seen him do in Fables. I’d chalk it up to Batman having less-than-superhuman strength, but we’ve seen the guy fight Superman. Still, Bigby brings a lot of life to the page. Whereas Batman considers all the implications, civilian lives, and further implications of his actions, Bigby strives to accomplish his goal and return to his world. They’re allies, but the dynamic feels off-kilter and tense due to their unique approaches.
One final note here: holy art, Batman! The entire team involved in Batman vs. Bigby deserves all the praise. The Gotham depicted in this book is tinged with oranges and blues and greens. It still feels dark and corrupt in the way Gotham should, but the colors bring it to life in ways I’ve rarely seen. Batman vs. Bigby is an artistic triumph, conjoining two amazing comic book worlds into a cohesive final product.
Bottom line: if you like Fables and you know who Batman is…give this book a read. It’s fast and fun, but you’ll smile the whole way through. Not a Fables fan? There’s plenty of Batman stuff you might enjoy, but I recommend you skip this one. Now I’m hankering for more Fables, so I may start a reread…see you all in 150 issues.
Rating: Batman vs. Bigby! A Wolf In Gotham – 9.0/10