From what I’ve been reading in the DC Community, many of you have seen Matt Reeves’ The Batman and you’re hungry for more. Whether it’s by way of a sequel or an HBO Max spinoff series, we’re not ready to leave this universe. So, with that in mind, if you’re looking for something to build on your viewing experience, might I suggest Batman: The Imposter? Written by screenwriter Mattson Tomlin (Project Power) and drawn by Andrea Sorrentino (Green Arrow), the DC Black Label graphic novel isn’t technically set in the same continuity as the hit movie, but it does a pretty good impression of it. The aesthetic, tone and characterizations are similar, as is the age of the Dark Knight when the story takes place. In other words, if you loved The Batman and want more from that world, this is an excellent story to tide you over until an actual sequel comes along.
Like the Matt Reeves movie, this story shines a light on just how fragile Batman’s operation is. The Dark Knight’s mission faces three critical threats—an imposter destroying his image, an officer closing in and a psychotherapist threatening to expose his secret. As you read the story, you really get the sense that Batman is one wrong step away from getting himself unmasked, killed or both.
This isn’t the Batman from the mainstream DC Universe who is constantly three steps ahead of everyone else. This Dark Knight questions himself at times, and is more isolated than ever. Alfred has quit and Jim Gordon has lost his position on the force for colluding with the vigilante. Batman barely survives each night of his patrol, building tension throughout the story that each day could be his last. We won’t spoil the ending, but remember, in a DC Black Label book anything could happen.
The psychotherapist in question is Dr. Leslie Thompkins, a name Bat-fans are likely to recognize, and she isn’t playing around. Like her DC Universe counterpart, Leslie doesn’t approve of Bruce’s mission and worries about the effect being Batman has on his mental health. When Bruce shows up bloodied and beaten at Leslie’s doorstep, she considers sending him to Arkham. As an alternative, the psychotherapist makes a deal with Bruce—if he shows up for a therapy session every morning at dawn, she’ll keep his secret. If he’s late or if he skips a session, she’ll call the police and his life as Batman is over.
Throughout the years, there has been a lot of debate over Batman’s mental state, and Dr. Thompkins has theories of her own. At one point she observes signs of Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in Bruce. This doesn’t mean Batman is insane. These disorders are common, with millions of people living with them. The stigma around mental health isn’t what it used to be, which allows us to have open and honest conversations about these things. Nevertheless, Dr. Thompkins presents Bruce Wayne with some hard truths about himself and his state of mind and asks him some hard questions about the choices he’s making.
One of those choices is Bruce’s romance with Detective Blair Wong, a GCPD officer tasked with bringing Batman to justice. With Jim Gordon gone, Batman needs an in at the GCPD, which is where Wong comes in. Bruce admits to Dr. Thompkins that he’s using Wong, but that he’s also found himself falling in love with her. The problem is Detective Wong is closing in on Batman and his secret identity. Needless to say, Batman is playing with fire here. We won’t spoil how it all ends, other than to say that no matter how messy you imagine it getting, the reality is far messier.
There’s also the imposter who has begun killing criminals in Batman’s name—it’s right there in the title, after all. One of the Dark Knight’s strengths has always been his anonymity, but now that has been weaponized against him. After all, even if Batman brings his imposter to justice, how can anyone prove which Batman actually committed the murders? Doubt is a powerful weapon, and now it has the power to bring down Batman’s entire mission. He’s already in a fragile place without his traditional support system, and now the walls might be tumbling down.
Batman: The Imposter might not be a movie, but the story Tomlin and Sorrentino tell feels cinematic. (Don’t believe me? Check out the book’s trailer.) The characters and world are gritty, grounded and realistic, the situations are nuanced and the stakes are real. Sorrentino’s art builds on Tomlin’s script, resulting in a noir-tinged world filled with desperate people. Batman: The Imposter pushes the Dark Knight morally and physically and is essential reading for anyone longing to visit Gotham again.
Batman: The Imposter by Mattson Tomlin, Andrea Sorrentino and Jordie Bellaire is now available in bookstores, comic shops, libraries and as a digital graphic novel. Look for it on DC UNIVERSE INFINITE this spring.
Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for DCComics.com, is a regular contributor to the Couch Club and writes our monthly Batman column, “Gotham Gazette.” Follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.