This week’s Batman #58 is one of the best-looking Batman comics you’re likely to find on the stands right now. That’s not surprising, given that Mikel Janin has long since established himself as one of the top Batman artists in the business. There is one weird quirk to be found in this issue, however. Due to an unusual choice of lighting, one page features Batman wearing what seems to be a combination of his current costume and his previous DC Rebirth suit.
You can argue over whether this particular embellishment works well, especially since nowhere else in the comic does Batman’s cape have that purplish tinge. But whether intentionally or not, Janin and colorist Jordie Bellaire may have created the perfect Batman costume.
Up until a couple months ago, Batman had generally been drawn in his Greg Capullo-designed costume that debuted in 2016’s Batman #50. That costume added a few unique flourishes to a familiar design, including a thin yellow border around the Bat emblem and belt and a purple inner cape lining, while still avoiding the external trunks that used to be a hallmark of the character’s design.
But Batman #54 changed all that, having Batman dust off his classic costume for the first time since 2009 and bringing back those controversial trunks in the process. The justification for this wardrobe change is that Bruce needed to move past his failed romance with Selina Kyle and couldn’t do so while keeping the costume he wore when they were together.
Whatever the rationale, bringing back the classic costume was a wise move on DC’s part, and a clear sign that the company is acknowledging and celebrating its past in a way it hadn’t during the troubled New 52 era. But there’s some part of me that laments the loss of the Rebirth costume. The purple cape in particular was a great addition. Not only does it pay homage to Batman’s Golden Age roots (back when he wore those goofy purple gloves), the Batman costume just looks better when the inner lining of the cape is a different color from the rest. It adds a little visual spice to an otherwise monochromatic design, as well as creating a sense of depth. It’s one reason why Bruce Timm’s design for Batman: The Animated Series stands out so much, and why Batman’s simpler, redesigned look in The New Batman Adventures was such a disappointment by comparison.
But while I love the DC Rebirth suit, it’s hard to get around that costume’s lack of trunks. As much as some people might like to make fun of superheroes for wearing their underwear on the outside, it always feels like there’s something missing when artists redesign those costumes to be trunks-free. These heroes were modeled after early 20th Century circus strongmen, and the trunks are an integral part of that look. None of the new Batman or Superman costumes to debut in recent years have managed to avoid that weird visual disconnect.
With all that in mind, the Batman costume depicted on this page is basically a best of both worlds scenario. He has the sleek, iconic look of the classic Batman. The trunks are there to complete the familiar design. The suit isn’t burdened with pointless lines and unnecessary details like the New 52 costume was. At the same time, there’s also the purple cape lining enhancing the overall visual impact of the character. It immediately draws the reader’s eye to Batman even though he’s dwarfed by the environment around him. It adds depth and contrast to an otherwise color-less suit. The end result is a superhero who looks sleek, dangerous and ready to beat criminals to a pulp.
At this point, it seems a shame that this might be the only page where we ever see Batman wearing this hybrid costume. But who knows? As more new artists come on board and try to make their mark with the character, perhaps this random stylistic choice will wind up inspiring others to follow suit.