The entrails looked good on this one. A solid writer, Mark Waid, a good artist, a one-shot that doesn’t get involved in the latest gimmick — what could be lacking?
Well, something crucial, as it turns out. But there is a great deal to admire in this one-shot. It is always interesting to see Batman out of Gotham City. The populace and cops of Barcelona react much more normally to the sight of a violent nut dressed like a bat, cringing in horror or opening fire. Somebody somewhere did actually visit the city, or at least downloaded a lot of images off of the tourist sites. Killer Croc is indubitably a second tier Bat villain — he would be enraged to hear this, so nobody tell him. But everything enrages him — it is his only character trait — so when he goes off on a rampage in Spain at least a solid plot is set into motion.
So why is the story so dead and alive? Why is it possible to read this comic with calm dispassion, bordering upon torpor? With all the proper cards in place, why isn’t it exciting? Easy: Batman, the protagonist, has no skin in the game. Since Croc is a B-lister there is no doubt that Batman will eventually defeat him. Batman himself doesn’t really worry too much about it. An effort to supply Bruce Wayne with a romantic interest is unsuccessful, and it is not possible to believe — even Bruce himself doesn’t believe — that he is seriously inconvenienced the failure. If he doesn’t care, why should we?
With a long-running character like Batman this is a difficult hill to climb. They have really done everything to the character that anyone can possibly imagine. Villains have defeated him, maimed him, and at this writing seem to have even killed him outright, in the main title. Romantic interests have betrayed him, turned to crime, rejected him for another, died. But it can be done. It just wasn’t done this time. Skip this one, there are better comics out there.