Batman/Fortnite: Zero Point Comic Impressions
Maybe you’re like me. Someone tells you there’s a “Batman/Fortnite” comic and you roll your eyes. You tell yourself that Batman appears in dozens of comic book crossovers, and that most of them are workmanlike; a light read. Or maybe you’re a Fortnite player who is precious about your favorite game. Mashing Batman up with a popular Battle Royale game is lazy. A cash grab you say! Well I got news for you. “Batman/Fortnite: Zero Point” is a fun, clever little comic book that is well worth a read.
I want to warn you that I approached this comic knowing about as much as I’ve told you already, which is to say, not very much at all. The premise of this story became very clear about halfway through the first issue, and dear reader: I was stunned. I think this story is so clever. So take that as a sign that it’s worth grabbing this comic unspoiled, the shock is a delight. But if you don’t mind knowing about a few of the twists and turns, have I got a review for you.
I got the feeling that I was going to enjoy “Batman/Fortnite” when I saw who was writing it. Christos Gage has never written a legendary classic comic story, but even his worst work is better than a lot of writers’ best. He is the reliable scribe behind such comics as “Wildstorm,” “Thunderbolts,” and “Spider-Geddon.” He also wrote for the Netflix Daredevil show and the beloved 2018 Spider-Man game for Playstation. He can turn any assignment into something worthwhile.
Which is precisely what he does here. Batman, Catwoman, and Harley Quinn are introduced as three of our main characters, and they quickly are shoved through a portal to a mysterious island where… the rules of Fortnite are the law of the land. No one can speak, they must silently communicate through emotes or the written word. A storm closes in, making the island feel smaller and smaller. And oh yeah, the last person standing gets to leave the island and move on. Every 22 minutes, the loop resets and the combatants of the island wake up with no memory.
All of this is an excellent scenario to shove Batman in! We like the Caped Crusader because he’s adaptable, and this is a pretty severe challenge. Batman has to fill the island with hints and clues to make him a better player, and he also has to balance his feelings for Catwoman against the rules of the game which only allow for one winner. Is this the most original premise? I guess not, there’s shades of Hunger Games. But it’s a perfect showcase for everything that makes Batman great.
The comic is illustrated by Reilly Brown, a young artist who recently hopped over from Marvel to DC. This is more or less Brown’s second DC book after a Lobo series that he also drew. Brown is backed up by Nelson DeCastro on inks, and John Kalisz on colors. The art team doesn’t reinvent the wheel or anything- the DC characters look much as they have for the last 20 years. The Batman costume is mostly grey and black with a big logo on the chest, very similar to his New 52 redesign. I wouldn’t go so far to pejoratively write the art off as “house style,” but it is very conventional.
Where Brown and the art team get to have fun though is in drawing the world of Fortnite. Now, this is where I must admit to you that while I’ve played Fortnite once or twice, I am by no means an expert. But the comic does a wonderful job of capturing the happy chaos of the video game. The other combatants on the island are for the most part, not other characters from DC comics. They are a motley assortment of random beings, from a fish guy to a Viking to a cyborg warrior. There are all sorts of mascots and DJs and warriors from every genre, and a bunch too absurd to quantify.
Darkness Cannot Drive Out Darkness
This setup delivers one of my favorite types of stories: we are following the chronically serious Batman in an utterly absurd situation that he is facing down with not a hint of humor. But just because The Dark Knight isn’t smiling doesn’t mean that the reader can’t- it’s just that his over-the-top solemnity is the crux of the joke.
Late in the comic, the mythology deepens and we see a couple of other surprising (specific) faces. I don’t want to give away this surprise, but this comic also captures the insanity that is Fortnite’s licensed events, complete with landscapes and structures that change overnight. The brilliance is seeing characters respond to Fortnite’s gameplay mechanics as if they lived in that world. It somewhat mirrors the gameplay experience, but also it’s totally bonkers.
So I implore you not to stick up your nose at this absurd premise. The creative team approaches it smartly and commits to the silliness with all their might. I entered “Batman/Fortnite” as a cynic, but I emerged from the other side with the conviction of a true believer. While it’s not a work of art that I think will stick with me for a long time, pushing me to ask life’s difficult questions, I can’t deny that I had a blast reading it.