Heroes & Villains: “Batman Secret Files: The Gardner” Fleshes Out The Compelling Title Character

What the hell? I’m not supposed to be here today. I cannot believe I showed up early for my column. Well, seeing as I took last week off it’s only fair that I return a bit early for this week’s installment.

Well, I’ve got a dang good reason to be here early, as the folks at DC Comics finally sent us an advance copy of a book! And it’s a good one!

Batman Secret Files: The Gardener #1
James Tynion IV (W)
Christian Ward (A)
DC Comics

I have always been a sucker for the DC Secret Files books for as long as I can remember so it’s always a pleasure to see a new one hitting the stands. While James Tynion IV may be on his way out of stately Wayne Manor to potentially less gothic pastures he’s certainly doing a good job of planting all sorts of new and exciting seeds in Gotham (pun fully intended).

Tynion, as I’ve mentioned in the past, is responsible for one of my favorite runs on Detective Comics so I was pretty stoked that he made the leap to Batman. His run on the title has introduced a whole slew of new characters, one of the most compelling being The Gardener.

Here’s the blurb:

She is shrouded in mystery, her motives a secret, and one cannot help but ask: Who is Bella Garten, a.k.a. the Gardener, really? Green-thumbed storytellers James Tynion IV and Christian Ward dig deep into her past and unearth the secret origin of the latest addition to Batman’s rogues gallery. Learn not only how Bella Garten came to know Pamela Isley, but how she was integral to the origin of the woman who would one day be known to all as Poison Ivy.

The Gardener was introduced in the pages of the currently ongoing Fear State event and briefly seemed to be subject to what I call the “Boba Fett Effect.” That is to say, a cool character is introduced but you’re given next to no information on them…all you know is that they look cool and are somewhat mysterious. So, by my own reasoning, Batman Secret Files: The Gardener could be akin to the upcoming The Book of Boba Fett.

Having a book like this is a great move on Tynion’s part. It gives Bella Garten an amazingly fleshed out backstory complete with ties to the larger DC Universe. I almost wrote, “roots in the larger DC Universe” there but two plant puns in one article would be two too many. The character’s origin feels largely organic which is awesome. So often times in comics a new character is introduced in ways that are positively soap operatic. A secret twin, a clone, a sibling with amnesia… you all know how it is. The Gardener’s introduction and backstory don’t feel forced which makes me want to see more of her in the future.

I would be remiss in my duties if I didn’t mention Christian Ward’s beautiful artwork. Everyone has their favorite era of Batman comics and for me it was the absolute explosion of creativity that followed Tim Burton’s Batman in 1989. To me, I recall the Batman comics from that time becoming more bold with their art, they were evolving beyond the basic four color funnies that we had all grown up with to that point and they were becoming something more. Ward’s art in this issue is engaging in a way that you don’t get to see too often in the monthly books these days.

Batman Secret Files: The Gardener #1 is available both in comic shops and digitally today.

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