Review by Frank Plowright
While the stories of other DC heroes may adapt readily to their junior line, there’s a difference about presenting the young version of Batman. It’s fundamental to what he became that Bruce Wayne witnessed the killing of his parents, which is a dark route to be going down for the intended age group. Shea Fontana’s way of addressing this is to tackle it head on by having the teenage Bruce Wayne investigate his parents’ murder.
From there, though, Overdrive heads off into unexpected territory. As indicated by the cover, this Bruce Wayne is car obsessed, barely able to wait until his sixteenth birthday to start driving, and occupying himself in the meantime by restoring a classic 1960s car, here called a Crusader, but very much resembling a Ford Mustang. Marcelo DiChiara draws this and several other classic cars appealingly, as they’re as much characters as the people Bruce gradually gathers to help him.
Overdrive is a clever story, formulating Batman and the Batmobile, but not as we know them, also reinforcing other skills and advantages helpful in a detective career, while presenting alternative versions of several other Gotham residents. The one totally new character has been added because in one sense Batman’s world is resolutely white, so Mateo Diaz arrives, and he’s a nice addition, a buddy for the solitary Bruce with the convenience of being just that bit older and so already able to drive. DiChiara’s open cartooning has long been an attractive facet of DC’s younger audience titles, and that considerable experience ensures the personalities transmit, both enthusiastic Bruce and grumpy Bruce. He’s also great with the final car chase. It’s probably been expected, and thanks to DiChiara it lives up to those expectations.
Grumpy Bruce figures quite a bit, because there’s a message about openness and trust that the DC universe Batman never learned. Will he take the same path? Fontana’s TV writing skills are well applied in Overdrive, creating a logical world based on the Bruce Wayne we know, while fresh enough to avoid being predictable, and the car obsession ensures a visual novelty. It’s a transformation carried out to high standards, and ideal for the intended audience.