Batman just became a janitor, and believe it or not, it’s one of the most interesting Dark Knight stories I’ve read this year. That’s the power of Jason Aaron and Doug Mahnke.

To be fair, he’s become a janitor on an intergalactic slave ship populated by alien mercenaries. I suppose I should have led with that. Batman: Off-World is a limited series set early in Batman’s career, shortly after Batman: Year One. The comic reveals an untold story about Batman’s first visit to outer space.

The premise has one of my favorite Batman gambits of all time. After encountering an alien mercenary in Gotham, Batman realizes that he isn’t prepared to defend his city from extraterrestrial threats. As we all know, Batman hates being unprepared, so naturally he decides to do something about this.

What does he do? The same thing anybody would do in this situation—he uses Wayne Enterprise’s resources to hop aboard a shuttle and journey into the stars. Once there, he allows himself to get captured by alien mercenaries. BUT WAIT, THERE IS MORE! Once onboard their ship, Batman allows himself to get beat up by a variety of alien species, hoping to learn each of their fighting techniques.

So yes, the Dark Knight’s plan was to go to outer space so he can get punched a lot. It’s wild, but I dig it. This is one of those “so insane, it actually works” plans that Batman is known for. Jason Aaron and Doug Mahnke, you have my attention.

If you’ve been around Batman fandom long enough, then you’ve probably heard the discourse surrounding Batman in outer space. Some fans prefer Batman to be a grounded hero who never goes into outer space or interacts with super-powered beings. There are also fans who enjoy when Batman tangles with supernatural and science fiction elements. In a weird way, Batman: Off-World splits the difference, validating both sides of the debate.

Yes, this is a Batman adventure in outer space, but the Dark Knight regularly acknowledges that he doesn’t belong there. “Artificial gravity throws me off,” he says. “Feel too sluggish and too weightless at the same time. Almost brain myself on the rafters. Batarangs don’t fly right. Can’t catch my breath. Everything about this place is screaming at me that I don’t belong here.”

The limited series leans into the idea that Batman is out of his element. Yes, the Dark Knight is more at home fighting mobsters in Gotham City. Yes, it would be really hard to imagine Robert Pattinson’s Batman on this adventure. Yes, this feels like an Adam Strange or Lobo story, but that’s the idea! Batman: Off-World works BECAUSE the Caped Crusader is out of his element. That’s what makes the story so interesting.

By taking Batman away from Gotham City, Jason Aaron is able to get to the core of the character. The setting and the opposing characters may be different, but Batman always feels like Batman on each page. He reacts to each situation the way Batman would. The tone of his inner narration feels right. The Dark Knight doesn’t react to things the way Superman or Wonder Woman would. You can drop him into almost any unfamiliar situation and build a story around his reaction.

It would be very easy to lose the character in this new setting. After all, when you lose the gadgets, Gotham, the rogues, and everything else, what is left of Batman? To my mind, this makes Jason Aaron a brave writer, because he embraced that challenge. Don’t forget, this is his first full-length Batman story (he previously wrote a cameo for the Dark Knight in 2008’s Joker’s Asylum: Penguin).

One of my favorite parts of Batman: Off-World is Ione, a Tamaranean imprisoned with Bruce on the slave ship. She’s a fighter who hasn’t lost her spirit, despite being imprisoned. She sees through Batman’s psychological façade and isn’t intimidated by him. The implications of their partnership are interesting. This means that Batman encountered Tamaraneans years before Starfire joined the Teen Titans. While his surrogate son Dick Grayson was romancing Koriand’r, Batman neglected to tell him that he knew more about their race than he was letting on.

Oh, and if the Lesley Leirix Li variant cover for Batman: Off-World #4 is any indication, Batman knows a thing or two about romancing a Tamaranean. He and Nightwing really should’ve had that conversation, but then again, Batman always plays things close to the chest.

Batman: Off-World is not what you would expect from a Batman story, but it still works. Batman is a creature of the streets, yet Aaron and Mahnke are able to make him work in the cosmos. The entire team really shot for the stars with this outing, and the results are out of this world.

Batman: Off-World #1 by Jason Aaron, Doug Mahnke, Jaime Mendoza and David Baron is now available in print and as a digital comic book.

Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for, is a regular contributor to the Couch Club and writes our monthly Batman column, "Gotham Gazette." Follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.

NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Joshua Lapin-Bertone and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros., nor should they be read as confirmation or denial of future DC plans.