Batman #22-23 by Scott Snyder (Comics Review)

Scott Snyder, following on from his epic crossover “Death of the Family” and the 2-part cool-off arc with the Clayface, launched Batman into “Zero Year“. The new arc, which crossovers with several other titles such as The Flash, Nightwing, Batgirl, Action Comics and others is about fleshing out how Bruce Wayne became Batman. In a way, its the comics equivalent of Batman Begins, the first in Christopher Nolan’s highly lauded Batman movie trilogy. We get to see the origins of one of DC’s most popular and oldest characters, in a vision of the character and his allies and the city of Gotham that Scott Snyder has built up through successful issue after successful issue in the New 52 relaunch of the DC Universe. It is certainly an exciting time to start reading some Batman comics, make no mistake.

The first in the new arc, #21 (review), launched the entire story in a most spectacular way, and introduced to us Bruce’s uncle Phil Kane and the latter’s business advisor, Edward Nygma (better known as the Riddler, another classic Batman villain). Without all the usual trappings, Batman was very unlike Batman because he wasn’t Batman yet. He was just a rich kid who grew up with an internal need for vengeance following the murder of his parents, and who has traveled (relatively incognito) all over the world to bring his body to the peak of physical martial perfection.

For someone who has already delivered three powerful arcs in the series already, Snyder’s “Zero Year” promises to raise the game once again. Issues #22 and #23 are certainly among the best that Snyder has written to date on the title.

Batman 22Issue #22 is about limits. And not just any limits, but limits imposed on the self. One of the highlights of this issue was a verbal exchange between Alfred and Bruce that gets quite heated. The subject: Bruce fighting from the shadows while his parents fought for the city in public. We saw in the previous issue that Phil Kane had reached out to Bruce and offered him a position at Wayne Enterprises in order to reintegrate him in the family business (Phil Kane is Bruce’s mother’s brother and took over Wayne Enterprises in the years Bruce was… gone). But Bruce isn’t interested. He is fixated on doing things his own way, he is not interested in having a public life.

In essence, he is limiting himself, and this issue is all about him realising that. And the backup, written by Snyder and his former student James Tynion IV, goes a few steps further in exploring that very concept. Before he came to Gotham for good, Bruce sought out people of exceptional skills all over the world because he wanted to learn what they had to teach. One of these is Sergei, an old Russian scientist from the Cold War era. From him, Bruce learns to break outside the limits of convention and implement the impossible.

And in both a metaphorical and literal way, both stories come together much more strongly than with just that concept. In the main story, Bruce meets E. Nygma and their exchange was a thing of beauty. Told in a single page, the entire conversation is represented by a board-game. The visual effect is just out of this world. You have to see it to appreciate it. All I can say is that this was the absolute highlight of this issue.

As usual, Greg Capullo (main story) and Rafael Albuquerque (backup) outdo themselves on the pencils. Greg Capullo has been absolutely terrific on the series so far, and his work has been one of the main reasons why I love it so much. And all the backups that Rafael Albuquerque has done have been astounding as well. His best work was for the “Night of the Owls” event, in which he tackled the last moments of Alfred’s father, before he was killed by the Court of Owls. And as for the colours and inks, Fco Plascensia and Danny Miki are a formidable team as always. Their… colourful vision of Gotham is something that we haven’t seen outside of this arc since the series has been rather heavy on the doom and gloom of Gotham, so it makes for a great change of visual pace. And I like this a lot. It reflects the transition point in Bruce’s life since he isn’t the Batman yet. Once he becomes Batman, that’s when everything is dark and shadowy. Right now, that’s not the case. Oh and Dave McCaig doing the colours on the backup was a joy as well. Completely different approach, and just as great. All the yellows and browns he uses fit together like a great puzzle into what is Tynion’s story, and its just as good as what we see in the main issue.

Outstanding all around. Oh and we even get to see the Penguin early on, which was great fun. Too bad about his character though. Poor Penguin. Hah!

Rating: 9.5/10

Batman 23Much as Gail Simone’s Batgirl #23 (review) marks a seminal moment in the character’s history within the New 52, so does Snyder’s Batman #23. Unlike the transition between #21 and #22, this issues follows on directly from the previous one as Bruce gets a lesson in madness and violence the likes of which he is not going to be forgetting any time soon. Quite possibly, this is the bloodiest issue in the series yet, and that’s saying something, given all of Joker’s antics in “Death of the Family“.

Where the previous issue was about recognising and understanding limitations, this issue is about the consequences of that realisation. This is the issue which really rams home the third and final act of Batman Begins. I’m given to believe, following some discussions on forums and Twitter, that this issue is also a homage to Frank Miller’s Year One graphic novel, but since I haven’t read it, I can’t comment on that fact. I’ve seen the animated adaptation I think, but that was quite a while ago and I barely remember it, unfortunately. Either way, its not really a spoiler to say that this issue is the one where Bruce decides that he needs to become Batman. The cover says it all really, and the previous two covers have been building up to this.

On a first read, this was a somewhat confusing issue since there are two ongoing narratives. It took me a while to figure that out, but I don’t really have a complaint since this allowed me to really observe all the neat little things in the issue. Snyder has done a great job in showing how this inexperienced would-be vigilante becomes THE vigilante, what finally sets him on that path, what contributes to his renewed determination to make Gotham a safe place in a way that only he can.

All the praise that I had for Capullo, FCO and Danny in the previous issue’s commentary bears repeating here. These guys are getting better and better, no small feat considering that Batman has been a visual treat since the beginning and that both Capullo and FCO have been a huge part of that. All the explosive colours early on in the issue are perfect for the scenes they are trying to capture, and even later, the subdued tones and pencils do a great job of guiding Bruce to his destiny as Batman, and the final piece of dialogue in the main issue.

The backup, once more written by James Tynion IV and drawn by Rafael Albuquerque and coloured by Dave McCaig, is yet another cool moment in the early years of Bruce Wayne’s training across the world. This time, he is in a fight to the death somewhere in Norway, and things are going not that great for him. That’s aside from the fact that things are going worse for the people challenging him. This story is set 3 years after the previous one in #22, and the change in Bruce is immediate and striking. Where before he was a tinkerer and an innovator, now he is a fighter. It was a cool story that shows he can take a beating. Not all that subtle in its message, but still, it fits thematically with the first few pages of the issue. So that’s great.

Overall, another solid entry.

Rating: 9/10

More Batman: #1-10, #11-12, Annual #1, #13-15, #16-18, #19-21, Annual #2.

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Posted on August 15, 2013, in 2013 Reading Challenge, 2013 Writing Challenge, Challenges, Comics Reviews, Review Central and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

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