Jim Gordon’s still not 100% sure why he continues to act as Officer Batman. He’s obsessed with the meaning of it, obsessed with understanding his duty and status to the cowl; meanwhile, Gotham City is all too happy to throw new antagonists and challenges his way. We find that by simply putting a different person in the suit, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have discovered a new and interesting angle into exploring the themes they’ve set up since the beginning of their run.
Written by Scott Snyder
Illustrated by Greg Capullo, Danny Miki, & FCO Plascencia
More surprises around every corner as the all-new Batman hits the streets of Gotham City
Over the course of their tenure on “Batman”, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have been interested in exploring what Batman means. What does Batman represent to Gotham? to the public? to his antagonists? his family? himself? These questions are the undercurrent of every arc we’ve seen from this creative team. (Snyder also likes to talk about Gotham City as its own entity, and here he sees a chance to have the city literally attack Officer Batman.) Sure, knocking Bruce Wayne out of the cowl was a bold move, but I think what helps make that twist from feeling redundant is that Snyder and Capullo use the new Batman as a perspective shift on exploring this topic.
“Batman” #42 continues the approach of a sorta one-and-done adventure series. The conflict with the issue’s antagonist is wrapped up by the end, and the more overarching beats deal with rumors of a new shadowy figure and Jim Gordon trying to get a grip on what it means to be Batman. I don’t know how long they’ll keep this up before the more serial elements of the narrative kick in.
Snyder breaks time apart more intensely here than he had done in even ‘Zero Year,’ with scenes that jump back and forth, start up and then get abruptly cut off for a new set piece, only to resolve several pages later. But this works well with this current sorry. Where ‘Endgame’ featured a Bruce with a singular focus and a strong sense of purpose, Gordon has no idea what he’s doing with his new gig. He’s torn between how he remembers Batman acting, what he thinks Batman should do, and his own past as a cop. He’s jittery, anxious, uncertain, and completely overwhelmed, and the time jumps reflect that. Snyder and Capullo don’t let us settle long into one narrative because the characters aren’t able to figure out what they’re doing, either.
Capullo has joined the ranks of the legendary Batman artists.
All right, look: we all know that Capullo can deliver some exciting Bat-imagery — and the bad guy, in full Tetsuo mode, with the city swirling around him, certainly is a thrilling moment — but I think we’ve seen a true evolution in the way he handles the quieter moments. I think the most memorable scene in “Batman” #42 is the more exposition-heavy moment at the center of the issue, where Mr. Bloom’s influence first appears.
There’s this scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark that I reference all the time when I’m talking about how to properly do an exposition dump. It’s when the government agents task Indy with finding the Ark, and really, nobody’s doing much more than talking and filling in history. But the way Spielberg and cinematographer, Douglas Slocombe, stage the characters, the way they move the camera, and the way they put figures in shadow or light, makes it almost as intriguing and mysterious a sequence as when Indy finds the map to the Well of Souls or finds the Ark or grabs the golden idol. It’s one of the many pinnacles of sharp storytelling you can find in that movie.
Capullo goes after something similar. The main action of the morgue scene exists so Officer Batman and the audience can learn about a new villain running around Gotham. He’s implanting his victims with this little chip that grants them superhuman powers, but the second they turn against him or are captured by the police, it releases a huge dose of radiation into their system. More than before, we see Capullo’s knowledge of where to place the characters, when to track the movement of objects, and when to hold back and let Steve Wands’s letters take dominance over the panel at work. His panels tend to stack on top of each other, and while I don’t think that always helps with the flow or rhythm of the scene, he confidently guides you through the set. There’s a ton of “Akira” imagery in this issue, and it’s easy to go, “Oh man, that was some crazy shit!” but I think it’s these subtle moments that truly shine out, and Capullo’s handling of them one of the reasons why this series has stayed so consistent.Continued below
I don’t think I can stress enough how so much of the success of “Batman” also lies in the strong collaborative process. Not only between Snyder and Capullo, who have fused into this singular storytelling Bat-mind, but with inker Danny Miki and colorist FCO Plasencia as well. Miki’s thin lines but heavy shadows really give amp up the mysterious elements of this thing, while Plasencia’s neon color palette makes the book so unabashedly otherworldy it’s intoxicating. The series works because they all collectively know how to make it as intriguing and exciting as possible.
This ‘Superheavy’ arc is going off in all kinds of directions, but the creative team seems determined to follow through with exploring how this resonates and reflects on Gordon. It’s big budget, summer tentpole spectacle, but I think what makes this one of the strongest mainstream corporate comics is that desire to try to figure out an answer to their question.
Final Verdict: 8.0 – It’s no small feat that after 42 issues, this book still feels exciting.