Scott Snyder, Brian Azzarello, Jock, and Lee Loughridge have crafted a stunning masterpiece with “Batman” #44. Mystery, social issues, and heart are all balanced magnificently by the book’s creative team.
Written by Scott Snyder and Brian Azzarello
Illustrated by Jock
It’s the origin of new villain Mr. Bloom! In a tale from Bruce Wayne’s past, Batman must investigate a vicious crime in the shadowy area of Gotham City known as the Narrows. Don’t miss this special issue illustrated by superstar artist Jock (Wytches, GREEN ARROW YEAR ONE)!
The usual “Batman” dream team of writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo take a one-issue interlude with “Batman” #44. Snyder is joined by co-writer Brian Azzarello while the art is supplied by Jock and colorist Lee Loughridge. Having worked together before on the modern classic “Black Mirror” storyline, Snyder and artist Jock were expected to conjure something great with this flashback issue that ties into the current “Superheavy” arc with Commissioner Gordon as Batman. They went beyond expectations, with the addition of Azzarello lending the story an extra layer of grittiness and thoughtfulness. With the solicit promising the origin of the enigmatic villain Mr. Bloom, “Batman” #44 is more than that. It’s also a standalone comic that any reader, new or old, can pick up and hold as proof of the power and complexity of not only the character and mythology of Batman, but of great comics themselves.
It’s difficult to write a story that touches on social issues and current events without being preachy. Snyder and Azzarello avoid that inevitable pitfall of lesser writers and instead weave a tale that hits us in our collective gut by showing the effects of class, gentrification, police brutality, racism, politics, and the difficulty of being heroic in a world that can seem overwhelming and without hope. By having a third person narrator for “Batman” #44, Snyder and Azzarello allow the reader to come to their own conclusions. The narration is often poetic and is just one of the reasons why the ending, as well as the entire issue itself, is guaranteed to be an important conversation-starter.
Although “Batman” #44 deals with very serious subject matter, it’s also exhilarating in its execution. Not only is the narration a throwback to comic books of old, but a well-known Bat-rogue has an outrageous plan to wreak havoc on Gotham City that would be appropriate in Bat-tales from the ‘50s and ‘60s. This issue takes place after Zero Year and Bruce Wayne is still a novice hero. It’s thrilling to see Batman doing detective work as his pal James Gordon observes and is in awe of him. Snyder and Azzarello clearly love the Dark Knight Detective and his city. They allow both hero and city to interact and affect one another in ways that are both familiar yet new.
That throwback sensibility and timelessness is evocatively portrayed in Jock’s angular and raw storytelling ability. Jock’s portrayal of Batman in this issue is appropriate for a hero who is both a man and a symbol. He lives up to the role of his city’s guardian by being simultaneously imposing and approachable. Jock’s unique and unmistakable style saturates each page with a foreboding and a bursting sense of life. When Batman interacts with various individuals, he is able to either be the tough guy drilling a goon or express his compassion to a grief-stricken youngster.
Whether it should be credited to the writers or artist (or the skillful letterer Deron Bennett), the incorporation of news articles within the art gives the issue a sense of urgency and real-world importance. Statistics and historical facts highlight the immensity of Gotham City, where its problems are our problems. With Batman looking over his city with words plastered over the pages, the gravity of Batman and the world’s situation is that much starker. Symbolism is an important aspect of Batman and his world and that symbolism is in every nook and cranny of “Batman” #44.Continued below
This issue is just another example of why Lee Loughridge is one of the best colorists. In this issue, he uses a muted color palette for a Gotham City that is going through transformation and despair. There’s even a darkness to the scenes where color bursts off the page. When Batman has electricity shot at him, the white and blue crackles off the page with a realistic bombast that has power and majesty. The scenes that take place in the current time of the issue appear almost black and white, with shades of gray and beige apropos for a tale that is brutally honest and forthright in its portrayal of complex problems in a complex world. Loughridge beckons us into the issue with his colors and, along with the writers and artist, utilizes symbolism with a power that is subtle yet awe-inspiring.
“Batman” #44 is one of the best issues of 2015. It is a call to arms and, through the character and mythology of Batman, emphasizes the power of inspiration and hope. Batman must interact with his city, understand its people, and become an essential catalyst for its very survival. Though simple and effective in its execution, this issue also feels revolutionary. Snyder, Azzarello, Jock, and Loughridge have seamlessly worked together to create an example of the various feelings that a great comic can inspire in its readers.
Final Verdict: 10.0 – “Batman” #44 will be remembered at the end of this year as one of the best of 2015. Two great writers, a great artist, and a great colorist come together to shine a light on what makes Batman and comic books great.