At first glance, it appears that “Batman” #19 is a typical cape and cowl adventure, boasting battles, mystery, and mistaken identity; but it is also a complex examination of the ways that loss and mourning can deteriorate humanity.
Written by Scott Snyder
Illustrated by Greg Capullo
Who would cause Bruce Wayne to use a gun?
In the wake of the tragedy of Damian’s death, Snyder is forced to balance on a tightrope. He must portray grief in a way that seems true to the version of Bruce Wayne and Batman that he has created, while keeping readers engaged and moving the story along. So far, he has done a great job of getting the audience out of the mind of a father in mourning, while managing to acknowledge sincere reactions to death. He accomplishes this by drawing on the theme of reaction to loss, instead of wallowing in the sadness through internal dialogue.
We watch as Jim Gordon confronts a Bruce Wayne gone mad. The opening scene of this issue forces Jim to attempt to reconcile what he is seeing with what he believes to be true. The exchange features some very liberated dialogue, that feels authentic and foreign at the same time. Somehow Snyder manages to collapse humor and horror in a very effective way. This is a strong scene that leaves readers with far more questions than answers, and sets up the puzzle that must be solved in the remaining pages of the book.
“Batman” #19 offers a refreshing return to the detective motif that has been largely absent from Snyder’s run thus far. We get to see Batman engage with a real mystery as he pursues a villain who is leaving a trail of clues that add up to a great reveal by the issue’s end. The procedural aspect of the story is strong, and it’s a nice change of pace to see the Caped Crusader doing what he does best. “Batman” #19 offers a great deal of action, which is situated nicely in the thoughtfully paced panels laid down by Capullo.
Capullo’s art is a great mirror for the motifs Snyder constructs throughout the issue. His work is saturated and sumptuous in moments of rosy retrospection, and dark and lean in times of emotional turmoil. Somehow, his art retains a feeling of foreboding even in bright fluorescent interiors. The most horrifying moment’s of this issue take place in the light of day. Seeing every frightening thing in sharp detail gives the audience a sense that there is nowhere to hide, the illusion of safety disappears under the glow of commercial lighting and sun. Capullo’s art maintains the same level of aggression and strength whether he is drawing roses or monsters. He is truly an asset to the title.
Throughout this issue Capullo’s art grounds Snyder’s cerebral storytelling with a sense of reality and weight. His contributions to the book make the stories tangible, and give a striking visual complexity to Gotham City. He is able to strike a delicate balance between fantasy and reality that give the book it’s signature tone. Snyder and Capullo successfully maneuver through the labyrinth of grief that cannot be ignored, while finding ways to tell a dynamic, action-packed story.
The backup story by Scott Snyder & James Tynion, IV with art by Alex Maleev is gorgeous. Superman has come to Gotham to reach out to a friend at a difficult moment. As the Man of Steel tries to connect with him, Batman stops him from speaking Damian’s name aloud; begging the question: Is Batman mourning Robin, or is Bruce mourning Damian? This back up lends a touch of humanity to the issue, binding Batman and Superman together as friends, and showing Superman’s weakness in regard to supernatural foes.
Maleev’s art is a perfect fit for this story, and for Gotham in general. He has a gritty, tactile style that sits beautifully in the world of Batman. His characters emote well and and convey a sense of purpose in their gestures. The color palette of these pages, consisting mainly of sharply contrasting blacks and whites accented with shades or aqua and red, is striking. In general Maleev’s work in this issue is just really fun to look at.Continued below
All-in-all “Batman” #19 is a successful depiction of the continuation of the grieving process that the title character must experience. Adaptive storytelling facilitates a sense of forward motion in a dark and tempestuous time that could have easily mired down the series. With no shortage of action and mystery, the book delivers beautiful art and thoughtful narrative while reminding us why we love the Dark Knight so much in the first place.
Final Verdict: 9.0 – Fun on the surface, but brilliant beneath it.