Taking a quick break from ‘Zero Year,’ “Batman” artist supreme Dustin Nguyen joins Snyder and Tynion for a brief glimpse at the upcoming “Batman Eternal.” In the words of River Song; “spoilers!”
Written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV
Illustrated by Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs
This special issue, written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion with art and cover by Dustin Nguyen, will provide a peek at what’s to come in the weekly Batman Eternal series, with glimpses at some key characters in the series.
Well, that was different.
The dreaded fill-in issue. The mediocre story that has sat in a drawer for years, or the quickly churned out one shot by writer X and artist Y. It comes, unexpected, invading and derailing your favorite comic, the one you’ve waited an agonizing 30 days for. You turn to social media for catharsis. But wait, this fill-in still features the regular writer? It’s set in the future you say? Dustin Nguyen is on art?! Not an Elseworlds, not an imaginary story, this is the best “Batman” issue in quite some time.
Jumping ahead approximately one year in publishing time, “Batman” #28 drops you squarely into a massively different Gotham than the one we’re accustomed to. Bearing shades of ‘No Man’s Land,’ this “New Gotham,” is faced with police enforced curfews, a mysterious new crime lord, and some sort of infection that’s ravaging its citizens. Just when you thought killer clowns and an owl-centric illuminati where as bad as it could get, right?
One of the big cornerstones of the New 52 has been the idea of an “iconic” status quo. This basically involves characters behaving and appearing in a manner that is congruous with the “mainstream” concept of said character. The result is the illusion of progression in the lives and stories of these characters. “Batman” #28 flies squarely in the face of such a mandate, emulating an organic progression of time with a drastic change of tone and clear character development.
It’s a terrifically brilliant set-up. The issue begs questions of “How did this happen? How could things get this bad?”, building a fantastic sense of tension and anticipation for “Batman Eternal.” Likewise, the issue unexpectedly brings massive payoff for the character of Harper Row, a prominent character in Snyder’s run that has prompted much speculation from fans. However, there’s one thing in this book that his sure to leave fans speechless. However, being wary of spoilers, that’s all that can be said about that.
The issue has an even bigger X-factor going for it. However fantastic as Greg Capullo is, regardless of how synonymous his work is with “Batman,” Dustin Nguyen will always have a special place in the Bat-family. Nguyen’s angular, Mignola-esque style feels right at home in Gotham. From the unnervingly creepy cover, you can tell that “Batman” #28 has something different in store, a promise that Nguyen and collaborator Derek Fridolfs pay off in full. The opening scenes in the oppressed Gotham are terrific, a perfect showcase of Nguyen’s dark cartooning. However, the scene quickly changes to the bright lights of Gotham’s last night club, and that’s when things get really interesting.
More than anything else in this issue, Nguyen absolutely nails the characters. His Batman, short, stocky, almost Wolverine like, is constantly cloaked in shadow and menace. There’s something about the way Nguyen handles the New 52 batsuit that just feels right. He has even greater success with the debut of Batman’s new blue-tinged sidekick, teased a view month’s back. Some may balk at the giant gun (it’s a stun, chill), but the choice goes a long way to making the character stand out among the bat-family’s myriad of martial artists. Furthermore, the character has enough awesome gadgets to rival Bruce himself, including a particularly brilliant “bat-trick.” Finally, the reveal of the Gotham Underground’s new overlord is absolutely stunning thanks to Nguyen. Without spoiling things too much, Nguyen takes a character with obvious sex appeal, appeal that is often woefully exploited, and channels it into something fresh and empowering.
With Snyder and Capullo spending the better part of a year focusing on Gotham’s past, it feels incredibly refreshing to be flung into its distant future. It’s a much needed stimulant to keep readers going through the final leg of ‘Zero Year. Between this issue and his contribution to “Detective Comics” #27, it’s clear Scott Snyder is prepared celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Dark Knight in a big way. “Batman” #28 is an example of the best the New 52 can offer; an exciting tale that places familiar characters in surprising new circumstances. Let’s have more of this.Continued below
Final Verdict: 9.6 – Buy. The stars were truly aligned for this one.