Thursday, June 5, 2014

[New 52] Batman by Scott Snyder issue #18

I don't know how to begin this review without delving into a short backstory of my comics reading habit. I honestly only started reading Snyder's Batman continuously again this year. I stopped with the first arc of his Owls saga while it was ongoing. This is because I was more engrossed with Grant Morrison's Batman Incorporated run, so I had to set aside every other Batman title just to keep up with it since it has been around for eight years, I think. I just finished the first eight issues of Tomasi's Batman and Robin last month, and I honestly love, love LOVE his Damian Wayne far more than the writer who created the character (Morrison himself). So while reading Bat Inc., that was when I dabbled again with Snyder's writing.

But anyone who reads DC's Batman titles religiously knows about the events that took place in Morrison's Bat Inc. which then influenced and affected every other Batman title for the New 52 line-up. It's a crucial point and I'm not sure I can spoil it here even though it's already general knowledge to the comic book community these days. I'm just going to assume that the fact that you are reading this review, you know exactly what this issue touches upon. If you don't, STOP READING RIGHT NOW. Go back to the previous Batman issues, please. And if you're just a casual Batman fan who doesn't really feel like reading the series in the first place, then I suppose you could stick around and find out what the big deal is.

Now that we got that out of the way, let me get right to the point. In Batman Incorporated, an altercation happens between Damian Wayne (Robin) and a clone of his (long story, trust me). A fight ensues and claims Damian's life through a harpoon to the chest, straight to the fucking heart. That panel shot never stops hurting me all over my body. So we now have to relive the horror of another Robin dying but this time it's ten times more terrible because Damian is Batman's only son, and quite possibly the most endearing of all the Robins to date. I don't want to discuss what an asshole move for Morrison to do that. He fucked up Tomasi's run of Batman and Robin and I don't even think he considered that loose end. So Snyder also has to cope with that major change in the continuity, as does every Bat-family title. And that is where we get the REQUIEM tributes, spanning across Synder and Tomasi's respective titles, as well as Nightwing's and Batgirl's. So let's soldier on with this.

First, the timeline for this issue is problematic. The last issue ends the Death of the Family arc with the Joker. And then shit happens in Morrison's title and everybody needs to compensate. Snyder never made it clear how long Bruce has been grieving his son (in his own special way; vigilante has no off-hours, apparently) and I'm not sure he even wants to be bothered by it. It's a simple matter of detail, really but I will assume his issue comes right after Tomasi's own requiem release. I really didn't want to start reading ahead since I feel like I needed to finish Tomasi's 13-17 issues first but I felt like I'm falling behind with Snyder so I had no choice but to wound myself again and read this. I haven't even read the third volume for Bat Inc. (nor do I have urgent plans to) because I still haven't made peace with Morrison to this day.

But I need to stop talking about my personal issues and focus on the story now. Batman: Requiem is exactly what I expect it to be, and by that, I meant it's bloody heart-wrenching but gorgeously written and illustrated (by artist Andy Kubert). The amazing thing about it is that Snyder brings back Harper Row from issue #12, that tantalizing teenage civil engineer whose admiration for Batman has escalated over the months after their first encounter. She noticed his erratic behavior and was deeply worried with the way he has been working non-stop, even during daylight hours. With a vigor and enthusiasm that might be exactly what us grieving readers need right now, Harper comes to help Batman get out of his funk. It's not easy, though. He punches Harper in the face! That's how completely unreachable he has become.

Harper was fiercely determined, however. She fights back by verbally addressing that she has no interest in trying to mend his brokenness; all she wants is to help him get his own shit together because he is Batman and he's supposed to stand for something; something that Gotham needs no matter what. Her words stung and I'm glad she said them because they stuck with Batman long after he removed his mask and costume. By this point, I was already reeling from the emotions I had last year when I saw Damian die with my own eyes (and I remembered just being reduced to tears as that issue slipped from my fingers and fell to the floor. I shit you not! I was that destroyed about it!). Eventually, Harper's earnest concern won Bruce/Batman over and he tries to make amends. They had this talk which proceeded to make me tear up again like a little crybaby bitch:

I'm just gonna leave those page panels there and not say anything about this issue anymore or I may incessantly pour out stuff that none of you may be prepared to read about. I want to remain as objective as possible even if I am bleeding all over again, thanks to Harper being so goddamn sweet, saying all the words he Bruce needs to hear in this time of sorrow. I'm happy that Snyder is fully utilizing Harper in this way, showcasing what a decisive and enjoyable character she is so far. Damian Wayne will be irreplaceable. I am not ready for a new Robin. Fortunately, it does feel like Harper is not trying to take Damian's place anyway. But she is what Bruce needs to be around with right now; a fresh-faced youth with a grounded perspective and a ready courage. I'm really excited to see more of them together. I'm really trying to get through this as bravely as I could. I know that in reading Tomasi's B&R, I'm gonna be losing Damian all over again but Harper Row's parting words to Batman will be something I will take with me.

It's also the title of this issue and when it was revealed at the end, it was just so breathtakingly sublime!


* Snyder reminds us that it's often in the darkest of times when even the faintest of light can still shine through. And that for every loss, there is something more to gain.

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