Tuesday, July 14, 2015

[Best of Batman] Gates of Gotham

"How can you hope to deal with Gotham's future when you know so little about its past?"

Current Batman series writer Scott Snyder used to write for Detective Comics back when Dick Grayson took the mantle of Bruce Wayne as Batman. Final Crisis complications and whatnot demanded such a change in heroes; much like for today's post-Convergence event whete Bruce Wayne is once more a goner. You just have to be there to understand. In any case, this is the second major story arc collected in as a graphic novel that I've read from Snyder's Detective Comics run with Grayson as the Dark Knight. The first one is The Black Mirror which you better believe is worth the trouble. I cannot stress how much I recommend the bejesus out of it. 

In contrast Gates of Gotham is a thinner compilation with a story that ran only for six issues. The two stories are fundamentally different but just as enjoyable for the same reason which would be Synder's uncanny skill to weave together compelling murder mysteries/conspiracy tales. After all, this story does come straight out of the Detective Comics line so that's something that should be a given. While The Black Mirror is more of a psychological thriller, Gates of Gotham is an action-suspense pseudo-steampunk narrative concerning a forgotten pillar of Gotham and his deranged journey to destroy the city--or at least that's what he fancies himself to be: a revolutionist who felt deprived and abused by Gotham, particularly by its elite and felt the need to get even.

And by its elite I mean the Kanes, Cobblepots, Elliots and the Waynes. These are the four founding families who have respective skeletons in their closets and demons to contend with. Grayson is Batman now while Bruce is busy with this global vigilante organization (Batman Incorporated) so he had to do this alone but not without the support and assistance of Tim Drake (Red Robin), Hong Kong operative Black Bat and the arrogant Damian Wayne who is still a prickly and insecure pre-teen who is always disagreeable just for the sake of it. I say this with all the love and affection I have for his Peter J. Tomasi counterpart in the recent comics. 
"Like it or not, Gotham has royalty and they stretch back to the origins of the city. She protects her own but if you don't belong here, she'll never keep you."

I really loved reading Gates of Gotham because it was briskly-paced and wasted no time with the finer details; it packed and threw some serious punches. Each installment propelled you to keel reading, to look forward to the resolution and pay-off of the mystery surrounding the villain known as the Architect. Once again, Snyder, together with co-writer Kyle Higgins, employed Gotham city not just as a setting piece but as a participatory character itself. This was established through the flashback sequences concerning the city during its humble beginnings that also tied back to the villain's own arc and whatever motivated his nefarious actions in the present. The transition between past and present was seamless and suspenseful, and I could definitely see readers waiting in anticipation back then when Gates of Gotham was only released as a monthly issue during its run.

Gates of Gotham was reminiscent of the tonality and approach of his Owls saga in New 52 particularly the concept of secrets from the past and the historical style of storytelling. Unlike Owls, however, this was a brief exploration about one madman's quest to avenge a perceived wrongdoing which actually helped it because it wasn't unnecessarily drawn out. The confrontation between Batman and the Architect was an impressive display of how perception especially a narrow-minded and hateful one can destroy oneself and his connections with the present which was what the Architect wholly represents.
"Gotham doesn't change you. She just reveals things, whether you like them or not. And today she showed me that I can be Batman." ~Dick Grayson

On the other side of the coin, Dick Grayson also gets some insight concerning his role as the new Batman and why he has more than lived up to the code of the Dark Knight while also not losing himself in the process. While The Black Mirror story arc has already tackled the tricky disadvantage of becoming the mask you wear, Gates of Gotham reveals what lurks under that mask and why we can only wear it for so long until it rots away our real face and erases who we are.

Scott Snyder and Kyle Higgins' Gates of Gotham may only be less than 200 pages but it's a purchase you will never forget. I can easily see a well-adapted animation film for it. There are great action and narrative panels within its pages that are just begging to be realized on screen. The collection also has a bonus story about Bat-Inc's Muslim operative the Nightrunner as written by Kyle Higgins. Other supplements include the variant covers by Dustin Nguyen which werr as awesome as Trevor McCarthy's published ones. This is a highly-stylized action-adventure meant to be picked up by anyone and sooner rather than later.


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