Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Batman by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV issues #51-52

Well, this was something. I didn't expect the two recent issues to be so...un-Batman. I've been gone for a really long time updating this blog, I know, because of other priorities, but rest assured I will still find time to review monthly releases of Batman-related comics in the current run. I have yet to get to issues 51-52 of Detective Comics, as well as the concluding issue for Robin: Son of Batman (that was still discontinued, right? I was really hoping it wasn't, and I prefer to live in this island of denial). Since I've been gone for a while, I'll try to talk more in this review which combines both issues in a single post because, hey come on, I'm lazy that way. But stick with me; I promise this one would still substantial enough to be worth reading.

ISSUE #51 by Scott Snyder

Right on the heels of the Superheavy arc's conclusion, which also marked Scott Snyder's official 50th issue since he took over writing duties for one of DC's flagship titles Batman, this issue entitled Gotham Is was a true testament as to what made me fall in love with Snyder's writings of the Dark Knight. Of course, there were some less than stellar moments in between, and some unfortunate snags as well, but Snyder's series continues to be a fine example of a superhero comic book, particularly with the narrative style of his voice, most notably when it is accompanied by sweeping visual landscapes and details courtesy of Capullo, Miki, Plascencia. These artists are the dream team that breathe life into Snyder's text. Issue #51 Gotham Is demonstrates this in its quietest moments, and this story is definitely leaning more on subtlety as oppose to anything else.

The whole shtick about "Gotham Is" was a nice callback to the very first Snyder issue. Put simply, there is a section in the newspaper that gathers answers from the "Gotham is..." question where citizens can mail their responses. Most of these answers are bleak and often macabre, underlining the terror, frustration and unease that Gothamites feel about their city. Issue #51 sets up that mood very nicely. Bruce Wayne is now Batman again, and James Gordon is in the police force again (although I can't be exactly sure since I have yet to read the recent issues for Detective Comics which may contain some details about what happened to Gordon after he quit being Batman). Everything about this issue was nostalgic and reminiscent of what you may come to expect from a Batman comic, and yet we eventually find out that Snyder was deconstructing his own tried and true tropes.

Reading this was comparable to Doctor Who Series 8's episode called Listen which is a parable about fear and loneliness, playing up to writer Steven Moffat's known tropes whenever he writes a DW episode. Much like that, Snyder lets readers anticipates what they have come to expect from a typical Bat-story; only to surprise them with something so meaningfully bittersweet in the end.

Another power outtage occurs in Gotham. Batman, of course, believes yet another criminal is responsible. He visits the usual spots; the Arkham Asylum, City of Owls underground place, Penguin's criminal lair...he even apprehended a former gangster who turned out to have started living a straight life is now writing for the Gotham newspaper. And he was the one narrating 'Gotham Is' for this issue after all. As it turns out, it was just a simple power outtage. There was no other shoe that's going to drop, and the citizens of Gotham for once have actually started to change for the better rather than for the worse. I suppose it was to be expected, after the incident with the Joker's toxin epidemic, and Mr. Bloom's hostile takeover from Superheavy. Finally, Gothamites have coped for the best, and they want Batman to know that it's all because he believed in them.

Those lines cited above, of course, made me weep. The gangster-turned-journalist encouraged Batman to 'take a break' for tonight and find that his city, for a moment, doesn't need saving. I cry about comics a lot especially when it's Batman and it's written by Tomasi or Snyder. It's great, actually, because I've been away from DC comics since my 2015 X-Men comics binge, so I was so relieved to come here to Batman and find myself in tears again. That's the best feeling in the world, and Issue #51 Gotham Is has absolutely became an instant favorite of mine. And you know what else makes this even more emotional? SCOTT SNYDER OFFICIALLY SAYS GOODBYE TO HIS RUN FOR BATMAN! After five years of writing this series for 2011, the team of Snyder and Capullo have finally performed their swan song for this issue, and what a farewell it is!

Thank you for the gift of Batman, Snyder, I will always cherish the shocking direct message you sent me on twitter two years ago which embarrassingly contained your view about my sorta ambivalent reception to the early issues of Batman Eternal. But you were so nice and graceful about expressing your views anyway so THANK YOU VERY MUCH! I will cherish this one-time message~


ISSUE #52 by James Tynion IV

Issue #52 was written by recurring guest writer James Tynion IV whom Snyder had collaborated in past projects before during his run, most notably Batman Eternal. He even wrote the sidestory to Synder's Endgame story about the Rashomon-esque Joker's true origins which I liked a lot. I thought he was going to be the new writer of the series, but apparently he is working on the re-branding for Detective Comics which will now become a Rebirth run. So who is handling the new Batman roster? A writer named Tom King with artists David Finch (whose artwork I'm familiar with from Dark Knight run) and Mikel Janin. Anyway, that's enough belated news announcement (if you follow Batman in comics, y'all already probably know). Let's talk about Tynion's The List.

This was yet another story about nostalgic sentiment, focusing on the first few years about Bruce Wayne trying to cope with his parents' murder. This would seem like an overly explored concept already and in many ways it was. What was fresh about Tynion's writing of it, however, was the careful splicing of the present and past which for me was superbly depicted by his penciller and colorist, Riley Rossmo and Ivan Plascencia with Jordan Boyd respectively. I cannot say this again but I will, but I go nuts for Plascencia's coloring. NUTS! It's obvious to me which panels he colored because I know his signature colors by now. I'm happy he was a part of this creative team just to ease me from the loss of the Snyder-Capullo dyad from their final issue aforementioned.

The art by Rossmo was peculiar but in a rather fun way because it seemed to highlight the flashback sequence as truly something from the past. As you could tell from that page I posted, the story centered around Alfred's struggle to help Bruce cope and Leslie Thompkins' having a hand at the recovery process by providing him a journal where he had to make a list of the things he needs to do to move on from his bereavement. The issue then shows us the many things Bruce was able to accomplish which included training to fight and eventually becoming a vigilante. Most of the narrative boxes depicting of what items he had listed may seem a little emo and wangst, but he is a boy who had just lost his parents so it was acceptable for him to write such things where he prioritized hardening his shell to cover up for the mushy, soft core underneath. My favorite panels included this splice:

Plascencia's colors are so beautiful in the upper panel. Meanwhile, Alfred trying to be there for Bruce at the most difficult time in his young life will always going to be heartbreaking no matter who writes it, and Tynion just nailed that emotionally-charged exchange very well. I think this issue, if not read after Snyder's goodbye piece from the previous installment, may come off as melodramatic, but since readers are still probably grieving Snyder-Capullo's farewell for this series, then this issue would definitely struck a chord too. Tynion, I believe, took advantage of that, so The List came off as a consolation tale, appeasing our fears and anxiety for what lies ahead for the new roster of DC's Batman. And it sort of worked. I loved that ending page!