Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Review: Batman #19

Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo
Publisher: DC Comics

With the death of his son, Damian, fresh on his mind, Bruce Wayne may be about to lose himself, only not in the way you think!

While not strictly a "Requiem" issue for the recently fallen Robin, this issue holds another important piece of the grieving process for our favourite Dark Knight. Amid an outbreak of uncharacteristic robberies, Batman can be found locked away in the deep dark recesses of the Batcave, watching footage of recent missions with his dearly-departed partner from the comfort of his cowl-cam. After the relationship-breaking antics of "Death of the Family", seeing Bruce retreat into himself, with no one other than Alfred to fall back on, is heart-breaking. This is clearly a time for the entire Bat-family to pull together, but they're further apart than ever before. And if the cover wasn't clear enough, writer Scott Snyder even seeks to challenge Jim Gordon's faith in his long-time trusted friend.

Like most DC comics this month, it's all about the cover. The "surprising" gatefold covers were meant to be part of a promotion known as "WTF?", but two seconds after releasing the publicity for it, DC realised they'd put a popular swear word on the front cover of a supposed children's medium. Sufficed to say, the promotion was shot down almost immediately and now it's more of a theme than a branding. Unfortunately, these covers seem to be purely about the shock value, rather than any attempt at a genuinely intriguing plot. No matter how gorgeous a picture of Bruce Wayne pulling a gun on Jim Gordon that Capullo can draw, I don't think anyone in their right mind will put much faith in the story to genuinely feature that beat as it appears here. To Snyder's credit, he addresses it far more succinctly than his fellow DC writers, playing the mystery for fun just as much as for shock. I particularly enjoyed the beat where Bruce ran over Jim on his motorcycle, there's something morbidly funny about that panel.

It's difficult to address the story of the issue without touching upon the central mystery of why these upstanding citizens would commit such heinous crimes. But any Bat-fan worth a damn will probably figure out what's going on and who's causing it. There are only so many villains in Batman's rogues gallery that can bring about such behaviour in their victims and I'm genuinely happy to see them make their debut in the New 52, having been almost entirely absent since the line wide reboot several years ago.

Ultimately, I'm hugely impressed by Snyder's continued efforts on this series. While Grant Morrison's "Batman Incorporated" may steal all the headlines with it's Robin-killing shenanigans, that book has always felt disjointed and more of an experiment on Morrison's part to see what messed up things he can do to Batman and see if he'll spring back as an icon. Whereas, Snyder is far more interested in the person under the cowl. This core Batman series grounds the entire line more than I can say, piecing together the puzzle that is 10+ ongoing monthly series and still having the power to tell it's own story. It'd be easy for every Bat-book under the sun to get lost in a sea of Damian-related grieving *cough*Batman&Robin*cough*, but the far crueler realisation is that life goes on, even without that snobby murderous punk with a heart of gold. There will always be a case. There will always be a villain. There will always be Batman.

9 out of 10

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