A trilogy of post-New 52 comics hit the stands this week, spearheading the introduction of the much-maligned Donnie Darko/bunny/Bat-mech Gordon-as-Batman… and I’ve been pleasantly surprised. I should have known that in the hands of Snyder and Capullo in particular, this new phase wouldn’t be anything but gold. I’ve managed to miss most of the Convergence splurge of titles (massive crossover events are not for me – if they have to happen, I’d rather Wikipedia them after the fact), and it seems like you don’t need to have ready any of them to enjoy these three issues. All you need to know is, presumably at the end of Batman #40 after his battle with the Joker, Batman is presumed dead and buried.
Suggested listening (think of the Bat task force as the riders)
I’d recommend reading these three in the following order:
We’re thrown in at the deep end with a tense battle between an energy-zappy-villain and the new armoured Batman. Clever as ever with narrative structure, Snyder flashes back to the genesis of Gordon getting into the suit (and more importantly, confirmation that the moustache is gone – no General Ross/Rulk shenanigans here, thank you very much) and introduces the status quo of a Batman working within the law. Crucially, it feels like a fresh start, and very different – we don’t hear a peep from Batman’s family, the entire narrative being from the point of view of the police department, and most importantly Gordon himself. New Commissioner Maggie Sawyer (proposed to by partner Kate Kane in her Batwoman costume in #17 of that series) is the replacement for Jason Bard post-Batman: Eternal, and with the help of Geri Powers’ tech is pushing forward a task force to support the new mech-Batman.
Gordon’s relationship with Sawyer is a respectful one, and his interaction with Harvey Bullock warm and affectionate as Bullock spits vitriol about the idea of Gordon taking on the mantle, only to end up taking the cigarette out of his mouth and delivering an appropriate seal of approval at chapter’s end. This (now-post 52) version of Bullock has been consistently layered, and it’s nice to see the focus of Batman’s sister title (below) to continue to be on him too.
Snyder and Capullo’s Gordon is a familiar voice if you’ve been following the series, a fully ginger (i.e. not grey), youthful version of the character who is steadfastly making a difference. He proved himself a badass during Zero Year, and this is an opportunity to shine for Gordon (to us, the readers) that he’s never had before.
Snyder has obviously anticipated the backlash (batlash?) to the mech-influenced costume, and drops in swipes about bunny ears, with Gordon calling it a robobatbunny before being reassured he’ll get used to it. As you’ll probably know by now, there’s actually a sleeker, capeless version of the more traditional costume Gordon is actually wearing inside the Aliens Power Loader-like robo-costume.
Capullo, Miki and Plascencia’s art is stunning as per, and having the same creative team aboard is consistent and reassuring; we’re in good hands.
Questions are many. Is Julia Parry really Julia Pennyworth, for one. Is that Bruce on the last page? And if so, who’s the other guy? A powerful start to the next Snyder-Capullo phase, and so many reasons to keep reading. Long may it continue.
Great moment: Darryl the Bat costume’s designer flicking through variants on the costume, including a Zur En Arrh nod. Also, the opening scenes with the ‘upside-down’ batsignal, spotlighting the villain.
Bullock to Gordon: Plus, you smoke. Batman can’t smoke. And you’re like, what, sixty?
The cover of this one is just amazing, intricately designed and jumping out from the shelf like all covers since #30 with Part 1 of Icarus. Check out Francis Manapul’s process in creating it here.
This time the perspective is more heavily Bullock’s (who acted as foil to Gordon in the above issue), who isn’t content to deal with the change being brought about. Montoya returns from Bludhaven to join Batman’s support team and rope Bullock into doing the same.
Blanco’s art is perfect for the talking-heads focus of this issue, and reminds me of David Aja’s Hawkeye work with his clean lines belaying human expression. Dominoes are being stacked well by the script, and Harvey’s luck doesn’t look to be getting any better. Gordon’s voice is pretty much confined to an introductory reflection on his new tenure, primarily there to ensure readers who haven’t come across this month’s Batman issue know it’s in fact Gordon in the can.
A good set-up for things to come then, and with enough mystery and murkiness to keep that ‘Detective’ tag as valid as ever.
Great moment: Harvey starting a fight with bikers in a cop bar, then not really getting involved. Also, a beat where Bullock spots Gordon’s put-out cigar in the Commisioner’s office, then asks when he’s coming back. “Don’t know if he is.”
Maggie Sawyer, new Commissioner: Well somebody needs to get in that suit, Jim. Maybe I’ll ask Bullock… if he can get into it.
Gordon: I think the Batman task force is a better “fit”.
BATMAN / SUPERMAN #21: Truth Hurts
And finally, we come to the point of view of a friend (or two, if you count Alfred’s minimal but effective appearance). Superman has been outed as Clark Kent, cropped his hair short and been depowered. He’s gone dark, and seeks Bruce for help. Not being an avid Super-reader, it’s great to see the friction between Lois and Clark – I at least know she’s the one that outed him, and the dialogue referring to ‘having reasons’ is intriguing. Luthor I have less time for, although the line about him kicking himself for not realising Clark = Supes sooner rings true.
Clark’s encounter with Alfred in the Batcave is touching, underplayed and clever: Superman knows that Alfred is grieving, but also that he was an actor before he was a butler. Over in Detective it’s Bullock that refused to believe that Batman is dead, and if the last page of Batman #41 is anything to go by, both Supes and Bullock might be on the right track. We all know Bruce will return, but it’s the journey to that which is important!
Art-wise, this title is slightly less stylised than the above two, but Syaf’s work is gritty enough, and he puts across the down-on-his-luck Superman as a proper brawler with appropriate blood and gristle. This issue might even be enough to get me back into this title, which I dropped after the first story arc.
Great moment: Clark realises he’s not made for living in the dark, steals one of Bruce’s bat-bikes and spray paints it red.
Alfred to Clark: Let him rest in peace. For his sake… and yours. His greatest gift to you was to be the shadow that let your light shine. That darkness was for him, not you.