Of the many problems plaguing DC’s New 52 reboot, almost none of them have to do with Batman. The caped crusader is enjoying a long streak of successes both before and after the continuity overhaul, but his latest development is a full renaissance. Batman writer Scott Snyder has devoted a significant amount of time to Bruce Wayne before and unto his transformation into the Dark Knight, and each villain he faces is scarier in Snyder’s reimagining than ever before.
Batman #29 finds the caped crusader dashing to stop a plot to take out all of Gotham City, as per usual — although at this stage it isn’t usual at all for him, and his mistakes accrue. When Batman does something risky, we know he’ll make it. When Year Zero Batman takes the same risk, we’re not at all sure it will work out — and throughout this book, it doesn’t.
The “Dark City” story arc tells the tales of how all the players got to where we met them in the New 52 introduction, and it isn’t pretty. Years ago the Riddler’s began a slow character rehabilitation from a laughable Joker knock-off to — like Batman — an omniscient force that proves knowledge is power. And at the same time, this is a younger Riddler, still a young man only newly comfortable in his skin, however awful that may be.
But the full praise for this book must go to Greg Capullo, who’s doing unquestionably the best work of his life. A fistfight with Dr. Death, who has essentially given himself super-lupus, is utterly brutal, but not nearly as flinching as Capullo’s depiction of the deformed doctor in action as a wracked and wretched thing. His monstrous appearance is a stark contrast to Snyder’s dialogue, where the villain waxes touchingly on what it’s like to lose a loved one and realize vulnerability — at least in Gotham — always accompanies pain.
Capullo’s art spoons up a sizable dollop of old Frank Miller tricks of storytelling, but mixed in there are other definitive artists from Batman’s history, and all without sacrificing any of Capullo’s own style. This feels like an evolution of his art into the sum of all his experience, and it’s fair to say the same of the Batman portrayed here. In depicting Bruce Wayne earlier than other creators, this team has done a marvelous job of showing how he’ll grow into the character that influences his role here. If you only buy one DC title this week, it’d be this one.
Brendan recently had the privilege of conducting Girlfriend Audition: Jennifer Irene.