I am a comic book collector and happy to be one. I might say “proud” if I hadn’t, over a year ago, switched to reading digital as opposed to print comics. I feel a bit robbed of the tactile sensations of the hobby – of the turn of the page, the sneaking look to the panel a page over, the bagging and shorting and stacking and filing. Though I read my comics in a different medium than I used to, I still treat each Wednesday (comic book delivery day to specialty shops around the country) as different from the other days of the week. I subscribe and now, rather than go to the comic store to be handed the books pulled for my “Hold Slot,” I click a button on my iPad and watch them download.
Then I read them.
Rare is the week that I don’t read them all between Wednesdays and some weeks I have, well… let’s just say more comic books in my digital downloads than a grown man should. Comic book legend Will Eisner (creator of The Spirit) is one of the most influential men even to put pencil to drawing board in the pursuit of making comics. So influential was he that the industry awards (think the Oscars or the Emmys or the Grammys) are named The Eisner Awards. He called comic books “sequential art,” perhaps because he became embarrassed by his profession when he had to admit what he did for a living. This is my weekly reaction to the comics I read.
I read 10 comics last week: Batman Eternal #47, All New X-Men #38, Amazing Spider-Man #15, Arkham Manor #5, Daredevil #13, Darth Vader #2, Gotham Academy #5, New Avengers #30, Star Trek #42 and Batman #39.
The best comic I read last week was Batman #39.
When comic books are able to actually up the stakes, to make it seem as though the stories they are telling have far-reaching, life-and-death consequences, I take notice. Because of the nature of the periodical medium, it is very difficult for writers to create real tension. The higher the visibility of the title character, the more difficult the challenge.
Take Batman. Readers know that he’s not going anywhere. He’s not going to be killed and, if he is, readers understand the next story arc will feature his inevitable return to life in some form or another. We know when we read “The Last __________ Story” that __________ (whomever’s name fills that blank) will be back. So, because I am well aware that, after the conclusion of this current “Endgame” arc in Batman, the title character will still be around and the Joker, who is is adversary here, will likewise return, I am all the more impressed that I am anxious – the right word on all levels of its definition – for the next issue and for the conclusion of the story.
There’s a reason each issue in this arc has been The Best Sequential Art I Read Last Week. Batman has been comic book making at its best. Greg Capullo’s art is flawless. His Joker is downright scary with a crazed glint in his eye that is hard to look at too closely. His supporting cast, notably his Commissioner Gordon and his Dick Grayson (I bet Scott Snyder isn’t too thrilled that the events in Grayson’s comic book life have left him all but unavailable for this story – I know I am not), are distinct and visually perfect. His Batman is hulking and deadly, even as he increasingly faces what he thinks might be his defeat. I’ve got many Greg Capullo inspired action figures for a reason: his art is just incredible.
But there are many pretty art teams out there (Capullo is ably assisted by Danny Miki on inks and Dave McCaig on colors). What makes Batman such a great read is the synergy between artist and writer.
Scott Snyder has woven another Batman story for the ages. At the moment of at least two “reveals” this issue I thought “why didn’t I see that coming?” Snyder has laid the ground work for years in Batman for this story and all his work is paying off. Though the “hero has to team up with his greatest foes” plot twist can be a trope in comic books, Snyder pulls it off in this issue not only once but twice. As I mentioned, the stakes feel real here – I have to HAND it to Snyder – and when the writer says in interviews that Batman’s status quo will be irrevocably changed after this story concludes, I believe him.
Batman is the best pure superhero book on the market right now. Snyder isn’t trying to re-invent the genre. He’s succeeding in re-energizing it. Other writers should take note.