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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 6 comics last week: Avengers#7, Batman #50, Lois and Clark #6, Grayson #18, Star Wars #17 and Batman and Robin Eternal #25.
The best comic I read last week was Batman #50.
With news of DC Comics “New 52” ending or transforming into “DC Rebirth,” with Batman‘s current “Super Heavy” arc winding down and with this book reaching its 50th issue, obviously Batman #50 was going to be something special. The weight of all of these pressures might be too much for other creators, but not for writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo. Rather they seem to relish in the challenge of delivering what might be the biggest Batman story in their run to date.
Snyder and Capullo (with the exception of a very few fill in issues here and there) have been on Batman since it relaunched with the “New 52” and have crafted a handful of arcs that are already considered “definitive” stories for Batman. They have given readers The Court of Owls, a retold “Year One” and not one but two stunning Joker story lines. While I don’t think “Super Heavy” is quite on par with those (and why would it be as it has featured Jim Gordon as Batman?), this final chapter comes pretty close to being as good as anything else they’ve done in their tenure on the book.
Capullo’s art remains stunning throughout the book. He even manages to make Mr. Bloom – an antagonist I really didn’t get into, frankly – menacing. This story line is outlandishly science fiction, but Capullo keeps it from going over-the-top as he relies more on horror visuals than sci fi ones to convey Snyder’s story. That is a good choice that works remarkably well in this issue. Further, his Bruce Wayne, with or without beard, has looked heroic and Batman-like during this entire run. And I love the Batman costume redesign – which I assume is Capullo’s. Judging from preview art for “DC Rebirth,” it looks like that design will be sticking around and that’s a good thing. It’s a great, sleek approach to the Dark Knight. Bravo, Mr. Capullo.
We all knew Bruce Wayne would return to the costume at the end of this arc. That he did was no surprise. But Snyder does have shocks along the way during this over-sized 50th issue – enough of them to keep readers excited about the conclusion of the arc and enough to spur more than a little melancholy at the fact that Capullo and Snyder are telling their last Batman story together (as far was we know…). What Snyder has done (and I hope this carries over to “Rebirth”) is to give us a Batman at the height of his powers. His resurrected body has none of the wear-and-tear that he should have following his years of fighting crime and that’s a pretty cool concept. Here now we have a Batman who hasn’t been beaten and broken, but one who is in prime mental and physical condition. That’s a neat concept.
Snyder shows great touch wrapping up the stories of the supporting cast from Gordon to Julia Pennyworth to Geri Powers. He also nicely ties in Duke Thomas to the end of the story here and answers a question that has been lingering since the “Endgame” arc. I like Duke, who has become a bit of a fixture in the Bat-World in recent months, and Snyder handles him as well as any writer.
What didn’t work for me throughout the story was the villain – Mr. Bloom. I believe I understood the intention in his creation (and, if I didn’t, Batman spells it out for me in a bit of expository dialogue late in the book) and, as mentioned above, his look was properly imposing, but I just never felt much affinity for him. He was there. He was terribly terrible. He did awful things. He was going to destroy Gotham. He just didn’t fire for me on all cylinders the way the rest of the book did.
But, hey, that’s small potatoes. Batman has been a wonderful book – easily the best of the New 52. It’s been funny, thrilling, creative and shocking. I think, as the years pass, the comic book reading community will have to judge this Snyder/Capullo run as one of the best runs for a writer and artist together on the same book for an extended time. It has really, truly been that good and that consistent.