Batman #19 Review
By: Rob Neil Gruszecki
Parked outside of the Gotham National Bank, several squad cars from the GCPD are used as protection for officers with their guns drawn and directed towards the front entrance. As their commissioner, Jim Gordon, addresses the criminal on the inside in charge of the hold up, a woman is pushed out slowly as a human shield. As a surprise to all in attendance the perpetrator of the crime turns out to be a man held in Gotham’s highest regards, one who is personally a friend of the commissioner and one who has done nothing but humanitarian and philanthropic efforts for the city rendering his personal need for a bank robbery superfluous in the first place. The events that follow are perplexing and surprising to say the least as buried in a cloud of smoke and armed with a shotgun a vigilante rides off away from a scene you thought you would never witness.
Fresh off his family fallout, courtesy of the Joker’s residence in Gotham and even more recently scarred by the loss of his only son, Bruce Wayne is in a very dark place. Everything is broken and the realization that both the Batman and Billionaire Wayne are completely alone is only beginning to seep through the armour of the Justice League Detective. This has brought the Bat back to his roots both in concept and delivery which means that the broody superhero will be forced to fall into his work. His work of course is that of solving mysteries, a job which will at the very least occupy the mind of the grieving father, otherwise lost in memories and shortcomings that led to his kin’s demise. Enter a shape-shifting psychopath hell bent on terrorizing the city, damaging the already beaten Bat and potentially ruining the public identity of Bruce Wayne, the only thing still intact after the last few months of punishment the poor man has suffered.
Scott Snyder, current Bat architect and DC Comics messiah, crafts a perfect breather arc for the series, one that tells an enthralling mystery and effortlessly showcases a rogue, constructing a story that is a classic for the hero. Building off current continuity yet not drowning in it, this two-part arc is a cleverly devised noir that presents the defeated hero with a conundrum that could easily be viewed as a distraction but ultimately brings the leather clad crime fighter back to what had developed the character to begin with. In a seamless fashion this small story that hints at the upcoming Zero Year (the next big arc in the Snyder/Capullo run on Batman) and acts as a perfect prologue to what will be a look into Batman’s New 52 beginnings is off to a tremendous start.
Greg Capullo on the interiors and cover of this issue make for a perfect compliment to Snyder’s gritty story and their work together will go down as arguably the most memorable and beloved of the New 52 launch. From the baffled faces of policemen as a rich business man exits a bank, dufflebag of cash and other surprises in hand, to the disturbing expulsion of a clay monster from a familiar faces’ mouth, onto the design of the new Batwing plane, the imagination of the artist is always a treat each month.
Backing up the main story is a mystery involving the Dark Knight and Smallville’s own god from outer space penned by James Tynion IV and pencilled by noir master Alex Maleev (Scarlet, Daredevil) that follows the two as they infiltrate a strange warehouse where people keep disappearing. Running as another journey into the psyche of a stoic man in shambles as he tries to bury himself in problems he feels he can fix instead of dwelling on horrors that have no resolution, the first part of the backup is an excellent extra feature to the comic.
Batman is one of the few books of the New 52 that is consistently confident in its direction and unrelenting in its exceptional quality. If you somehow have missed out on the frightening excitement that was The Death of the Family and the reinvigorating and revolutionary, modern masterpiece that was Court of the Owls then this is a perfect point to jump on with one of the best parings in comics today as they weave a thriller that celebrates everything we love about the timeless Batman.
Rob Gruszecki is a writer, musician and Wednesday warrior
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