Friday, February 17, 2012

Batman #1-6

Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo
Company: DC Comics

With the buzz around the upcoming Batman crossover "Night of the Owls" and the general notion that Scott Snyder doesn't know how to write a comic that even remotely falls into the category of bad, I decided to reassess my initial, slightly negative reaction to the book. The biggest hurdle that it had, and still has really, is simply Greg Capullo's artwork. There's no getting around the McFarlane influences that are ingrained in the line work. Yes, he has improved over the years, no question about it, but that particular comparison is inescapable and off-putting in many ways.

Breaking things down, as that's what this whole review is supposed to do, there are two problems that stand out in these six issues in regards to the art. The first one is Characters. When Capullo draws masked men and women, then we don't have a problem identifying them. Out of that context however, despite some of them looking like Sam & Twitch throwbacks, when our hero and the other members of the cast are seen together, they all have a similar structure and look. One of the best examples is in this first issue when Wayne and his family attend a Gala and are introduced to a character named Marsh who is running for Mayor. Wayne and Marsh are certainly different characters, differentiated by height, but other than that they look a lot alike. In the long run, it's a small thing, but confusing characters happens and this ultimately leads into my second problem: Clarity.

Clarity in comics is key. Being able to illustrate an action scene or whatever is occurring on panel in a way that is readable and easily identifiable is one of the hardest but most crucial things that an artist needs to be able to do. Capullo pulls this off a lot during these issues, but there are several instances where it took a minute to figure out what was happening. Now, some of that is due to Snyder's experimental and mind wonky story, which is fine and all part of the show, but there are a few action scenes that could have been much clearer.

Now that I have rattled on for two paragraphs about my problems with the art, it's inevitable that you'd think that I hate everything about it. That isn't true. One of the best features of Capullo's art is the way he makes Batman look like a badass when he's on panel. He makes the suit flow and the design work that he puts into not only the character and the tech that he uses, but in the city of Gotham as well, is great. The architecture lines up with what you expect but as you go further into the story, as you dig deeper into the nooks and crannies of this very old place, it surprises you too. I'll also point out that the design of The Owl's Talon (essentially the villain of the piece) is perhaps the best looking new villain that we've seen so far in the Relaunch of the New 52. It inherently looks cool but its also functionally menacing as well.

Enough about the art though, let's talk about the story. At this point, Snyder's track record speaks for itself. American Vampire, Detective Comics, and Severed are all amazing and should be on anyone's reading list. Batman deserves to be on that list as well, as it turns out. This is definitely a Batman book. Snyder covers all of the aspects and genres that you need and that you would expect: Superhero, Detective, Action. What makes it more noteworthy however is that he draws genre threads from his other books and injects them into the tale that he's telling. The Owl plot in particular is creepy and draws on horror, but horror that has been squeezed through a drug fueled lens and is transmuted into something out of a Stanley Kubrick film.

The imaginative ideas that Snyder has come up with here are great. He gets Batman so well and through simple yet telling ways, is able to build a world that is fun to explore. The advancement in technology that Batman utilizes, the interaction and relationships between the members of the GCPD and Batman, and the fact all facets of the character are explored seals the deal.

There are a few hiccups here and there though, the biggest having to do with a potential reveal of a grander scheme behind the deaths of Martha and Thomas Wayne. I don't actually think it will come to pass, as the randomness of their deaths feel too instrumental in the creation of the idea of Batman. That said, the idea does bring about some great flashbacks with Bruce and Alfred and the mental state that Bruce was in at that point in time, something that I don't remember being explored too often.

So yes, in a lot of ways, this seems like a continuation of what Snyder was doing in his Detective Comics run. A huge plot simmering in the background while smaller stuff boils up front, keeping our hero occupied. It's a long opening arc (still going at this point), but Snyder and Capullo have created something fairly special here. The Mystery is the fun part and that we're learning about it at the same time as Batman, and in some ways actively involved in the experience (Issue #5 with its twisty maze), just makes it cooler. If you're a fan of Snyder and you're not yet reading this, now is the time to start.


  1. Really? The opening arc is still going after issue six? That's strange, because the first hardcover collection is supposed to collect the first six issues.
    I'm wainting for the hardcover collection and it's almost driving me nuts to have to wait this long while hearing all these rave reviews.
    I absolutely loved Snyders Detective Comics run. On all fronts it was (almost) perfect.
    I was sad to see Jock and Francesco Francavilla not being part of the new Batman creative team along with Snyder, but Capullo, albeit very different, is also an excellent artist.

  2. Médard, I guess it's better to consider these first issues an opening gambit. It's satisfying, but the resolution that we do have seems to just lead things right back into more confrontations with the same villains.

    This isn't a bad thing by any means. :)

    I completely agree with you about Black Mirror. It was as close to flawless as you can get, and I do miss Francavilla and Jock, but I'm not against change.