Published by DC Comics
Scott Snyder is the current wunderkind writing the main Batman comic and since DC’s relaunch with their new 52 he has been receiving rave reviews. This is where he got his start with Batman and it is one hell of a beginning.
It seems that Batman was killed during some Intergalactic shenanigans that involved time bullets and dark gods. His former sidekick Dick Grayson stepped in to fill the role before Bruce Wayne‘s inevitable return to life. The original Boy Wonder had moved from being Robin to flying on his own as Nightwing, and now when Gotham needs him most he graduates to being Batman.
Snyder tells this tale in two parts. One focused on Batman and the other on Comissioner Jim Gordon. To do this there are two separate and very different artists, Jock and Francesco Francavilla.
I have written before of Jock’s art and how much I love it. He’s taken it to another level here. The way he draws Dick Grayson as a different Batman than the classic Bruce Wayne character. He is leaner, nimbler and as suits a former Circus performer, more acrobatic. Jock gives the cape so much character, it accentuates and enhances the way Batman moves, and this lighter, faster and younger Batman is all about motion.
I enjoy the way Jock draws the architecture of Gotham city and Snyder writes the cityalmost as another character. I assume Jock uses photo reference for the buildings but that’s an assumption as I know nothing of art (if it is anything this blog is an attempt to learn more about what I enjoy in comic art). The backgrounds in Jock’s panels are often bare or basic but that just draws more attention to the characters and their actions.
Francesco Francavilla does an excellent job on art of the back up story which parallels the main narrative, following Commissioner Gordon as he deals with the return of his psychotic son James. The story is reminiscent of the excellent Gotham Central in that it focuses on the characters around Batman. Francavilla’s art is great in a dark, noir, crime way which is well suited to this side of the story. His line is thicker and rougher, the characters more grounded by the laws of physics, even his Batman seems less likely to jump off a building. I love how he’s firmly attached to the rope in the page below, not plummeting without regard for gravity. And the boot. You do not want to be on the end of that boot.
Francavilla more than keeps up with the flash of Jock. This page below, where we see Gordon flashing back through past events as he drives. The fixed look in his eyes, the detail in the panels around it and the snow drifting across the windscreen.
This is a more human, family story, the return to Gotham of Commissioner Gordon’s psychotic son James, and Batman only passes through it. Snyder writes it with a deft hand, showing the division and distrust in the Gordon family and how a Father always holds hope for his son to be a good man. Even as all the evidence points to that never happening.
Snyder layers and develops both sides, and then brings them together. It’s got some great twists and dark reveals and a relentless momentum. The great art combined with a fresh character in the Batsuit make this one of my favourite Batman comics.
Should I buy it? Well it is the season to be getting in to Batman and if you want to read a great Bat book before the Dark Knight Rises then this will do it. Now it doesn’t cover any of the material that the film will cover, for that you should check out the magnificent Batman: Year One by Miller and Mazzuchelli, (which should be the first Batman book that anyone reads) or the Knightfall saga for the introduction of Bane who is infamous for breaking the Bat.
Next week: In a surprising attempt to be relevant I review a comic that has only just come out, and that combines my two great interests, comic books and Mixed Martial Arts. The violently honest Heart by Blair Butler and Kevin Mellon.