Commissioner Gordon may have taken over the role of Batman in the present-day, but there are still untold Bruce Wayne stories yet to tell… Your Major Spoilers review of Batman #44 awaits!
Writer: Scott Snyder and Brian Azzarello
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: Deron Bennett
Editor: Mark Doyle
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Previously in Batman: After a final battle with the Joker, the Batman is seemingly dead (though the Mark Twain rule applies here), leaving the city without a protector. Commissioner James Gordon has agreed to take over the role of Batman, with technological help, and people have been mocking the antennae ever since. Of course, none of that matters for this issue, as it takes place in the past…
“GOTHAM CITY MARSHES: POST-ZERO YEAR”
This issue opens with a body lying outside the Gotham City limits, a young teenager killed by person or persons unknown. A young Batman begins the investigation, working his way through a city devastated by the Zero Year attacks (which took place in the Zero Year arc of the book, natch), but his investigations find only more questions. It’s a very effective look at Batman-as-detective, dealing with the corrupt police force of Gotham, the rise of the super-villains (Penguin is one of his prime suspects, and he is mentioned as having ties to the Red Hood Gang) and it really conveys the crushing despair that must come from living in a city that has become such a hellhole. Interestingly, rather than the ‘first person Wolverine’ narration that I’ve come to expect from comics, the issue uses a third-person narrative that feels like Gotham City itself is telling us what happens within its boundaries. I’m not a regular Batman reader, instead jumping in and out as Major Spoilers EIC Stephen tells me that it’s getting awesome again, but you can clearly feel the influence of guest co-writer Azzarello on this issue’s story, while the dialogue (and the hopeful ending) feel like classic Snyder.
REALLY EFFECTIVE AND EERIE
I’ve long been on the fence about Jock’s art, with it’s dreamlike watercolor properties, but for this story it works very well, conveying the dark alleys and smoke-filled rooms of the story effectively. The real star of the issue is the amazing color work by Lee Loughridge, using multiple color palettes throughout the issue, with Batman’s investigations in a wintry gray, with different colors used to accent flashbacks and interactions with other characters as necessary, amplifying and improving the well-done artwork and really making the issue work. Of all the New 52/DCYou books, Batman’s has been one of the most consistently excellent, thanks to Snyder and various art teams, and this issue is one of the best, introducing a new (?) Bat-villain and showing us an increasingly-rare look at a human Batman doing the legwork necessary to earn the title of world’s greatest detective. I’ve actually read this one five times already (rather than the usual two to three times that a normal review entails) and I keep finding new favorite bits of dialogue or wonderfully rendered panels on each read-through.
THE BOTTOM LINE: MORE FROM THIS TEAM, PLEASE?
In short, if every issue of Batman is this good? I really need to put the book on my regular pull list. Batman #44 is a good’n, featuring the traditional Batman in a very non-traditional tale that scores across the board in story, artwork and especially coloring, earning a very impressive 4 out of 5 stars overall. If you’ve been worried that Batman’s current status quo was somehow going to damage the book’s excellence, I’d say those fears are more than put to rest here…