Saturday, February 4, 2012

Comic Review: Batman #1-3 / Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, & Jonathan Glapion

Batman #1
Well, I can definitely get into the cover here.  It's dark, it's desperate... it's Batman facing off against a big crowd of his worst enemies.  Not a bad intro to the issue.

And, as it turns out, the cover isn't lying this time.

The story starts out in Arkham Asylum, with Batman surrounded by a big crowd of his worst enemies, which of course is almost never boring to watch.  His team-up with Dick Grayson's "Joker" is of course just another way to show off Batman's hi-tech toys, which are of course impressive.  It of course makes you wonder just what other gadgets and technological tools Batman has hidden in his narrative arsenal as we kick off this story.

The introduction to the Court of Owls here is handled decently, with a grisly murder pulling Batman away from a party and his unwillingness to even acknowledge the Court even as Harvey Bullock starts to bring them up.  It provides at least a plausible reason for why it's never been brought up before, even if it unavoidably leads to the, "Oh no, not that again!" syndrome that sometimes plagues stories that bring in a new element without ever having acknowledged it in the past.  The ending, though, implying that Dick is the murderer and connected to Bruce Wayne's impending assassination attempt, is a little ridiculous.  Given his publication history, no veteran of these books is ever going to believe that Dick could possibly want Bruce dead.

Art-wise, I enjoy Capullo's designs and pencil work.  He handles Batman and his family and rogues gallery with equal aplomb all around.  Arkham and its denizens look freakish and dirty, while the Bruce Wayne gala and its attendants all look convincingly smooth, polished, and well-to-do.  I think his pencils and Glapion's inks do an excellent job of supporting the narrative and conveying its mood.  Kudos.

Overall, not a bad beginning, though not perfect either.  I'll be eager to see the Court of Owls and how they influence Gotham and pit themselves against Batman.  It makes for a promising initial story arc to the reboot for Batman.  Now we'll just have to see where it goes.  Recommended.

Batman #2

Another cover that actually gives you an idea of some of what's going on in the cover.  The action here is exhilarating, and for good reason.  Batman is playing chicken on a train track with a helicopter.  I am amused.

We get a very in-depth look at Bruce Wayne's relationship to Gotham from his viewpoint, and his many reasons for seeing the city as his.  From his family's building of the city and Old Wayne Tower in the past, to his constant vigilance in protecting the city as Batman in the present day, there's apparently plenty of reason for him to be confident that he knows this city better than anyone else.  The idea of the Court of Owls's existence is anathema to him, as he's the city's best son and its best student.  Nothing happens in his city without his knowledge.

Of course, continued investigation of the murder victim's body suggests they do exist, as does the sudden appearance of an owl-clad assassin to kill Bruce Wayne at the appointed time.  It takes every trick he has to stay alive and evade the killer's wrath, but even then he refuses to believe that the Court exists as anything more than an urban legend.  The assassin awakens from his apparent death while in the ambulance, kills the driver and EMT, and takes off to freedom in the ambulance, leaving a chill as we realize Bruce seems to be very wrong.

I'm also interested to know more about Lincoln March, given his apparent similarities to Bruce Wayne.  I'm hoping he ends up being more or less what he advertises, as opposed to another Tommy Elliot.  He seems like he might know about the Court of Owls, and I'm hoping that, if he becomes an ally, that he's an ally in the form of a regular guy (albeit with connections and money) who really just wants to help protect the city that helped him when he was young.  I think we could use seeing someone like that in this comic.

Old Wayne Tower, the motorcycle-helicopter joust, and the ambulance sequence all look great here.  Capullo can clearly handle action scenes as well as the quieter, more introspective ones where Batman is conducting his investigations.  The assassin, the Talon, is also pretty impressive: fierce, and vicious without even really evincing any expression.  And he just keeps coming, like a Borg or the Terminator.  I like the look of him.

Overall, things keep getting better as the story progresses--this seems to be the norm for the New 52 so far.  As the mystery here deepens, I find myself wanting to know more about the Court of Owls, as well as why Batman knows nothing about them.  The storytelling is tighter than in the last issue, and the illustrations are involving as ever.  Highly recommended.

Batman #3
I'm not too impressed by the blank white background of this cover, but the blacks and reds lend an appropriately stark sense of urgency to Batman's bloody struggle with the Talon in this illustration.  If only there'd been more to the background...

The hunt for the Court of Owls is on in this issue, as we see Batman interrogating the local gangs for information about the Talon, talking to Alfred about his great-grandfather Alan Wayne's senility and to Lincoln March about the Court itself, and finally investigating the possibility of "nests" where the Court has made its bases of operations over time.  Things are kept appropriately chilling and foreboding as we discover that the Court does indeed exist, and has for centuries.  The lead-off bit about Alan Wayne's delirious state shortly before he died was effective in maintaining the mood from the end of the last issue.

The explanations about owls, as they emerge from various sources, also keep things just on the edge of creepy: they're natural predators of bats, they make their nests from the remains of other nests.  Even Lincoln March's warning to Bruce about being so focused on the smaller, more immediate dangers that you can't see the bigger ones that have been close by forever makes my blood chill a little.  When Batman then discovers the various hideouts the Court of Owls has been using over time, it just drives everything home, and we realize he doesn't know Gotham as well as he once believed.

I really enjoyed the various looks of the Court's hideouts over time, established with varying levels of decor and technology to reflect the decade or era in which each was appropriated.  The dark colors in all scenes but the Gotham General Hospital were also impressively suited to the narrative tone in this issue.  We don't see the Talon in this issue until the final panels, but his armor suits over time and his eventual appearance look appropriately awesome and sinister.

Overall, I'm really liking the narrative now.  I'm eager to see how Batman handles the existence of the Court now that he knows it's not just a legend, as well as a rematch between him and the Talon.  Hopefully it'll happen in the next issue.  Looking forward to reading more!  Highly recommended.

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