Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Batman #32 Review (Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo)

I wonder if Scott Snyder went too far with Riddler in this series – did he make him just too powerful? He’s given Riddler who-knows-how-many robots that do all of these amazing things, as well as set elaborate traps all around Gotham – and he’s just one man!

Hmm… well, Batman #32 follows Batman, Gordon, and Fox’s attempts to track down the Riddler and end his stranglehold over the city. It’s an action-heavy issue with Batman taking out more of Riddler’s robots left and right while Gordon and Fox do their thing - act as sounding boards for Batman to bounce dialogue off of.

Throughout Zero Year, Snyder’s been referencing all kinds of Batman lore, from the comics from the 1930s and 1940s even to the awful Joel Schumacher movies, and everything in between and after. Here, he heavily references Christopher Nolan’s 2005 Batman Begins, particularly with the dialogue. Batman’s line: "Maybe that's what Batman is about. Not winning, but failing and getting back up. Knowing he'll fail, fail a thousand times, but still won't give up." Is reminiscent of Thomas Wayne’s “And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up” line.

Snyder’s also continuing his own riddling style of storytelling – that opening page where a homeless man strums a ukulele, and Bruce tosses him a wad of notes and tells him he needs a new butler? What the whaat? It’s like that scene from earlier in the series which opened in a Japanese nightclub in post-war Japan where an American GI watches a Japanese lady singing – was that scene ever explained?

Greg Capullo’s Gotham looks great with overgrown fauna, living up to the subtitle of this final arc, Savage City. It’s feral, it feels like a throwback to a time before man, or even after man, and FCO Plascencia’s colours continue to be the perfect complement to Capullo’s art. I love the body language and facial expressions on Batman and Riddler as they finally meet face to face – so subtle and natural, but so perfectly rendered with real tension between the two without a word being said.

The issue ends with a reference to a curious object from earlier in the series and an image of the Sphinx. In ancient mythology, the Sphinx guarded the entrance to the city of Thebes and asked a riddle to anyone wanting to enter. The original riddle remains unknown but the two most famous ones were: "Which creature has one voice and yet becomes four-footed and two-footed and three-footed?" (Answer: Man), and "There are two sisters: one gives birth to the other and she, in turn, gives birth to the first. Who are the two sisters?" (Answer: Day and Night - the words for both in Greek are feminine). I wonder if both answers are intended to be symbolic of Batman’s origin: a man with two sides, Bruce Wayne in daytime, Batman in (k)night-time? I’m probably just reading too much into it! 

Batman #32’s probably the least engaging issue in Zero Year (I’m guessing it will be anyway with just the finale to go) but the whole series has been so good that anything less than superb from Snyder/Capullo pales in comparison. A mediocre comic from these two is still head and shoulders above most of what DC’s publishing.

Batman #32

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