Monday, 21 March 2016

Batman, Volume 8: Superheavy Review (Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo)


Bruce Wayne/Batman was “killed” in Joker’s Endgame - but Gotham City can’t do without a Batman ‘cos it’s full of widdle babies! Enter Powers Corp who’ve bought up Wayne Enterprises and produced their own Mecha-Batman. And who better to step into these giant robot boots than a past-middle-aged, heavy smoker like Jim Gordon? Uh…

Oh boy. These last couple books - the odds’n’sods collection Graveyard Shift and the disappointing return of the Joker in Endgame - have seen a slide in quality from the usually dependable creative team of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. But this eighth volume, Superheavy? It’s the first time I’ve been horribly bored reading one of their books. Bored and baffled at the storytelling choices. 

That scene early on where a crowd of people are gathered with the most powerful handheld torches ever, beaming up their own Bat signals onto the Gotham night sky - would the people of Gotham mourn Batman so much? Considering the costumed crazies arrived roughly around the same time as he did and together they wrecked the city over and over? Living in Gotham must be a nightmare! Fun to read about for us but I think the reality would be that people would just want them all to piss off so they can have a quiet life! 

So Wayne Enterprises is no more and Powers Corp have taken over - since when? And who are Powers Corp? And why do they think Gotham needs a Batman - why do they care? And why build a Mecha-Batman suit - what are they getting out of it? All questions that go unanswered. 

The biggest question of course is why Jim Gordon? Why a nearly-fifty year old heavy smoker with glasses and extremely limited computer/tech skills? Sure, he’s an ex-Marine and the best cop in the city, but even if the suit does a lot of the work, is he really a good enough physical specimen, or mentally capable enough to operate something so complex, to be the new Batman? The Powers Corp CEO glosses over it all by saying Gordon knows the city better than anyone else - THAT’S the reasoning behind putting him in charge of such an expensive and dangerous enterprise?! 

I’ve been a big fan of Greg Capullo’s artwork on this series but that Mecha-Batman design is so crap. It doesn’t look like a bat, it looks like a rabbit! It’s Robocop crossed with Chappie! The Bat-Truck too is an awful substitute for the Batmobile. You wanted to drive the Batmobile because it was so cool - the Bat-Truck looks like an un-manoeuvrable, unattractive hunk of metal! And Gordon looks really weird now. He’s shaved off his moustache, gotten himself a Bruce Wayne haircut, he’s wearing contacts or had laser-eye surgery, and he’s got muscles - does not look like the Comish. Also Capullo draws Maggie Sawyer - who’s the new commissioner - looking way older than she does in Batwoman for some reason. 

As expected, Bruce is back but I didn’t think he’d be back immediately - Snyder didn’t even commit to Bruce being dead for longer than an issue! How did Bruce escape that cave-in? We don’t see but, like too much of this story, it’s ignored and Alfred says some piffle about how he found Bruce on the side of the road with his new love Julie Madison. He had amnesia, now he doesn’t, but he’s also not interested in being Batman. Bruce’s new storyline is the worst - he’s grown a beard and now he just wants to work in some rec centre! Seriously, if that’s how it is, I don’t even want to know what Bruce is up to - just keep him off page until he’s ready to be Batman again (which of course is going to happen)! 

Gordon gets his first supervillain in the form of Bloom, a guy who’s handing out magic seeds to gangsters in the Narrows (the poor part of Gotham), which gives them superpowers. So we see Mecha-Batman fighting nobodies with generic superpowers when we’re not seeing Gordon get used to his new role or see Bruce helping out in the rec centre. It’s such a boring, boring read! 

Even Snyder’s Black Mirror/Wytches artist, Jock, can’t liven things up in the issue he draws where Batman (Bruce this time as it’s a flashback story) battles crime in the Narrows and we’re introduced to a forgettable minor gangster character. 

Besides the rubbish designs of the new things, I enjoyed Capullo’s art as always. I liked small details like how the Bat signal (attached to one of Gotham’s iconic blimps) is pointed downwards to the criminals rather than up into the heavens (though it kinda takes away from the element of surprise Batman used to have). Gordon discovers he can customise his suit’s colours and there’s a panel where we see the Zur-En-Arrh design from Batman RIP, and the whole Batman disappearing while talking to the commissioner thing is referenced with a new digital camouflage cloak – cool! 

I know some people might see this opinion as that of a reactionary fanboy who can’t stand change but it’s not. I love it when Batman writers take risks and try new things: Dick Grayson Batman, Damian Wayne as Batman 666, Vampire Batman, Batman Beyond (those last two more the idea of rather than for specific books), Zur-En-Arrh - even the current New Gods Batman - are all interesting, enjoyable and keep the character fresh, exciting and relevant for readers. But sometimes the risks don’t pay off and those things fail which is the case with Jim Gordon Batman. 

Superheavy is unfortunately just a crap Batman book. And with both Snyder and Capullo set to leave Batman (Snyder’s working on a different Batman story separate from the main title while Capullo’s going off to draw a Mark Millar Image comic - ergh!), the golden age of great Snyder/Capullo Batman comics looks to be over. 

Gotham does need a Batman - just not this one.

Batman, Volume 8: Superheavy

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