Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Batman, Volume 9: Bloom Review (Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo)

I used to look forward to Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman books. Amidst the sea of crap that was the New 52, their title was one of the few that was genuinely good. Now, after reading this book, I’m just glad they’ve moved on as Snyder in particular seems burned out of ideas. 

Bloom continues to tear up Gotham while Jim Gordon as Mecha-Batman struggles to keep the peace. Bruce Wayne finally realises he has to be Batman and blah blah blah.

Bloom was such a terrible character. He had poorly defined motivations that made him impossible to care about. He’s sorta against the one-percenters but he also wants to destroy Gotham with some kind of black hole device because… that’s what supervillains do? Which of course leads to giving ordinary people magic seeds to give them superpowers because… oh, I give up trying to understand this tripe! And his powers kept changing to suit the situation. His fingers can stretch infinitely, he can grow to the size of a city block, he can shoot electricity from his hands, now he can shoot fire from his hands, now he can control the army of Bat-bots with his mind - it’s so contrived.

Bruce’s return as Batman was just plain confusing. He uses a machine to sort of but not really travel across the Multiverse looking for… himself? Meanwhile an alternate white-armoured Batman who’s married with kids is also trying to break through to somewhere for some reason? And then suddenly Bruce is Batman again. I have no fucking clue what happened in that sequence!

Snyder’s writing style bothered me a lot in this one too. Maybe he’s started believing his own hype but he’s gotten way too verbose lately and his word diarrhea ruins certain scenes. There’s a totally uninteresting subplot about Duke (the new Robin) looking for info on his parents which, for some reason, has led him to the Iceberg Lounge, Penguin’s club. Before he breaks in, he tells himself a long, pointless story about his mom. It’s not only boring and needless but it drags down the pacing and looks stupid on the page - Duke’s just rambling out loud to no-one! And this is one of many such instances throughout. Characters can’t just appear somewhere, they’ve got to tell each other anecdotes about the locations or an incident from their past that’s just popped into their heads. Awful, plodding storytelling.

But the writing gets worse as the book goes on. The story ends up falling back on the superhero template of hero vs villain in a destructive final encounter which is bland enough without a key scene missing from the narrative. Bloom is a giant, Batman is just a man - how to defeat Bloom? Suddenly Batman happens to stumble across a giant Joker bot! Then the next time we see Batman he’s in a giant grey Bat-bot fighting Bloom. What?! Where did the Joker bot come from? Where did it go? Who was in it? Did Batman defeat it with his Bat-bot (where did he get that?) or did he defeat the Joker bot off-screen and somehow convert it into a Bat-bot in a few pages? We never used to get this kind of sloppy Geoff Johns-esque writing from Snyder in the past but that’s the level he’s reached at the end of his Batman run.

The Joker cameo was compelling and Batman’s triumphant return was awesome - leaping into action, kicking ass, none of this silly robot suit crap which is thankfully over and done with now. Greg Capullo’s art is fantastic as usual too, particularly in the Batman action scenes which he knocks out of the park. I also liked his design of Bloom (about the only thing I liked about the character) which was creepy and nightmarish. And while the alternate Batman sequence was bizarre, Yanick Paquette’s art made it all look right purty.

Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo did some fantastic Batman arcs together - The Court of Owls, Death of the Family, and Zero Year – any one of which puts them in the pantheon of great Batman creators. But to have three, and back-to-back like that? That’s unique. Unfortunately they end their celebrated run with a very poor storyline in Superheavy. I appreciate that they took a risk with making Jim Gordon the new Batman but a bad idea is a bad idea. It didn’t so much bloom as it withered on the vine.

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