Writers: Scott Snyder & Brian Azzarello
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Say what you will about DC since the launch of the new 52, the most consistent book, without question, that DC has put out has been Batman. Not only is it DC’s strongest book, there is a strong case to make that it’s been the strongest Superhero comic of the past couple years. That all has to do with Scott Snyder, a top 5 writer in comics, and Greg Capullo, a top 5 artist. This issue provided a fill in of sorts, and while I would normally be wary of a Capullo-less month, when the fill in is by Jock, Snyder’s Wytches partner and a personal favorite of all time, I was giddy. Add writer of The Dark Knight: The Master Race in Brian Azzarello, this was bound to be a home run. Surprise, it didn’t disappoint.
What I loved most about this issue was how Snyder and Azzarello took Batman back to his roots in a true detective story. While Snyder has used this in his run, up until now there was a heavy horror feel to the book. While this toned that down, it also ramped up the detective thriller; borderline noirish, which was a stroke of genius. This story is Batman, right after Zero Year so in the past, discovering the body of a young man, seemingly killed from a fall, in the middle of a field outside Gotham. From here, we follow him dissect the crime, moving from clue to clue in true Batman fashion. The mystery takes several twists throughout, and this issue feels like a multi issue arc’s worth of story in one comic.We have really delved deep into Bruce’s history in Snyder’s run prior, so the lack of personalization works fine here as well. Toward the end, we discover how Mr. Bloom, the current James Gordon Batman’s foe, is involved in all this, but not in a way which makes the character any less intriguing. If anything, the presence of Mr. Bloom in this issue made him all the creepier and menacing. Along the way, we got little snippets of the gang history in Gotham in the form of text pieces in the background of panels. While not necessary to the story, anyone who is interested in Gotham’s history would be remiss to miss it . While it wasn’t totally clear in the distinction of Snyder v. Azzarello, they both made this issue have one cohesive and strong voice, which is what the best co written comics have. The only downside is the I can’t have more of this next month; I am enjoying the Jim Gordon as Batman story, but I have a strange personal connection with Bruce under the cowl, and I’m chomping at the bit to get him back.
It’s difficult to fully encapsulate how amazing Jock is as an artist without showing the art. The scratchy, sharp style of his is different but extremely compelling to look at from a rendering standpoint. On top of that, his storytelling, both in panel to panel and panel layout, might be the best in comics. Each page is a treat to the eyes, and just seeing how he gets the motion of fight scenes on the page is worth the price of admission alone. His style is perfect for Batman, which gives Batman himself a grandiose feel while still being grounded to Gotham. Batman may be huge, but Gotham will always tower over him. Lee Loughridge also brought out his A game for this issue. The most striking thing about the colors were the pages with a large chunk of white space. The near black and white palette made this story even more impactful, highlighting the action perfectly and making everything very stark. When color was present, specifically a forest like scene of an uncleaned street after Zero Year, there’s an incredible punch, and the image sticks with you long after reading the issue.
With my only caveat being something that has nothing to do with this issue, the rating will go without saying. I want these types of one-off Batman stories every now and then, and with All Star talent like this issue, it’s an absolute must buy.
5 Suspects out of 5