Review Brew: Batman #49
As anyone who’s paid even the slightest amount of attention the last few months can tell you: Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice is coming out very soon, and that means of course the comics are taking some measures to reflect that. This instance being the return of the original Batman: Bruce Wayne, something that has been building up steam since the very first issue of Gordon’s tenure as Batman, and while it is easy to spot is not badly done either. The issue takes place as Bruce attempts to convince a heartbroken Alfred to help him bring back Batman in order to rescue his successor Jim Gordon, and Gotham City alike from the clutches of Mr. Bloom even at possibly the cost of “Lumber” Bruce and the life he’s built since he walked away from Batman.
This issue is a fairly clean break from the previous few issues and is set solely around Bruce and his psyche. With that in mind, instead of Greg Capullo, Yanick Paquette is the artist for this issue and he brings a different type of tone and feel, which given the issue’s events is extremely fitting. However, the story is a reminder that “Superheavy” has been as much about Bruce as it has been about Gordon. In the absence of being Batman, Bruce built an entire life around himself with Julie Madison and the orphanage he’s spent his time at, and Snyder does a great job of showing just how much Bruce is willing to sacrifice in order to return to a mission that won’t end with saving his successor and oldest friend, or defeating Mr. Bloom.
What Paquette brings to the table is a different touch from the tone Greg Capullo has built up over the course of this entire run, as the idealized life Bruce has built to himself, his dreams of the idealistic Batman he wishes he could be giving way to the man he has to be in order to what has to be done. The mood shift between noir and idealized superheroics are a great touch on the part of Paquette, and the coloring by Nathan Fairbairn. While Capullo is a tremendous artist, a story like this benefits from a completely different look. While Paquette and Fairbairn have been on Batman in various iterations, the significance of the story is underpinned by the mood they bring.
It’s a very rare time we get to see an untainted look at Bruce’s psyche, and the look Snyder and Paquette gives us is one that’s slowly breaking as the end approaches. While Bruce’s return wasn’t a question, the idea of how has been the most interesting part. What separates it from The Return of Bruce Wayne is that the question of whether Batman should return, whether Batman has ruined Bruce’s life, and just how Alfred could help Bruce back in after he lost Batman aren’t questions that story asked. The space Alfred occupies, possibly as this arc’s unwitting villain since he wants Bruce to be happy at any cost, even as Gotham is burning brings a different flavor to a story that has a foregone conclusion. Also credit has to be given to Scott Snyder in this regard for making Julie Madison an important character. The New 52 has had issues in the past with introducing female love interests for Bruce Wayne only to get killed off fairly unceremoniously without even bothering to make them three dimensional. While there are setups for later stories with Julie Madison in this issue, restoring her to continuity beyond being an easter egg or simply another pretty face for Bruce has had its benefits, and this issue does all the more to make that clear.
Overall, while it’s a shame to possibly Jim Gordon go away as Batman, and be brought to heel so he needs rescuing by Bruce, this issue shows just how much being Batman has cost Bruce Wayne, as well as the people he holds dear. “Superheavy” has been an interesting experiment in the context of Snyder’s run, and anyone who’s interested to see how that concludes shouldn’t hesitate to jump on here.
4 out of 5 Brain Scan Machines