[***Warning – this post contains spoilers for this story and many other stories***]
The Superheavy storyline, written by Scott Snyder was printed in Batman Volume 2, issues 41-50. It is collected in the books Batman Vol. 8 Superheavy and Batman Vol. 9 Bloom. It is the final story arc during Snyder and artist Greg Capullo’s run on the main Batman comic series, which began in 2011.
It picks up directly where their previous story, Endgame, left off. Joker had turned the city basically into a violent horde of violent zombies (or ‘Jokerized’ them) and then Joker and Batman fought to the death, beside a pool of magical healing liquid called Dionysium that Batman prevented Joker from accessing so that they could both finally die and break their endless cycle of violence and opposition. Superheavy opens up with a public vigil of citizens mourning the death of Batman, and TV shows discussing the consequences of Batman’s death. Then Geri Powers, the president of the Powers Corporation states that her company acquired Wayne Enterprises’ assets including all of Batman’s technology and designs. Powers Corporation and the police work together to start a new Police version of Batman, using a lot of futuristic technology. That’s the set up, and now the story can begin.
So basically, there’s three interlinked stories: There’s the primary story of how former Police commissioner Jim Gordon has to accept becoming the new Batman, learn to do it, learn to do it well, and then stop his first major threat, a new super villain called Mr Bloom, who has developed a way to give people superpowers via radioactive faux-seeds and he sells/distributes them in a plot to destroy and rebuild the city as some kind of savage yet fair utopia.
There’s a subplot about Duke Thomas, who was previously in Zero Year and Endgame and has since gone on to be the star of the interesting new comic series We Are Robin, where lots of kids all decide to roam the streets dressed in Robin-inspired outfits doaling out half-assed justice. Duke becomes their sort of leader and seems to be the only one who’d actually be anywhere near good enough to actually become a real Batman approved Robin. I guess that’s what they might be building up to, Duke becoming Robin, but then again there where some ‘what-if’ style future flash-forwards during the Endgame storyline during a chemical-wackiness moment that suggested he’d become some yellow superhero called ‘Lark’ instead… but those were more ‘what-ifs’ than definite future, so he could still become the first African American Robin, if some writer takes the plunge. Who knows?
Anyway Duke goes about investigating Bloom on his own, because the new Batman doesn’t need a Robin, allegedly, and the new Robins don’t need a Batman either, allegedly. It turns out that one of his friends, Daryl Guitierez is working with the Batman initiative, and that one of Daryl’s cousins was one of the earliest victims of Bloom, and then Duke uncovers Bloom and the Penguin have some backstory and so Duke investigates The Penguin, and finds clues that help uncover Bloom’s origin.
Then there’s the other main plot, about how Bruce Wayne is alive. He did NOT die when he got killed at the end of Endgame. Well; He died when the roof collapsed, and the stupid magical back-from-the-dead liquid Dionysium, (that previously resurrected the Joker from near fatal injuries following his cliff-dive in Death Of The Family and which a watered-down version of helps resurrect the Court Of Owls’ undead assassins), saved him. He is totally healed, but amnesiac. This new Bruce Wayne must come to terms with his life, find a purpose and then he does. He also falls in love with Julie Madison, his old love interest that he spurned at the end of Zero Year because “Crime-Fighting was the only woman for him.” She also reveals that she is very tangentially linked to the man who committed his parents’ murder (Joe Chill) in a very tenuous way. He loves her anyway, despite that tangential connection that she makes too big a deal of.
Then of course the three stories come together, Jim has to save the city from Bloom who gets out of control and causes a whole lot of death and devastation and is a pretty cataclysmic threat that puts the whole city at risk. Duke also finds out his parents, who were Jokerized during Joker’s previous gigantic city-wide destruction plot from Endgame, will never be healed and this motivates him even further to help save the city. His parents are lost forever in a way that sort of mirrors the loss of Bruce’s or Dick Grayson’s parents motivating them to originally become Batman and Robin respectively. Jim meanwhile fails to stop Bloom and gets pretty damn pasted and brutalized by the seemingly unstoppable Bloom.
Duke seems to know who Bruce is either because his family rescued and nursed Batman during the Zero Year storyline or something off-page, maybe in one of the other Batman comics available like We Are Robin or Detective Comics or something. I’m not 100% sure at time of writing. Anyway, he starts really resenting Bruce’s amnesia and so reminds him that he’s Batman. There’s a cool moment where the headlights of a speeding train which Duke is trying to fake-suicide himself upon in order to remind Bruce of his past resemble the eyes of the bat from the famous ‘Yes Father, I Shall Become A Bat’ scene. Its quite well done. Anyway, that plus a whole ‘there’s a batman shaped hole in your life, maybe that’s what your amnesia is about’ chinwag they have start to unravel Bruce’s amnesia and he remembers that he is Batman.
Bruce goes through a convoluted process to become Batman again, which involves sacrificing his happy new life and re-suffering all the trauma of his past and becoming obsessed again. There’s emotional moments where Alfred wants to stop it happening and save Bruce from all that heartache but in the end Bruce is willing to make that sacrifice just to save the city because that’s just who he is as a person. The actual process involves that weird Batman cloning machine from the special issue of Detective 27 (a special one off story about a ‘what-if’ future where Bruce clones himself over and over again at the exact moment of becoming Batman so that in the future there’s always a Bruce Wayne Batman to save the day). The restoration process would actually kill Bruce before restoring him, but Bruce is willing to make that sacrifice as we’ve seen already in Zero Year when he stopped his own heart to save the city from a convoluted Riddler scheme and then restarted it becoming the metaphorical heartbeat of the city in a nice piece of writing. Anyway, Alfred isn’t willing to kill Bruce so Julie helps, and they try to make it cool by clumsily highlighting that aforementioned lame super-tangential Joe Chill connection, then Bruce comes back and saves the day, stopping Bloom. Bloom has convinced a lot of citizens to go anarchic and take his superpower-seeds when also sending a large hadron collider that Cop-Batman’s allies own into overdrive subsequently creating an apocalyptic black hole style threat, that gets bigger when the citizens use Bloom’s seeds. Bruce convinces people to stop using them and the threat is ultimately eliminated and Bloom is defeated.
Also it turns out Bloom didn’t invent his own technology, he stole the idea from Daryl Guitierz (Duke’s friend and an employee of the cop’s Batman initiative) who had originally came up with the idea for good. Because, y’know, we need a twist or surprise every so often or we’ll stop reading.
That’s the plot, more or less, but there’s a lot to discuss about the execution.
There are some genuinely great little touches, like, how in the previous Batman story arc, Endgame, Joker has a parade through the streets with trophies from Batman’s cave, such as his giant penny and his giant dinosaur statue… and here in this story there is a scene where amnesiac Bruce working in the community center finds their wreckage outside his fence, scaring the children, and so decides to turn fear into inspiration and converts the dinosaur into a children’s slide and the penny into a merry-go-round. I don’t know why but that bit really made me smile, I thought it was a very cool touch.
In fact, the scene where amnesiac Bruce is about to be told he is Batman but refuses to hear it is pretty great, and especially the ending where he resolves to help the city like his parents did but via community outreach is cool. It shows you how at his core Bruce wants to help people and even if he never had the inspiration for that help to be given in the form of vigilantism, he’d still be helping people in another form. It also subtly answers the question people always pose… how does punching drug addicts and poor jobless unfortunates whilst dressed up as a bat actually help fight the root of crime? Superheavy shows how Bruce might’ve tackled the root causes if he didn’t become an obsessed Bat-themed fan of cracking heads. Other writers have tackled that question before, with things like his victims-incorporated initiative from some older stories but many of those stories are now obscure or forgotten, so it still feels open for Snyder to answer it now. Its also nice how Snyder subtly gets you to think about it by having Jim throw away a quick line about how he had actually reduced more crime as a police officer with community outreach than direct collars, seemingly just incidental but actually designed to put you in the right frame of mind.
There’s also a cool little story where, after the city’s near-destruction in Zero Year, Bruce Wayne tries to buy up all the devastated land and convert it into cheap high quality housing for families (which shows how he does indeed still do some root-cause-tackling, as well as the head cracking) and it gets even cooler when the story shows that this beneficent plan caused some unfortunate side effects, and Bruce buying up property was seen as gentrification and caused property values to rise which ended in some gang violence and death. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and hey the root causes can get tackled, but someone still needs to punch the rapists and muggers in the face in the mean time. Nice one, well played Synyder. I often criticize Snyder for answering questions that don’t need answering, or that were already answered… [and then later have to begrudgingly forgive him since this Batman Volume 2 is technically all new material and any old stories don’t exist anymore and didn’t actually happen to THIS Batman, so then technically it is ok for Snyder to answer those questions again because technically this is a new thing happening for the first time again now.] ….but, I didn’t even need to criticize him for answering that root cause question this time, because he did it so well. Also, in that issue there’s that foreshadowing thing about ‘regulation’ and ‘the line’ and ‘the real criminals are the ones who draw the line’ being payed-off with Batman literally drawing the actual line was awesome, it had the potential for being cheesier than a french cheese shop, but it actually worked out surprisingly tasteful and well done.
Another cool touch is how at the beginning Jim’s friend Harvey jokes that a giant Robot Batman suit Jim is now supposed to wear, couldn’t fit into Jim’s trademark tenchcoat, and then at the end of the episode Harvey has left a ten-foot-tall tenchcoat in Jim’s apartment as a joke present. I found that amusing. There’s also another amusing moment where Jim gets to do Batman’s famous disappearing trick rather than be the victim of it as usual. And a joke line about taking off his mustache and using it as a projectile weapon. Yeah, plenty of light humour to be found.
I also really like that the story has a lot of Penguin in it. He’d been cameoing in Snyder stories a lot but this is arguably his biggest role and I like that his use here makes it all feel like one big story. He’s been there in Zero Year and Death Of The Family and Eternal and Endgame and now here too. Speaking of cameos, it was cool to have a Great White Shark cameo, just because I personally like him. Or seeing Greg draw Scarface and Ventriloquist, just because its like, the only time since a group shot in the very first issue that they’ve showed up.
Back to great little moments though, there’s a bit where Jim and Bloom are fighting and headquarters asks Jim if he’s ready, he hesitates, throws bloom straight through a window and then says, now he’s ready. Just a very fun little moment. Maybe its the Father Ted fan in me but window humour can really make me smile.
A another smile enducer is the very cheesy but utterly satisfying moment where one of the many common criminals that Bloom has turned into a superpowered monster is about to kill Jim, with electricity he syphnoed from the now powerless Batsignal on the GCPD roof. The crim says something along the lines of ‘You aren’t Batman’ and we cut to a pannel of a sillouhetted and superemly pissed-off-looking Bruce back in his Batsuit for the first time, sitting atop a lit-up Batsignal and saying ‘No… I am!’ That little scene is such popcorn good fun and makes me smile like an absolute goon. Similarly, there’s a moment where Bruce handcuffs Jim to a door in order to force him to go to the hospital, but when Jim is needed later he shows up, still handcuffed to the door only he’s broken off the hinges and is carrying it with him. Another total cheeseball cinematic moment that actually works.
The absolute best moment of the whole piece however, is a scene where amnesiac Bruce is remembering that he’s Batman but fighting with the idea, and comes to a park he’s been visiting throughout the story, (which has been a representation of his newfound inner peace), only to find a healed amnesiac Joker sat there, who due to also being healed, is nolonger evil and is actually a nice person and productive member of society now. There’s some real tugging on the heartstrings when it seems as though Joker is begging Bruce not to become Batman again, or else he’ll have to become Joker again, and that idea is almost horrific enough to cause him to take his own life. The suicide attempt seems to have gone ahead and you sit there really gobsmaked and impressed with the balls on these writers for actually having the guy blow his own head off rather than become the Joker….
Ok that was some of the good. How about some of the bad?
Well, how about when you flip the page after the scene I’ve just described? You think something genuinely impressive has happened but then actually its cop-out city, and it turns out the huge ‘BOOM’ on the bottom of the page is not in fact a gunshot where Joker kills himself rather than turn evil again, but instead is some of Bloom’s generic destruction elsewhere, which interrupts and distracts it all and allows for the inevitable return of the Joker later on, because, hey, Joker makes DC money.
While we’re on the subject of the disappointments… One thing I’ll say is that the main villain, Mr Bloom, seems to be missing a bit of umph. I mean, he’s just a weirdly dressed arms-dealer at first sight, until he gets shot up by Penguin’s thugs in an arms deal-gone-bad and then he reveals that he has creepy extendo-limb superpowers. There’s also a bit of backstory about him being a skilled chemist in an abandoned alley after the events of Zero Year where he perfects his scientific skills in designing sell-able superpowers, and there’s all this mystery about who he might be. There’s a scene where he didn’t design the whole science himself and was actually someone who died at around the time of Zero Year that young Genius-Grant winner Daryl had just experimented on because nobody would miss him.
Ok. So, lets add this together right? … Scientist, check. Died around the time of Zero Year, check. Not the origional plan or inventor of the seeds-thing, check. Creepy extendo-limb powers, check.
I dunno about you, but that sounds a heck of a lot like Doctor Death from Zero Year to me. I mean, how many creepy extendo-limb scientists are there in this city? It seems like there was originally going to be a big reveal where it turned out Bloom was actually Dr Death, who had been laying low since returning from near-death around the time of Zero Year, slowly perfecting this new seed-superpower-science until this perfect moment where the original Batman who had stopped him before was now dead and couldn’t stop him anymore… But they forgot to bloody do it! They just left it as this up-to-interpretation nonsense and a weird lazy-feeling ‘it-could-be-any-everyman’ cop-out, That’s not good storytelling! It would have been smart and cyclical to have Dr Death come back. Dr Death was there during Batman’s first adventure and now he’s the impetus for his first adventure post-Resurrection. It would also be fitting then that if Dr Death only had the confidence to unleash his long-in-the-works plan once the Batman was finally dead, that it would be why the story had designed itself so that Jim wasn’t good enough to stop him and Bruce specifically was required to become Batman again and stop him. You know; sort of a ‘you’ve already proved you can stop him before, and I can’t seem to right now, so it has to be YOU Bruce.’ That would have made sense. …because now its just sort of ‘Hey, there’s a new bad guy doing generic city destruction, oh no, the new batman is ineffective, better get the old one.’ It doesn’t have that umph.
Dr Death’s extendo fingers
Mr Bloom’s extendo fingers
Ok so, I get that Daryl was the original flower-themed scientist, who just wanted to give people superpowers to defend themselves against threats such as what happened in Zero Year and then gave up when he accidentally lead to his cousin’s death, and started again after the next city wide disaster of Endgame and then some anonymous nobody stole his shtick and used it for evil… but that’s not enough, is it? Also what is Bloom’s goal? Anarky? Super-powered Survival-of-the-fittest? Why is that good, why would he want that? Does he just want a death to rich people just because he was going to a potter’s field? That’s not enough is it? And why is he so overpowered… like he can grow hundreds of feet in size, shoot lightning, extendo-morph his fingers into knives, alter the workings of super colliders for no adequately explained reason, block electronic transmissions and signals for no adequately explained reason, hack robots and remote control them for no adequately explained reason. Like… ok, so he has some scientific device that gives him superpowers but its like, a different superpower every time it suits him with no logic or reasoning.
Also why is Jim too crap to stop Bloom? They spend the whole first half of the book apologizing for the fact that Jim is Batman now and he’s a new kind of technological Batman and trust us guys, that’s ok, he can still be awesome. Then they riff on some of Grant Morrison’s building-a-better-Batman ideas. Then then, upon confronting literally his first super villain he is not up to the challenge, gets absolutely battered, and needs Bruce-Ex-Machina to come to the rescue. Like, what a sell out. What a waste of investment. What a lie. What was the point? What a short-change to Jim. Jim spends the story going ‘Oh no, I’m not good enough to be Batman, I don’t want to be, hey guys am I good enough?’ and then the story, despite assuring the readers the whole time that Jim will actually be good, just turns around and farts in our face at the very first opportunity that no, Jim is not good enough. It even ends with Jim thinking he was a failure and disappointment. What’s that all about?
Ok maybe I’m being harsh, after all, it was teamwork between Bruce, Duke and Jim that stops the threat by removing his power-source physically, inspiring the people to stop feeding his power, using a blimp to toss him into his own death trap and then finally using technology derived from the aforementioned supercollider to close the black hole style threat. So, its a teamwork affair and not like Bruce swooped down and cleaned all the problems up himself singlehandedly… but still. There was a very strong undercurrent of ‘Jim can’t do it, we need Bruce.’
I get that if you set out to tell a story about why Batman must be Bruce specifically, then you do that. But then why spend half your previous arcs talking about how Batman is eternal and better as an idea for inspiration that is bigger than just one man. Catch 22, capitalism requires that Bruce Wayne must be Batman… but when a writer very much suggests that the Batman concept is bigger than just Bruce all the time, it kind of sets itself up for failure. Like how can you make that point and then still basically end with the populist line ‘No Bruce? Then its not really Batman!’
There’s a few more moments that don’t sit totally right with me, such as how the magic clone machine works, with a weird series of ‘what-if’ scenarios that are just excuses for Greg to get to draw cool images. Like when you actually think about it what the hell do any of those have to do with restoring Bruce’s memories? Or the fact that the dionysium heals all of Bruce’s physical injures from his years as Batman but the machine leaves all his experience so the combo of peak physical condition and total experience leaves him as the best Batman evvvvaaaarrrr y’all. Like, there’s something pompous about stating in your own story that this Batman is the best Batman ever, is there not?
I also don’t think Bloom has a strong enough motivation, as I’ve already stated. Also; all his constant Garden themed dialogue is pretty grating. I know its Batman we’re talking about here and colorful villains spouting thematic puns is the order of the day [How many times must I endure Catwoman saying something along the lines of ‘look what the cat dragged in?’] but it still doesn’t make it good. And worst of all, how the hell does he convince all the gullible and stupid citizens to agree to use his super-seeds. Like sure, the criminals wanting to use them as weapons for crime, especially back when he was acting more like an arms dealer, makes sense. Criminal gangs might want superpower weapons, sure, I buy it. But when he’s a godzilla sized monster stomping around causing death and mayhem, why would anyone agree to cut themselves open and stick some of his technology into the wound? What reason? Even if you use the whole using-them-to-stop-Bloom idea … like why would you use his own weapons, OF COURSE THEY’D BE BOOBY TRAPPED. You fools! Why are Gotham’s citizens so willfully stupid? Maybe its because the city gets blown up so darn often they never make it through school? Maybe that’s why they make such credibility-straining bad decisions so often.
Its not all negativity though. On the other hand, I do love some little touches throughout the book. For example, Alfred still doesn’t have his hand. The Joker chopped it off during Endgame, and he’s just got a stump in this story. Previously I was annoyed at how Snyder threatened to permanently disable Alfred in Death Of The Family and then copped out and said it was a bluff, but the fact that it is actually true and lasting here is awesome. Its good when actions have consequences.
I like the touch of how Alfred’s Daughter Julia (not to be confused with Julie Madison) is one of the Batman initiative’s employees. In Snyder’s Eternal story she had been Bruce’s adviser and tech support and now she provides that help to Jim.
I like how this story uses so many previous elements from all of Snyder’s previous work and makes it feel like one world, even so far as to use company names and surnames and gang-names and all the little details from all of his work going back to Black Mirror and Gates Of Gotham (which could’ve easily been ignored since it was before the New 52 happened) and all the way through his whole entire New 52 run, even including Eternal (which could’ve been ignored since it wasn’t printed in the main Batman comic). Its nice to for example, see the Powers Corporation or Whisper Gang again. World building is important. Its neat to hear Jim remember when he was in prison during Eternal. Building history is also important.
There’s also the great little touch of Bruce coming to the community center at the end to sort of stalk/visit Julie suggesting that, even though we’re lead to believe he’d lose all memory of his time as an amnesiac and his love for Julie, he’s still got some of it in there somewhere. That was a nice moment.
I also like how Scott’s writing addressed people’s fears… for example the first issue even had Jim himself basically saying ‘Commissioner Gorden becomes Batman? That’s a stupid idea’ on behalf of the skeptical audience. Batman as a comic book over the years has shown us that a stupid setup can still result in a good story. Grant Morrison’s run started with Batman discovering a long-lost son. Long lost sons and indeed resurrection from death are two of the worst and most galling storytelling devices ever, almost up there with ‘and then it all turned out to be a dream’ …but Grant was able to craft some real gold with both bad set ups in his time telling great stories about resurrection from death and about long lost sons.
Speaking of which; As I discussed last time, Snyder seems to be in love with Morrsion’s work. Hey, his Eternal stories featured Morrsion-designed villains such as Professor Pig and Big Top. His Court Of Owls concept is suspiciously similar to Morrison’s Black Glove idea, and the idea in ‘Owls about a secret long lost brother has Morrsion slapped all over it, both in terms of the long lost son debacle and from a plot about Bruce’s parents possibly being not-so-perfect that runs through Morrison’s work that ties in with insecurities Bruce’s fake brother prays upon in Snyder’s debut.
[As a sidenote, Snyder also used non-Morrison villain ‘Hush’ in Eternal, and totally took inspiration from the Hush storyline in designing his red-herring ally who turns out to be Bruce’s fake-brother owl-assassin character. I mentioned in the pre-review context about how Snyder is free to use all the toys in the last 70 years worth of storytelling toybox, because his is a new volume. There’s an additional example right there.]
So speaking of being in love with Morrison’s ideas… this whole arc is really predicated on two ideas that were highlighted prominently, recently, in Morrison’s work. First of all, ‘Bruce dies so someone else has to be Batman’ and second of all ‘Batman is more of an idea and an inspiration than just one man, he’s bigger than all of us’
Morrison had Batman die (well, it turned out he was just in a time-travelling near death experience but it was presented as legitimate death initially, so it still counts) and then has his ally, Dick Grayson, [aka. Nightwing, aka. the first person to be known as Robin way back when], step in and become the new Batman. Snyder here has Batman die or at least seemingly die and then has his ally Commissioner Gordon step in and become the new Batman. Its just… its been to soon. Sure, the idea wasn’t new when Morrison did it… it had already happened before in the famous Knightfall arc in the early 1990s, in which Batman got his spine broken and couldn’t be Batman anymore so he let his ally Azreal step in and be the new Batman for a while (and there was an epilogue called Prodigal where he also had Dick Grayson do it too while he healed and got his act back together), but that was yonks ago. Morrison’s wasn’t yonks ago. Doing another one so soon after Morrison just feels weird. I know, I know, this is a new universe and a new volume and none of Morrison’s stories (or indeed Knightfall) happened to THIS Batman, but still…
Furthermore; Morrison, as I stated already, couldn’t help himself from finishing his big story, and finished it anyway even though the New 52 happened. So annoyingly, lots of his story has to have happened, for his stupid selfish decision to finish his story to make any damn sense [or maybe it was DC’s stupid and selfish decision to force it to try fit in with the New 52 thing instead of just letting Grant finish it first, in the old continuity, or at least publish it with a warning sticker saying ‘this is set in the old continuity and isn’t part of The New 52’ …That sort of thing isn’t without precedent. I have a Batman/Spawn crossover with a warning that states it isn’t representative of current continuity]. So… since in Morrison’s final story, which IS part of The New 52 and DID happen to this Batman, Dick Grayson remembers being Batman, then that means that some sort of death and replacement of this Batman totally DID happen, and recently too. So uuurgh. I digress. But yeah, so even to THIS Batman, this is the second time in a very short time that Batman ‘died’ and was replaced by an ally. That’s too much. That’s not cool. There’s reusing good ideas and there’s being tasteful… I’m not sure Snyder always errs on the side of tasteful.
So lets dissect this: within a very short lifetime, Gotham has been totally devastated three times and Batman has been replaced twice And while we’re at it, Bruce fathered a son who’s now 12 and adopted and trained three other sidekicks who are all suspiciously absent, one of which was a kid and is now a grown up. First of all not enough time has elapsed for all that to convincingly be able to happen. Furthermore; Like, did nobody tell amnesiac Bruce that he was a father? Damian thought his dad was dead, did nobody bother to tell him he was ok? And Gotham city is in an absolute state of terror and anarchy so where are the Robins to help? Red Hood, Red Robin, Robin, Dick Grayson? Nobody thought it would be a good idea to come back and help Jim? Well, I guess that’s because they were all busy dealing with the events of Batman & Robin Eternal, another comic which ran concurrently with this. But still…
Another thing Superheavy/Bloom steals from Morrison, is that in Morrison’s Batman Incorporated idea, there would be a Batman around every corner figuratively including robots, as well as the idea of having a different Batman in every city. In this there is a section where the police have an idea to put a different Batman in every city and then also totally want to unleash an army of Robot Batmen at one stage… hmmm….now where have I heard that idea before? Was it maybe in literally the most recent arc before The New 52 started? Ding ding ding!
And yeah, Snyder loves Morrison so much, he throws in little shout-outs such as a not too subtle Easter egg about the Zur-En-Arr Batman costume, which Morrison recently revived in his Batman RIP story. Hey there’s nothing wrong with loving Morrison, but all I’m saying is Avenged Sevenfold’s ‘Hail To The King’ album loved other artists, and how did that turn out critically? How many people sat there saying ‘Oh neat, this sounds just like Sad But True,’ in a good way?
But again, don’t let me be all negative; there were great things to come from this story. Just because it copied older stuff, had the city totally destoryed yet-a-bloody-gain, had too much dialogue about the city and its citizens, and furthered Snyder’s pro-Robot agenda… those things don’t totally sink the story.
Sure… he copies the Bat-replacement idea… but he does new things from it. Its not just a fellow vigilante this time. This time it is a government and police sanctioned operation. This gets to show what happens when Batman works INSIDE of the law. It shows us the Batsignal shining down on the criminals from the cops instead of up from the cops asking for help, and sets up cool little moments such as Gordon realizing that when YOU are Batman then Batman can’t come to save you. It allows for new dynamics within the cops and for office politics to enter the Batman equation. It opens a lot of new doors.
Sure… the whole robot suit thing is a bit over the top, but it explains how a normal man like Jim could do what Batman does and stand up to villains with superpowers. It also allows for new moments we haven’t read before a billion times before. And if Snyder is just going to stick Robots in there all the time anyway, may as well jump in with both feet, ey? Hell; maybe some fans really dig the robot thing, I don’t know.
I think it would be unfair to dismiss this story just because it is another Knightfall (or another Morrison’s run). I also think it would be unfair to dismiss the story just because the set-up is lame, ‘Robocop meets Batman’ and also ‘Commisoner Gorden becomes Batman’ may be two unappealing pitches but a good story can overcome the worst of setups. Outright dismissal is super harsh.
There are many good things about this story. There are many blemishes and things that don’t sit right with me too. Its difficult to form a strict opinion about it overall as a result. I could almost go through the whole thing panel by panel saying ‘Like it, hate it, like it, hate it’ etc
There’s this line about a card game the cops (Who in Gotham city are called the GCPD) play entitled ‘G.C.P.D’ standing for ‘Gotham Card Played Down.’ I mean, yuck! You don’t get much lamer than that. But then there’s some great moment afterwards that washes away that lameness, such as the villain complimenting Batman’s outfit and Batman cheekily replying he’s partial to the boots before driving a boot into the villain’s face. You see? For me its just a constant ‘Like it, hate it, like it, hate it’ stream.
There’s good moments, there’s bad moments and there’s unanswered questions. Hey, why does Julie so eagerly let Bruce forget her? Why does she know he’s Batman? Why is she such a flimsy and underdeveloped character? Why does Jim get his Commissioner Job back so easy? What is the new unit Bullock alludes to but never pays off? Where are Batmans allies such as Damian Wayne and Red Robin? Why did Penguin know that Bloom’s powers were designed by a Crowne Genius Grant winner specifically and just not any other normal scientist [especially when in Zero Year there was a whole plot about off the grid black box scientists?… IT SHOULD’VE BEEN DR DEATH I TELL YOU!]
Overall… I guess I’d say that its a flawed work, that was underdeveloped and missed a lot of great opportunities but is still so full of good ideas, nice touches, and neat little moments that it is still absolutely worth your time. Also, it sneakily apologizes for most of its flaws, and then cuts you off before you can get mad… like, how I mentioned you might think the premise is dumb but then Gordon will outright say the premise is dumb, or for example you might ask what the point of a Bruce-is-dead story is when we all know the status quo always resumes, and then he’ll have an in-story situation where somebody asks what’s the point of it all if it all goes back, and then they ponder that maybe now is all we have and its enough. I mean, you can’t just tell no stories just because the status quo always returns. Moments like that rob you of your initial criticisms. Its almost like Kevin Smith wrote this book. Kevin Smith always directly addresses potential criticism and then you kind of have no critical ammunition left.
With Snyder I always hate his story on first impression and like it more re-reading it. I’ve read each of these twice and liked em both more on the second read. Maybe more reads will make me like it more than that still. I remember being baffled by Death Of The Family, dissapointed by Endgame and borderline enraged by Zero Year but then sucumbing to each of their charms after subsquent reads.
Oh yeah, and I’ve done the whole article without mentioning the art… the art is outstanding. Capullo is a gem. Especially since Zero Year when the colourists changed the direction into this super striking, colourful, bright, bombastic and interesting thing. All of Snyder and Capullo’s books look great, and this is no exception. You could almost buy it just to look at. Some of, if not most of this book would work as a poster. Its also cool how Snyder’s stories stared off dark and horrific and grounded(ish) and as they got more comic-booky and more superheroish that the colouring has gone all bright and bombastic. Its like a visual representation of the evolution. I can’t wait to see what Capullo and the colourists do next, without the constant need to be hidden underneath a boatload of dialogue boxes waffling on about the city and its citizens and what it means to be a gothamite. Or without having to draw a new Robot every five issues.
Ok. I’m being a bit over-critical here. I’m sure if I was a writer I’d be making too many references to rock music and readers would be grumbling about ‘oh no here he goes again with another Areosmith reference.’ The man likes Robots, I shouldn’t begrudge that. Heck, its even a way to make it credible that a powerless human could even be able to fight off fifty Owl assassins, fight off a jokerized Justice League, or fight off a fifty foot tall Mr Bloom. Or indeed how he could …escape a furnace or whatever the Robot did in that Clayface story in Graveyard Shift.
And sure, maybe he banged on about the city and its citizens too much, but that was his thing. That was his signature. His through-line. His stamp. The thing that tied all his stuff together. The thing that separated him from the pack. Maybe, in a few years when it isn’t all so fresh we’ll look back nostalgically and go ‘wasn’t he clever for thinking about the city to much.’ Maybe.
Or maybe I’m just afraid to say something mean?