Batman, vol. 8: Superheavy review

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Batman is dead! A final showdown with the Joker in Endgame has left Gotham City without her greatest protector. But in a place where crazy new villains grow up like weeds, the powers that be must make their own symbol to stand against the evil sprouting in the shadows.

What’s included

This volume contains Batman #41-43 and #45, written by Scott Snyder, with pencils by Greg Capullo, inks by Danny Miki, colors by FCO Plascencia, and letters by Steve Wands. It also includes Batman #44, the “Interlude”, written by Snyder and Brian Azzarello, with art by Jock, colors by Lee Loughridge, and letters by Deron Bennett.

If you’d like in-depth analysis of each issue, you can read the original Batman News reviews:

Yes, Father. I shall become a bunny

With Batman gone, the city—in conjunction with a large corporation—launches its own “Batman Program,” in which one of Gotham’s finest is to patrol the streets in a big blue robo-suit with the symbol of the Bat on its chest. Batman’s absence has birthed some bizarre new villains in the impoverished Narrows, and the man in the suit must fight these new threats and track down the big bad that is empowering them all.

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Let’s get the biggest issue out there up front: Bruce Wayne is not Batman. Dick Grayson is not Batman. Tim Drake is not Batman. Even Jason Todd isn’t Batman. In fact, nobody is Batman in this book. Maybe that’s the point, but if you’re heading into a store and pick up a book with “Batman” written on the cover, you probably aren’t expecting your main character to be dropped out of an airship in a big robo-bat-bunny suit. Veteran readers may be open to experimentation and reading something different, but not everyone is a veteran reader, and for the five months of comics represented in this collection, there was no conventional Batman book on the shelf  to satisfy folks that wanted a conventional Batman story.

So what do we have here? It’s basically a humorous, action-packed story that is somewhat muddied by its ties to the larger story that birthed it. The biggest problem, then, isn’t that Batman is missing, but that the overarching narrative (and an entire installment) constantly remind you that he’s missing. Again, that is probably the point, but having Bruce Wayne’s absence as a constant nag is too much weight against the goofy idea that Snyder’s going for; instead of balancing things, it drags the story down.

It ain’t Batman, but it ain’t all bad, either

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All of that said, the core story works reasonably well. There is great humor in the identity of the new “Batman,” and his personality provides ample charm. He’s also a character that most Bat-fans love, and that makes it easy to invest in his struggles and appreciate his efforts. The new baddies have cool powers, and the one pulling the strings is as terrifying a villain as Snyder and Capullo have cooked up.

This book also looks like Capullo must have had a ton of fun drawing it. The action is not just well-rendered and sensibly laid-out—it’s also often quite imaginative (and sometimes imaginatively gruesome). As much as I would rather have been reading a traditional Batman back when this released, I could not levy a complaint against the artwork.

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The visual and narrative highlight of the volume, though, is most definitely the “Interlude” from Batman #44. This was the only regular Batman story that we got in a year-long period, and it’s a very good one. Jock has a few confusing panels, but his aesthetic evokes Batman’s speed and shadow, so being disoriented in the midst of fight sequences actually has a positive effect.

Bonus material

Superheavy, like nearly all of the New 52 trades, features a variant cover gallery, but there are some real gems in here, including Sean Gordon Murphy’s Joker 75th Anniversary variant and some convention variants.

After the gallery, there are some character sketches, and then a real bonus: cover and interior pencils from Batman #41. The interiors are shrunk down to fit between four and six of the original pages on each of this volume’s pages, but you can still get a good look at Capullo’s untouched work, and it definitely adds substantial value to the collection.

Value: Full Price

If you’re a big Snyder and Capullo fan, and if you’re willing to take a trip off the beaten path, then there’s a lot to like here. Twelve bucks will score you the paperback from Amazon, and that’s a great value for five issues worth of high-quality work and some very good bonuses.

Overall

Superheavy may not be the Batman you want, but it’s still a well-written volume with (obvious) ties to the pointy-eared elephant in the room. Additionally, the interlude is a welcome breath of air in the midst of the robobatbunny craziness, and the extras pack a bigger punch than what you typically get in a trade, so if you’re willing to get on board with the concept, this book will reward you.

SCORE: 7.5/10

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