Batwing #31 review

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Come for the fight but stay for the family drama.  While 3/4 of this issue is dedicated to a no-holds-barred fight scene of epic proportions, I actually found myself drawn more to the mounting stress displayed at the Fox home.  I am aware that Tam has had her mind damaged by drugs but I found myself drawing parallels between that and what it might be like to raise a mentally challenged child or someone who has sustained a brain injury.  The sadness that comes in doing everything you can for your child and never knowing if they are even aware of the sacrifices you are making for their good.  Putting all your love into them and knowing your never going to get any back.  Seeing how this ordeal is drawing on the last reserves of the characters and that they are breaking under the pressure.  The way in which doubt is crippling their belief or hope in anything.  I may be putting more weight into these sections than is actually there but I think if you look at it with anything more than just a cursory glance you will find it quite powerful.  It definitely has more real world significance than your average comic plot.

Palmiotti and Gray also crafted a nice exchange between Menace and Batwing that had me feeling as ignorant as Menace was saying Batwing was.  While this scene tends to draw on the classic trope of the villain monologuing it actually did draw me into the moment and made me feel what I am sure Batwing was feeling.  To take it one step further there was a part where Menace was spouting meaningless verbiage and I thought to myself, “What is he talking about?”  Then I glanced at Batwing’s internal thought box and he was thinking the exact same thing.   In our ignorance we assume he is crazy just because we don’t understand.

Menace goes on about how down in the underworld  there are no laws or rules and because of this they can do whatever they want.  It made me ponder how that was any different than all the blatant disregard for the existing laws the criminals up in Gotham break all the time.  Is it really acceptable to murder someone just because there is no law against it.  It brings to mind the idea of laws governing us under the moral code that we all already adhere to.   I’d like to think that if they abolished laws against killing other humans that we wouldn’t all regress to neanderthals and start beating each others brains in with femurs.  Menace is trying to justify his actions but not being prohibited from doing something doesn’t mean you should.  I was recently at a lake and they had posted signs asking that people not urinate in the water but none telling people that they couldn’t defecate in it.  Just because there was no sign forbidding it didn’t mean people were doing it.

The fight ends up being quite visceral both visually and in the descriptions internally presented of what Batwing is feeling.  I found it surprising that Batwing’s suit didn’t sustain more damage than it did given the pounding he was taking.  There was a particular moment that I found quite cinematic in which Batwing is tossed into the air and at the apex of the toss falls back down to Menace for another strike.  We are from the vantage point of looking down on the fight at this moment and I could see a film utilizing 3D here to make it look like Batwing was coming right at the audience.  The thing that was nice about the fight is that the damage felt collateral as opposed to intentional.  It didn’t feel like there was a checklist that the team had ahead of time that stated, “we want Batwing flying through a wall.”  It seemed a natural progression of the fight, so that when he is hit with a forceful blow it is only natural that he would bust through a wall.  The opposite of this is the unnatural fight that happened in Nightwing #30 that was staged to destroy as much of the Batcave as possible.

I felt that Pansica did a really nice job with his environmental effects.  The inclusion of shock waves and dust clouds as the characters battered each other and got strewn about the location really added to the mayhem.  The depiction of blood actually had an appearance to it that lent itself to being sticky and globual.  The luminosity of Batwing’s chest and eyes feel like they are genuinely emitting light and you can see a haze around them from it.  My favorite image from the issue is the setup for a spin kick he is about to deliver to Menace.  It involves several transparent images of him leading up till the final one.  It really give you a sense of him winding up and delivering a forceful blow.

In all I had very few grievances with this issue.  For those of you that have played Batman: Arkham Asylum, you will find a very close resemblance between the green glass canisters that Bane had on his back and the ones that appear on Menace’s right shoulder.  Seeing as how these are both villains in the Batman universe it might be wiser to differentiate the look between them.  Also some of Tanya’s dialogue didn’t flow quite that smoothly for me.

SHOW SPOILER ▼

Interesting Facts:

The Ratcatcher first appeared in Detective Comics #585 from 1988.  Otis Flannegan worked for the Gotham City Sanitation Department.  One night at a bar a fellow patron told him he smelled, so Flannegan stabbed him to death.  He was sentenced to 15 years at Blackgate but when he got out he systematically kidnapped the Judge, arresting officer, key witness, and his prison guard who were connected with his case.  He felt that he was in the right in killing the man and wanted revenge for being locked up for 15 years.  He kept them locked in the Gotham Sewers where he kept them alive but in deplorable conditions for 5 years.  At this point the Judge escaped, which led to the opening of issue 585.

More important than the Ratcatcher however is the artist who brought him to life.  Mr. Norm Breyfogle.  This was only the fifth issue of Breyfogle’s on Detective but it marked a six year long run for him.  If your wondering where Norm is now you can check out his work in Batman Beyond Unlimited, which started in 2012.  Norm is also credited as the co-creator of Mr. Zsasz.  Two of his must-read pieces are the 1992 Batman: The Last Arkham (which had some influence on the Arkham Asylum game) and from the same year Batman: Birth of the Demon.  Birth of the Demon is hand painted and written by Dennis O’neil the creator of Ra’s Al Ghul, and is Ra’s origin story.   Norm is my favorite Batman artist and I can’t understand why he hasn’t been given his own collection like Neal Adams or Alan Davis were.  DC if you are reading this please collect the 87-92 Breyfogle run.  The world needs to be exposed to more of his art.  I’ll even buy 12 copies and hand them out at Christmas to my family.

Recommended if…

  • you are interested in seeing two people beat the living you know what out of each other.
  • the plight of the Fox family has touched you.
  • you’re looking for a little depth in your characters.

Overall:

To be honest I went into this issue not thinking I was going to like it very much but it surprised me and turned my misconception around.  I’m not as big a Batwing fan as I am a Batman fan so I wasn’t sure that I would have as much to say in reviewing this title as I have in others but I found that there was plenty of thought-provoking content.  I went into this not being a super fan and not expecting much but came out at the end being impressed by the controversial  subject matter and surprising depth of the dialogue.  If you can make someone who was disinterested entertained and enlightened then there must be something worthwhile going on.

SCORE: 8.5/10

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