This story is filled with a ton of action and resolutions but at the same time something about it feels hollow.  It may just be me, but I had the feeling that none of the Heroes were allowed to have their moments to shine.  There has been a progressive build these last few issues and I was really looking forward to several confrontations (see spoilers below); but the finale of Seeley’s ark, while entirely adequate, struck me as less than climactic.  While the Heroes participate in the resolution of their story lines, I didn’t feel that they were thoroughly active in reaching the conclusions presented.

The Gordon story had an element that I wasn’t expecting, and I ended up finding it more silly than epic.  It is a scene we have all seen in movies before: a character gets ready for the battle to come, suits up, and now you know he is ready for business and it’s about to really hit the fan!  The only thing about this particular set up is that the character in these glimpses isn’t someone, as far as we know, who should be feared due to his combat abilities; there isn’t much of anything actually offered that would get us excited about the return of a character we have never known.  While this side of the prison riot isn’t all that appealing, Gordon still manages to pull off some inspired tactics against overwhelming odds.

Much like the previously mentioned encounter, a lot of what we get through the rest of the comic feels somewhat like Deus Ex Machina to me.  Things coming out of nowhere to deal with problems or certain obstacles getting conveniently wrapped up.  I know I was a little rough with my score but I was honestly underwhelmed with what I was given.  I am aware that my problems with the story may be mine alone and some people are going to enjoy it perfectly well as it stands but I’d be interested to know if any other people got as odd a vibe as myself over #20.  If anyone thinks I got it wrong I openly welcome your comments, perhaps you’ll be able to shed some light on a deeper level of enjoyment that I simply missed.  One of the things that I did appreciate was how future story points were worked in more naturally.  You weren’t told by the characters that they were going to do something but left to your own intuition that certain elements were going to be followed up at a later date.

While I found the story slightly lacking in satisfaction the art is anything but.  Simeoni delivers another beautifully laid out and shadowed addition to the Eternal library.  While last issue, I had some questions about his heavy use of shading, I found it quite pertinent to the locales we get presented with.  I especially liked the jungle scene in which Batgirl is hunting Falsario.  She is totally channeling her inner Batman as she attempts to intimidate Falsario; and Simeoni’s heavy shadows really lent a significant amount of power to it.  The Batman segment also features some heavy use of shadows and negative light as an inter-dimensional portal is used that sucks up everything in the area, including light.

The end of this issue brought up a subject I wanted to expand on a little.  Last week, Harley Quinn #9 brought up the idea of the media skewing our perceptions of reality; here we are presented with an idea that also follows suit with that notion: in this day and age, we are bombarded with so much “news” that things that are actually important get buried beneath a sea of celebrity gossip and movie star antics.  While not directly scolding us for choosing to enjoying those forms of tabloid entertainment, it is interesting that a comic would feel enough superiority to belittle another entertainment source.  Personally, I think our society’s obsession with celebrity culture is ridiculous so I am not directly against the message that the comic is subtly implying; but wouldn’t some people (not me!) consider comics to be just as silly?  Don’t throw stones if you live in glass houses and all.  I know that there are plenty of comics out there that deal with relevant cultural issues, but I think that many people still believe that comics are silly stuff meant only for kids, which couldn’t be more wrong.

Spoiler

  • Did Stephanie Brown just call me an idiot?  Them’s fighting words missy!
  • Did Croc really need to throw Jade?  I find it unlikely that he wouldn’t have been strong enough to make the jump while carrying her.  It was probably just to give Bard something to do since he was rather underused in this issue.
  • In my review for #14 I pointed out that Leo is most likely going to end up being Rex Calabrese.  Theory confirmed!
  • What confrontations was I looking forward to?  Barbara didn’t confront Falsario cause he died, Gordon didn’t get to own the prisoners and had to be saved by the Lion, Batman doesn’t need to deal with Reardon as the collapsing roof handles that, and Bard didn’t get to have it out with Croc cause he just left.  I just felt like the Heroes didn’t get to have their hero moments.  It was just anti-climactic.
  • I don’t recognize that sword off the top of my head.  Anybody got anything?
  • “…with the aid of American Agencies…”  I know nothing about international politics but would the U.S. have any kind of actual authority in Brazil?  And where did all those parents just come from?
  • I know Barbara is just hugging Jason, but when I first flipped the page, I thought she was planting a big smooch right on his lips.  I was like, “What?!?!?….oh wait…..never mind.”
  • Where did Gordon’s shirt go?  I guess they really were going for Die Hard.

Interesting Facts:

  • The critic that is mentioned in this issue is Roger Ebert and the Crabby Cat movie is Garfield.  Ebert gave those 2 Garfield movies 3 stars each, while a quick search on your favorite movie site gives them a 15% and 11%.  Richard Roeper hated the first movie and made fun of Ebert for liking it.  When Ebert wrote the review for the second movie he wrote the entire thing as if he were Garfield and made fun of Roeper in the actual review.  I know this doesn’t have anything to do with Batman but I thought it was funny, nonetheless, and tied into the issue.
  • Ebert specifically wrote, “Critics have no right to play Spoiler”, in response to reviewers ruining Million Dollar Baby.
  • Let me try and make this a bit more about Batman at least.  Ebert gave Batman Begins and The Dark Knight 4 stars but only gave The Dark Knight Rises 3 stars, the same as the Garfield movies.  Interpret that as you will.

Recommended if…

  • You agree that Alex Garner could make a Grandma baking cookies look epic!
  • You’re happy to see more questions getting answered than posed.
  • You want to know the secret of Gordon’s cellmate.
  • You’re into Simeoni’s darkly depicted world.

Overall:

I couldn’t help but feel like I got cheated out of seeing major confrontations unfold .  There were showdowns I had been looking forward to seeing, and it seemed as if every character was robbed of said moment.  That’s not to say that things aren’t adequately wrapped up in a action packed manner, just not quite in the most satisfying way possible.

SCORE: 6/10