America is the enemy!  Extremely weighty material for your average comic book fanfare.  If you read comics as a respite from your daily toils, this is not the issue for you.  Usually a comic is a way to slip away from the real world for 20 minutes, to live vicariously through the eyes of another and accomplish feats of wonder, to not be forced to deal with the horrors of the real world but instead escape into a simpler setting, where good can eventually triumph over evil.  This story is going to hit all too close to home for some of us, but in the end, whether you relate to it or not, it asks the reader not merely to invest in the story but to introspectively evaluate themselves.  In the bigger picture, are we more a part of the problem than the solution?

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The majority of this book is devoted to a plane crash and the resulting turmoil that follows it.  In a lot of ways I could see this story playing out without the inclusion of Batman at all.  It draws to mind that there are certain catastrophes that even super heroes are not qualified to deal with.  While Batman’s attempt to keep the situation under control is valiant, the enormity of the situation is actually beyond his scope.  While certain individuals definitely benefit from his heroics, there isn’t much he can do in the bigger scope of things.  I’m genuinely curious to see how this story wraps up!  Batman stories, of late, have relied heavily on resolutions involving fisticuffs, but I’m thinking that something more refined has to be implemented in order to wrap this up in the next issue.  We may be looking at another moment for Detective Comics to shine and show us that keen intellect the Dark Knight is so lauded for.

Other than the big subjects which I won’t openly spoil (see spoiler), I saw two tertiary issues that were subtly, or not so subtly, sprinkled throughout the story.  In one such instance, an individual demands that he be permitted to enter the airport so that he won’t miss his flight.  I think that the implication that Percy was attempting to convey with this particular inclusion, is that we have become entitled.  Flying is quite a privilege when you consider the alternatives, but we have become so used to it, that now we consider it a right.  Another person is seen buying her mocha, caramel swirled, pumpkin spiced, chocolate whipped, shaken not stirred, double espresso latte cappuccino (I have no idea what I just said).  It’s funny how many people sit back and complain about the price they pay for a gallon of gas but then spend $5 on a 12oz coffee.  It’s these little bits, that re-enforce the main theme, that draw our everyday lives into question and I’m impressed that Ben Percy has decided to shoulder this much for his arc.  I say shoulder, because the bigger issues that this story tackles are definitely subjects that can cause heated debate amongst people (see spoiler).

John Paul Leon has a very interesting artistic style, minimalistic in nature but at the same time incorporating a vast amount of business (if that makes any sense).  Another way to describe it might be to say that, there is a lot going on in each panel but each element, taken individually, is rather simply rendered.  I felt that the surreal quality of his work was a good choice for this piece.  If it had been too hyper realistic it might have been uncomfortable for people to look at (given the nature of the story), but when seeing everything through a slightly unreal filter, it made things easier to handle.  While that surreal quality made the realistic elements of the situation less harsh and easier to swallow, it actually made the interiors of the airplane more uncomfortable (for me at least).  It was actually quite ghastly!  He manages to add a lot of atmosphere to the book and his work instills a chill and mustiness to the proceedings.

Recently, people have been using the words dark and realistic as positive affirmations, as to the the quality of a work or film.  The darker and more realistic something is, the better people seem to imply that it is.  This is definitely one of the darkest most realistic stories that I can recall appearing in the Batman titles in the last several years.  And while I did enjoy the story for what it is, I can’t say that it is something that I would want to see every month.  If this was what we were getting exposed to on a regular basis, I would expect to be seeing some audience fatigue, but as an interlude, it is a welcome addition.

Spoiler

Biological warfare, terrorism, military action for financial profit, our extravagant leisure at the expense of other countries, and our unchecked waste at the detriment of those same countries; these are the subjects that are openly brought up in this story.  Implied is the idea that our involvement in the Middle East was only undertaken to secure better gas prices back home or to put more money and power in the hands of those who already have too much.  The story also includes allusions that I believe were designed to call to mind the horrors of 9-11.  This is definitely not what I would refer to as a fun comic book adventure.  Thought provoking and a real conversation starter but nothing I would ever refer to as fun.  I’m curious to see the correlations that everyone else came up with in the comment section.  See you all there later.

Recommended if…

  • You’re ready for some serious self evaluation.
  • You’re into super dark and realistic stories.

Overall:

This story is one of the most thought-provoking issues of a comic I have read in a while.  I can see where some might be uncomfortable at some of the allusions, while others will dislike the implications that, as a society, we are not ideal, but if you can be open enough to the idea that we aren’t perfect (and can stand some humility), then you might just learn something worth taking away from this issue.

SCORE: 8.5/10

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