This is the kind of story I haven’t seen since before the New52. It doesn’t have any ulterior motives. It’s not trying to get you hooked into buying some long running arc. There are no gimmicks or hype. It isn’t planting the seeds for some company wide crossover event. You don’t really even need to be familiar with continuity to understand what is going on. It is just a well written, self contained story that achieves, based solely on the talents of the writer and artist alone. I don’t think you would even need to be a comic or Batman fan to be able to enjoy this piece of work. In fact, if you replaced Batman with a random agent, the story would still function in much the same capacity. This isn’t a Batman story, it is just a story that happens to have Batman in it. Perhaps that is a negative for some of you, but I’ll let you make that call on your own.
Before you think that all I am doing is just bashing the epic stories, let me tell you that is not the case. I enjoy an epic story the same as the next person, I just think that DC had forgotten that some sense of variety can actually add more excitement to the epic arcs than if all you ever did was present them and nothing else. If you get epic stuff, back to back, all the time, you start to get desensitized to it and it would not feel as mind blowing. You need a story with a different pace thrown in from time to time in order to balance things out. After all, a roller coaster without the drops and inclines is just a train ride!
Much like #35, this ends up giving you just as much to think about afterward as it entertains while you are reading it. While the theme is definitely something to ponder over, the story also supplies you with little anecdotes to consider as well. One example from the first page is the notion of people gathered together, but no one speaking, and all eyes focused on smartphones. I’m not sure that I got out of it what Percy was intending, but it made me think nonetheless. I found myself thinking about how we are social animals that are losing ourselves to technology. Another random thought that is presented is the notion that we need to slow down and enjoy the journey and focus less on the destination. I really liked seeing this, as it is close to something I say myself. These are the kind of elements I am referring to when I say things to think about. They aren’t connected directly to the story outright, but loosely tie into it in order to give us more to consider.
There are many themes sewn into this tale, and while some are more overt than others, if you look closely you can find a lot of layers to explore. We have social commentaries, the way the average person views the government and its inability to view people as more than just numbers, an introspective look at the mental processes of an ex military man, and some things that question military action and quite possibly America in general. Pretty hefty stuff for a comic and not necessarily stuff that all people are going to want to analyze. Fortunately, for those who want to overlook these things you can latch onto the plot and most likely be content with nothing more. For those of you who want to look in the mirror, that option is also presented to you.
John Paul Leon provides the art for both parts of this story, and to be honest, I can’t envision this in any way other than in how he has presented it here. If this were in any kind of standard comic house style I think it would lose quite a bit of its atmosphere and presence. Everything about this screams independent to me, and not just the art, but the whole style and approach to this comic as well. It is kind of hard to explain, but in the way he draws, I feel like it is more about looking at the spaces in between the lines, than the lines themselves defining the shapes. Some things are completely defined by shading, with no distinguishable line to be seen. There isn’t a lot of detail to his work, but the composition he provides gives you a real sense of space and form. It is actually quite beautiful. He is definitely the kind of artist you need to pair with the right kind of story, and I hope another appropriate story comes along, because I would really like to see his work again. He is the kind of artist I could see working on a story like Batman #34.
I had two very small criticisms about the issue, so minor in fact that they didn’t really even contribute to any sort of point deduction, but I feel like they are worth discussing nonetheless. First, Dick Grayson’s moral sensibilities have not yet been degraded by Spyral to the point that we see them here. Using his sexiness to manipulate women, sure, but torturing someone seems a little out of character for him. I can see two possible explanations behind this, either this story happens at some indeterminable time in the future or Benjamin Percy decided he didn’t want to be constrained by the tenants of the established character. I’m banking on the second one. This comic has had a very uncomic book like/real world approach to it from the start, and what I think we are seeing is a Grayson through that filter. He isn’t the fantasy element of what being a spy is all about but represents the hard truth that the job would most likely entail. So while it doesn’t meld well with the current Grayson, it does hold true to the world Percy is establishing, so I’m going to give this one a pass.
Second, I think the end could have used one more page to wrap things up. Or even just a slight rearrangement of the issue in order to allocate a few more panels to the epilogue. The last page could have also benefited from one of those, “one week later” kind of things. Having it take place only hours later seems strange and brings up a lot of questions in my mind. Having Bruce discuss the event with Alfred days after it all got wrapped up would have cleared up a few lingering questions for me. It didn’t entirely seem like I was looking at later that day either, while at the same time it did. Bruce mentioning that the airport is contained, implies now, not that it was contained, but that it currently is. If that is true why are things back to business only hours after a terrorist attack when things are still locked down. Don’t they have some kind of cleanup to do. It was just slightly confusing. However, discussing the fact that the cure is currently being made puts it in an 8 hour window since that is the incubation period of the contagion. At what point did Bruce get the shot? If they are working on it doesn’t that mean Bruce has not had the shot yet? Like I said, it’s not a big deal, I just wanted a hair more of a wrap up. We also didn’t see Grayson give Batman the info, but we know they must have chatted because Batman knew where to find the antidote.
- You want to read a story that stands on its own merit.
- You like when a comic makes you think.
This was a worthy conclusion to the story, and while I feel it could have used an extra page or two to help iron out some minor details, there is very little to complain about here. The thing that draws you to buy this in the first place might initially be Batman, but I think that you’ll find this to be a lot more engrossing and layered than your average comic.