Welcome to the new (temporary) status quo. In place of Batman, a creature of the shadows who tormented the criminal underworld by preying on their superstitions and cowardice, we get Robobat-bunny! (Hey, if the suit’s pilot can call it Robobat-bunny, then it’s fair game). He’s a shiny armored, massive gun totting, completely conspicuous, and anything but subtle display of excess.
I’m sure some of you came here expecting me to dump all over this, but after issue 40, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo had an interview in which they referred to this story arc as a kind of vacation from Batman. Right now, we are going away to see something different, but when we are done, we are sure to return home. Personally, that really resonates with me. I always become trepidacious when talk of vacations comes up, but once I get there, I always have a great time. I think that sometimes people also have a tendency to take their homes for granted, but when we are reunited with them after an extended period of time, we appreciate them all the more for their comfortable familiarity. That analogy really helped me to have a more opened mind going into this arc. So while I might not have wanted to go on this trip that Scott and Greg invited me on, I did enjoy the first issue and I’m definitely going to try and make the most out of what’s to come.
There is actually a pretty strong counterpoint to this idea. I don’t really want to go too much into detail about it since I talked about it extensively in my last review, but for those of you who didn’t have the opportunity to read that, I’ll touch briefly on it here. We have already been down this road several times in the Batman universe, where Batman has gone away and other characters briefly took over the mantle. One such occasion wasn’t even that far back when you look at the bigger scheme of things. The real question is, do we really need another such story. I think that ultimately, we can’t really judge it until we see more of what is in store, and I believe the success of the story will depend on how much of the material is a rehash and how much is actually bringing something brand new to the table. Now, on to the review!
Right off the bat, I think the smartest thing that Scott Snyder did was give us a character we can relate to. Not only is the pilot of the new suit a character with a huge fan base in his own right, but the pilot’s own dialogue is a collection of every grumbling we, as the fans, have been saying for the last two months. How much of this was already scripted and how much was pasted in after seeing fan reaction is unclear, but if Snyder wasn’t sneaking into a couple of forums and chat boards, then he is the most intuitive individual ever because I swear that every pessimistic line uttered by the pilot is something I’ve already seen online somewhere or other. If you came to this comic thinking this was going to be stupid and then see the pilot talking about how stupid it is too, you’re going to get behind him and root for him. You end up not focusing on the suit so much, but more the individual inside it. Until this happened…
I was just getting used to the idea of the new suit and was picturing the pilot inside having an aviators jumpsuit and helmet, as if the uniform inside the suit were completely practical and didn’t have any cosmetic function to it since he would never be getting out of the suit to do any super heroing anyway. Turns out I was wrong. I’m not sure why, but in a way this actually offends me more than the robot suit ever did. Perhaps it’s because, with the robot suit, it was easy to picture it as just being a guy in a robot suit and not really being Batman at all since it looked nothing like him. But this is most definitely a man in a Batman suit. The other prospect that concerned me upon viewing this, was just how much Batmaning the pilot would be doing outside of the armored suit. When I found out who was behind the mask, I was ok with the idea because I realized that the suit would be doing most of the heavy lifting, so to speak, but in this configuration I’d have to imagine that the pilot is greatly compromising his safety. While Bruce had peak human capabilities to help him make Batmaning look easy, I can’t see this gentleman pulling off any of that without the help of the robot suit.
In regards to the story itself, we have two main aspects that are intercut throughout the length of the book. One features Robobat-bunny doing some superheroing, while the other concentrates on the pilot having a conversation with Geri Powers, the individual behind the creation of the suit. The villain that Robobat-bunny has to overcome during the action segments of this issue seems rather peculiar to me. Not at all your typical type of Batman villain, instead it seems he was specifically groomed to show off the extensive abilities of the new suit. Personally, these sections weren’t all that riveting for me since they were so un-Batman like in nature, but there was still an element to them that I enjoyed: while the physical conflict did not catch my attention, the internal conflicts of the pilot that were going on at the same time really caught my interest and had me invested in what was happening. Ultimately though, I think that what he was facing was irrelevant compared to how he was feeling about it; that was the true point of the story, so it still worked for me in the long run. This internal conflict coupled with the extensive outward dialogue traded between the pilot and Miss Powers really gave the reader a lot to think about and was where I got most of my enjoyment from.
As always, Greg Capullo handles art for the Batman title, and as always he completely knocks it out of the park! (picture of Maggie aside) But what more can really be said about the man that I haven’t already said a dozen times before. So I think I’ll just leave it at, “All praise the mighty Capullo!”, and be done with it. But if you do want a bit more breakdown on the art, I go into some detail in the spoilers about a specific image that I found particularly breathtaking. Even though the image is somewhat nondescript in nature, I thought it might raise too many questions for readers wanting to remain spoiler free, so it ended up hidden in the tag.
Time for Theorizing:
Perhaps this section should be in a spoiler tag, but since I am just theorizing and not really giving away anything real, I’m going to leave it out for all to see. But be forewarned all the same. In this issue, we meet a new character named Geri Powers. She is the head of some company and is the one responsible for initiating the Robobat-bunny program, along with taking over the recently defunct Wayne Enterprises. Whenever a comic introduces a new character, it is almost always guaranteed that they will either end up becoming a new hero/ally or a villain. How much you wanna bet that miss Powers here is going to ultimately end up being the villain of this story arc, or at least connected to the villain in some way or another.
There is a moment in this issue where she is explaining to our pilot that he will be a Batman with checks and balances. Now I know that what she is explaining is that he will be answering to a higher power, but in the back of my head an ominous little voice spoke up and said, “You’ll be a Batman we can control, Muhahahahaha!” As in literally control by remote control.
If they did something like that, showed that Batman couldn’t work in an official capacity, it would drive home the fact that Bruce/Batman is an incorruptible entity. You factor in a corporation or a government and you’ve got a bunch of people with agendas that are ultimately going to try and use you. But Batman apart from all that can’t be bought, bribed, or leveraged. Batman operates on his own morals without council. He is above avarice and it is why he has always been so effective outside of the system. If Powers does end up being the villain, it could also be a perfect window for Bruce/Batman to swoop back in, save the day, and scoop up Wayne Enterprises in the process.
I’d also venture to say that the tech the Whisper Gang member was using will most likely be tracked back to Powers International, the company that Geri owns, as tech that was “supposedly” stolen. It definitely seems odd that some common street thug would have something so advanced. It’s even possible that the whole encounter was orchestrated by Geri as a positive P.R. campaign to boost public perception of the new Batman. I totally don’t trust her.
My thoughts on the current continuity, or lack there of:
Before Convergence, DC announced that they were ending the New52 and in doing so would be switching their focus from continuity to story telling. Some people took this to mean that everything that would be occurring come this June would not follow from the previous stories set up prior to Convergence and would be a whole new continuity in and of itself. I’m sure by now we can all see that this was not the case, as this story follows directly from the events of EndGame. All that really happened is that DC dropped the New52 branding from their books.
Now, in regards to continuity between currently released books, their seems to be quite a bit of questions going on as to when everything is taking place when you consider all the conflicting events that each book is depicting. Batman and Detective Comics feature Robobat-bunny while Justice League has Bruce, Robin: Son of Batman and Gotham Academy both have Damian Wayne, Teen Titans and Batman Beyond both have Tim Drake, and as always Harley Quinn is featured in Suicide Squad and her own self named title.
I’ve seen some people theorizing that each book is now part of its own separate timeline. This seems highly unlikely to me, although I have no definitive proof against this theory at the time. More than likely, what I think is going on, is that we merely have stories that are jumping off from the broadest picture of these characters. As I have pointed out before, the basic status quo of our heroes never truly changes. It is only the minutest of details that alters over the course of time. This is why you can pick up a book from 1939, 1977, or even 2015 and still recognize them all as Batman. The broad strokes of the characters always stay the same. During story arcs, things get shaken up, but always return to this same jumping off point, decade after decade. This is what I think they are doing now. I think all of these stories are in the same timeline even if I can’t pinpoint exactly when they are taking place. But I think that ultimately it doesn’t matter when specifically they do, since they are self contained and don’t rely on the details of other stories to tell their tales. You don’t need to know the events of another title to follow the story of a different book, you just need to enjoy what they are giving you.
- For those of you who don’t plan on getting the comic and who have not already read the spoilers that have been around for months, the man inside of the new suit is Commissioner James Gordon. I took care not to spoil it in the article proper, but I am wondering if that was for not. Did anyone out there reading this actually not already know it was Jim and kept themselves spoiler free for their first read?
- I love this picture. Not to take away from the amazing art, but it probably has more to do with who is in the picture that the picture itself. Although, the art really is pretty great too. It is so simple with it just being in silhouette, but even so, there is tons of detail when you notice all the grass and weeds that litter the ground. The colors really pop too, but at the same time everything is so very calm. I can almost hear the water lapping against the shore. This is a well deserved break, and I am happy to see him just enjoying a sunset without a care in the world, while the warm summer breeze blows across his face.
- I found it interesting that this story gave me moments of Snyder nostalgia. Usually when we think of nostalgia, it is from events from decades ago, but here, Snyder does subtle call backs to his previous stories. This issue brings up the Whisper Gang that was originally featured in The Court of Owls storyline from 3 years ago and calls to mind a moment from Zero Year where Bruce used magnetic boots to cling to the bottom of a blimp.
- There is also a part of the story where we find out that the suit can change its outward appearance at the touch of a button. Perhaps foreshadowing to camouflage abilities? Maybe the suit isn’t as conspicuous as I originally thought. We get to see New52 Batman, classic Batman, the Batman of zur-en-arrh, and Zero Year Batman. A fun little moment for sure.
- So, this is obviously Julia Pennyworth, but the real question I have is why Geri Powers felt the need to offer up this information about her and the original Batman. While I know that Wayne Enterprises funding Batman was public knowledge, I never thought there was any reason to believe that Wayne Enterprise employees ever had any direct interaction with Batman at all. I just felt that the need to specifically point out that she didn’t interact with him was unnecessary since I never assumed anyone ever did anyway.
- But the most important question on my mind……where is Alfred?
- This issue brings up the idea that if Batman had been working alongside the police with official sanctions, that he would have been able to accomplish even more than he did. While Batman cooperating with the police can definitely be seen as an on-again off-again kind of relationship depending on the circumstances of the story being told and which continuity you are looking at, it’s actually something that was broached fairly early on by the writers of the Batman comics. All the way back in the early 40s, after a period of Batman fighting the police almost as often as he fought with criminals, Commissioner Gordon actually deputized Batman. So yes, there was a point in the Dark Knight’s career where the famous vigilante wasn’t a vigilante at all, but an official member of the Gotham City Police Department.
- All the way back in March, we posted this article showing off the new suit and immediately everyone started calling it all kinds of names. Those that spring to mind are Chappie, The Tick, Robo-Bunny, and a slew of others. At the time, I commented on the fact that I thought it looked more like Briareos from Appleseed. Turns out, that is exactly what inspired the new suit. In a recent interview with Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, it was revealed that Scott had given Greg a picture of Briareos and asked him to draw on it for inspiration for the new suit’s design.
- You’re curious to see the new direction the Batman comics are going in.
- You like stories that focus more on character over conflict.
- You’re fascinated by the premise of the Robobat-bunny suit.
- You’ve been with Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo since the beginning and are willing to give them some leeway since they have not failed you yet.
- You want to be surprised and given what you didn’t know you wanted! – Greg Capullo
I was far happier with the outcome of this issue than I thought I was going to be going into it. While I may not have been a fan of the idea of the Robobat-bunny suit, the story presented is still highly entertaining and gives one a lot to think about. The strongest element to the story is the internal conflict that our main protagonist is dealing with. It really provides an excellent source of relatability for us as readers to latch onto going into this new arc. If you were on the fence about this new direction, perhaps you should reconsider and give it a look-see before you completely abandon it. There is definitely some worthwhile material here to be had.
SCORE: 8.5 / 10