b51.1

This comic was an absolute joy!  As the story unfolds, we are treated to dozens of callbacks to Snyder’s previous work on the Batman title over the last 4 and a half years.  If you’re a hardcore fan, these echos of past stories aren’t hard to recognize, at the same time, care has been taken to make them much more understated than blatant.  And I appreciate that.  While the story does pay homage to Snyder himself, it’s also a return to Batman basics, with plenty of the character’s beloved and classic tenets making appearances throughout the story.

Gotham is…

All the way back in September 2011, on the very first panel, of the very first page, of the first New52 Batman comic, we were introduced to the concept of what Gotham is…

b51.13

From Batman #1 (2011)

We were told that Gotham is… damned, cursed, bedlam, murderous, villainous, a losing game, and hopeless.  But we were also told that Gotham is…Batman, Batman’s city, the Bat.  Bookending his work with an initial question and a speculative answer was a really clever way to go about displaying his final piece.  It makes you reflect on everything that has happened.  Much in the same way that the people of Gotham debate whether or not their city is in a better state of affairs now than it was 5 years ago; we, the readers are basically asked the same question.  Is the world of Batman better-off with Snyder having been a part of it, or is it worse for wear?

Justice Flavored Protein Shake

b51.14

Our story starts off with Alfred descending the stone carved steps to the Batcave, and it’s filled with a sense of foreboding doom.  But once you flip that page…Bam…we are right back to the classically decorated Batcave.  I know what some of you are saying, “Wait a minute, that stuff was stolen by the Joker and half of it got destroyed.  How is it back?”  Yes.  This is a glaring plot-hole that is not answered.  But I don’t care.  We’ve got the Batcave back, so I’m all smiles.

Focusing in on Bruce and Alfred, we find them undergoing patrol prep, a time honored Batman tradition.  And if I may say so, Alfred’s witty repertoire is as sharp as ever.  But even so, Bruce gets in a nice jab that is delivered so dead-pan, it has Alfred second guessing the legitimacy of Bruce’s jest.

While, there is a bit of dialogue here that could be pointed out as being a carry over from the anti-Batman Alfred from SuperHeavy; in my opinion, Alfred has always found Bruce’s nocturnal activities questionable…but remained ever supportive.  SuperHeavy Alfred merely abandoned the supportive element that makes his character so essential to Batman functioning effectively.  In any case, it’s wonderful to see this relationship restored to perfection once again. 

Spoiler
For those of you concerned about the fate of Alfred’s hand…never fear!  Comic book medical breakthroughs fixed him right up.  Although, it should be noted that while his physical wounds have been healed, a stutter upon mentioning the Joker’s name points to Alfred not coming out of the ordeal emotionally unscarred. 

A rooftop chat by the light of the Batsignal…minus candy cigarettes.

b51.4

This scene simply couldn’t be any more perfect.  Why?  Because it’s exactly what it should be!  It’s Batman and Gordon talking on the roof, with Batman being all business and Gordon being slightly more affable.  It does have a small Snyder-ism in it.  You know…his penchant for including wikipedia entries in the dialogue.  But it’s only one sentence, and since it doesn’t degenerate into pages and pages like it usually does, I’ll give it a pass.

They watch you at your hearth, they watch you in your bed…

Yep.  The Court makes a cameo.  In and of itself, that is awesome, but what is more awesome is that the scene depicts just how much Batman has these guys under his thumb.  He is one step ahead of them.  He already knows about their secret plans and even activates a hidden device that even other Court members are not entirely familiar with the location of.  This is bringing things back to the know-it-all Batman, and I love that guy, so bring it on. 

Spoiler
I also love the fact that he infiltrated their ranks as one of them.  Batman dressing up in disguises to get the job done is something I have always liked and that doesn’t get utilized often enough.  So, whenever it springs up, I’m pretty happy about it. 

Snyder vs Snyder

b51.2

Back in EndGame, when Scott had Batman take on the Justice League, I made the comment that we were getting to see Scott’s take on Batman vs Superman before we saw Zack’s.  Now, I feel like we are entering another versus battle of sorts between the two.  It seems that one of the main talking points that many fans have about the movie is that Batman kills in it.  Regardless of your preference, it seems to me that Scott made his choice.  And I love it.  It harkens back to the days when Batman would take out a criminal, only to have said criminal entered into a Bruce Wayne funded rehabilitation program.  Granted, this particular scenario doesn’t involve a Bruce-centric intervention, but I was still getting the vibe.  Remember, when you kill someone, you’re taking away everything they may yet be.  Not just what they have been.  It’s the difference between cynicism and hope.  Choose hopefulness.  It’s what Batman does.  It’s why he does what he does.  For the hope of a better tomorrow.

GREG CAPULLO!!!

b51.8

Just look at the five shots I complied together.  They are insanely minimalistic but at the same time,  evocative and iconic beyond a shadow of a doubt.  This is Batman and Capullo at their finest as far as I am concerned.  But you probably want a little more than slitty eyes and shadows, so let’s get to it.

Much in the same way that Snyder referenced many of his previous storylines, Capullo likewise referenced specific elements of his own previous artwork.  This image represents part of a two page spread that appeared in Batman #1.

b51.16

The inlaid picture is a two page spread from this issue that is essentially a magnification, at a different angle, of the image highlighted in red from #1.  Personally, I think it is tremendous that the Batcave is drawn consistently throughout Capullo’s run.  It’s as if Capullo actually planned out the entire layout of the cave and refers to self-made schematics (or an excellent memory) in order to keep a sense of cohesion with the visuals.  But this isn’t the only visual callback.

b51.18

Batman #1 also had a rooftop scene between Batman and Gordon.  You can see that the page layout from #1 to #51 was actually very similar.  Except this time, the entire scene is played out in silhouette with the Batsignal providing the back-light.  And I have to say, it looks amazing.

The last call back I wanted to point out was the two page spread of the Rogues Gallery.  I’ll leave this one for you to compare on your own.  It’s page 10+11 from #51 and page 2+3 from #1.

In the past, I have remarked on the comic trope of a hero swinging off into the night to fight some unseen threat as being worn and played out.  Here, we are given something similar, but different enough that I found it fresh and rewarding.  Instead of the freeze frame action pose that we typically get, we are given a guardian caught in stoic vigilance over the city he loves.  This isn’t the image of a hero who delights in his gallivanting, but one who has accepted a joyless burden in order to free his people from their suffer.

Scott…Greg…this issue definitely hit me right in the “feels”.  Thank you.

b51.11

Interesting Facts:

13830545399717yyy

  •  The cover reminds me of this marketing image from Batman 89.

b51.12

  • This reminds me of Batman: The Animated Series, and the fact that each image was rendered on a black canvas.

b51.3

  • Professor Milo?  After the events of Batman Eternal, I’m surprised they would let this guy be in control of anything, let alone an insane asylum.

b51.9

EDIT: I’ve been informed by my editor, Andrew Asberry, that one of those advertisements posted on the fence is actually a self portrait of Greg Capullo.

  • This bait and switch scene is right out of Batman: The Animated Series, Christmas with the Joker.  In it, we see a young kid running up to an old lady carrying a bunch of packages.  We think he is going to mug her, and so does Batman, but really, she just dropped a package and he was trying to return it.
  • This issue is about a quiet night in Gotham.  Over the years, there have actually been many such stories.  Two that spring to mind are Batman #219 and Detective Comics #567.  In 219, each snippet is about an individual who starts off doing something bad, but when confronted with the image/idea of Batman, they end up doing the right thing even though he isn’t even there.  In 567, Batman keeps running into things that he thinks are crimes but they turn out to be innocent activities misconstrued, or instances where citizens and the law actually take care of crime themselves for a change.  One such instance would be when he sees someone breaking into a car, but it turns out to be their own car and they just locked the keys inside.  Or when a gunmen tries to rob a store and the clerk manages to pull a gun on the robber himself.

Recommended if…

  • You love Batman.
  • You want to see the last issue of Batman written by Scott Snyder and penciled by Greg Capullo. (It’s the end of an era)
  • You’ve been dying to get a Batman story that displays the character in his purest form.
  • You want to experience a tour de force issue that encourages you to relive the last 4 and a half years.

Overall:

This is the best issue of Batman that I have read in over a year.  I fully admit that SuperHeavy was an arduous undertaking for me, and I had no love for it.  By the end of it, I was all for some fresh blood on Batman.  But after reading this issue, I know that Scott is still more than capable of putting out absolutely superb Batman comics.  I’m genuinely sad to see him go because, when he wants to, he really can write the hell out of the character.  Seeing what he is capable of when he puts his mind to it, it’s also sad that we couldn’t have had more issues like this one throughout his run.  In any case, good luck on All-Star Batman, Scott.  And thanks for leaving us on a high note.

SCORE: 9.5 / 10