This is it—the final volume of Batman from The New 52. Its heights were higher than its depths were low, and there were stories that will be talked about for years to come. Epilogue doesn’t contain any of them, but that’s okay. Filled with one-offs—all but one of which stand perfectly well on their own—this last word from the five-year storytelling machine of Snyder and Capullo (along with some frequent partners) makes for a pleasant slowing of the pace and shrinking of the scope before we turn out the lights on this era of the Dark Knight.
Rather than the string of sequentially-numbered issues to which we’ve grown accustomed, Epilogue takes the same approach as Graveyard Shift, presenting an assortment of stories from the odds-and-ends that have not yet been collected. Here’s what you get:
- “Remains,” from Batman: Futures End #1, originally published in September 2014; written by Ray Fawkes from a story by Fawkes and Scott Snyder, with art by ACO, colors by FCO Plascencia, letters by Dezi Sienty and Carlos M. Mangual, and cover art by Jason Fabok and Brad Anderson. Read the original review
- “Madhouse,” from Batman Annual #4, originally published in September 2015; written by James Tynion IV, with art by Roge Antonio, colors by Dave McCaig, letters by Steve Wands, and cover art by Sean Gordon Murphy. Read the original review
- “Gotham Is,” from Batman #51, originally published in April 2016; written by Scott Snyder, with pencils by Greg Capullo, inks by Danny Miki, colors by FCO Plascencia, letters by Steve Wands, and cover art by Capullo, Miki, and FCO. Read the original review
- “The List,” from Batman #52, originally published in May 2016; written by James Tynion IV, with art by Riley Rossmo, additional inks by Brian Level, colors by Ivan Plascencia and Jordan Boyd, letters by Steve Wands, and cover art by Greg Capullo, Danny Miki, and FCO Plascencia. Read the original review
Unlike most of the Futures End tie-ins, I think this one stands better on its own—distant from the event—than as a tie-in. More specifically, I enjoy it more now, several years later, than when I originally read it. The original event ultimately had very little impact outside of Batman Beyond, so having it out of mind makes it easier to take this for what it is, without the distraction of considering how it fits into Futures End.
The story consists of a fun Bat-caper, as Bruce breaks into Lexcorp in an attempt to steal what he considers a crucial component in the preservation of Batman’s legacy. While there is, at times, considerable technobabble to wade through, the dialogue—particularly once Luthor himself gets involved—makes for fun reading, and the interplay between Bruce and an even older Alfred feels authentic.
ACO’s aesthetic and layouts seem to fit the story well, and he is colored beautifully by FCO, who manages to preserve his own distinct identity even when working with someone who isn’t Greg Capullo. The only ding against the artwork is that sometimes ACO’s stylistic messiness (and a few confusing layouts) results in some visual confusion. But then, it doesn’t happen often enough to derail the narrative, so it’s easy to look past.
“Remains” is an uncommonly valuable relic from Futures End. For some decent Bat-action and fun with Lex Luthor’s swollen ego, this one-and-done is hard to beat.
“Madhouse” is a Superheavy tie-in that, very strangely, is not collected in the Superheavy trade. Centered on Bruce’s reacquisition of Wayne Manor—courtesy of Geri Powers—this annual begins with a status quo that would be confusing without a knowledge of the larger context. How did Bruce lose his memory? Why is there a weird-looking Robobatbunny on the lawn?
The meat of the tale, in which three remaining inmates of the former Arkham Manor (again, the context…) terrorize Bruce, Julie, and Alfred, helps get things moving, and the dialogue is written well, but a good portion of it serves as a sort of “survey of the Scott Snyder history of Bruce Wayne,” and makes the whole narrative feel like a contrived device in service to this trip down memory lane. It’s never unbearable, and there are some good elements (I like the villains’ motivation especially), but I’ll put this one at the bottom if I’m ranking the stories in the collection.
Thankfully, Roge Antonio, who also worked with Tynion in the excellent Batman Annual #3, provides fantastic figures and effective layouts. He and Dave McCaig together create an oily, pastel-like feel, and Antonio’s expressive facial work pays dividends. I love this shot of the Riddler:
It’s not my favorite, but “Madhouse” is still a decent read. If you haven’t read previous volumes of Batman, you might feel a bit out of place at the start, but things get moving quickly enough, and the dialogue feels natural enough to make this an easy and worthwhile investment.
The final Batman collaboration from Snyder and Capullo, “Gotham Is” follows Batman through a quiet night in Gotham. A rumble and a power outage lead Bruce out on patrol in search of nefarious dealings, but along the way, he encounters lots of fruit from his long service to the city, and none of the scars of his failures or absences.
Far and away the best piece of writing in this collection, this story makes me smile. In my mind, it’s peak Snyder: a somewhat cocksure Batman whose dark life has not extinguished the light in his heart. When he confronts a few of his rogues at Arkham, my mind goes straight to the “native roots” moment from Zero Year:
The intermittent voiceover from the “Gotham Is” columnist—who turns out to be someone from Bruce’s past—is an interesting thread that leads to a conclusion that is sweet without being too syrupy. Part of my love for Batman is that he will rail against evil though he never make a dent in it, but I nevertheless have a warm spot in my heart for stories that give him a reward for his suffering, and this is one such tale.
Capullo and the rest of the art crew turn in a fun—if a bit shadowy—final performance. I particularly loved seeing Capullo’s self-reference in Arkham, and while I absolutely hate the Bat-beak he added to the cowl at the end of Superheavy, I relish this chance to see him draw Batman in costume one last time.
A sweet farewell from a revered creative team, “Gotham Is” is just the type of story I’d like more of from Snyder and Capullo. Here’s hoping that their forthcoming “secret DC project” is cut from the same cloth.
The actual final issue of Batman was created not by Snyder and Capullo, but by Snyder-pupil James Tynion and artist Riley Rossmo. A sweet little tale about how Bruce emerged from the horror of his parents’ deaths, it follows Bruce through a journal and the corresponding life experiences he sought as he tried to find himself.
Up front, I’ll say that Rossmo’s aesthetic distracts from any storytelling benefits that his layouts may bring. His characters look so abstract and funky that it’s difficult not to stare at the strangeness. The quirky figures, faces, and OH MY LANDS THE HAIR become the point, rather than telling a story. He has a few shots that I really like, but by and large, I have to ignore the details of his work and take in its fringes while I read the dialogue. Not the best place to be when reading a comic book!
Tynion’s tale is simple and heartwarming, even if it doesn’t have great depth. We see Bruce’s dedication to harden and sharpen himself, even at a young age, but we also see a nice depiction of his reliance on Alfred for more than patch-ups and tea. The plot is somewhat contrived, involving a safe-deposit box that Bruce probably never should have/would have kept at a bank, but since the point of the whole affair isn’t rooted in that detail, I can overlook it. All told, I enjoyed “The List” quite a bit, and would have liked it even more had editorial paired Tynion with a more appropriate artist.
There’s a tiny selection of variant covers (one for each of the issues, except for the annual, which didn’t have any variants) at the end, followed by Batman: Rebirth #1.
Value: sale price
This may seem like a good deal, but a good chunk of the page count is the annual (the weakest chapter in the volume proper) and the Rebirth one-shot, which is just okay, and will be collected in the first volume of Tom King’s run. I really like the rest of it, so I recommend picking it up, but the sixteen-dollar retail you’ll pay for a new copy is a bit steep.
After years of high drama and bombast—some of which was actually quite good—it’s a delight to have a volume of Batman that slows things down and narrows its vision. With the exception of the annual, everything stands very well on its own, and while none of them will likely ever make a Top Ten list, they’re solid and enjoyable, and worth having around for revisiting later.