Comics / Spotlight / Progressive Panels

The New 52's Batman

By Andy Frisk
September 22, 2011 - 18:26

Some time ago I stated that DC Comics was squandering its potential to tell some really interesting and realistic Batman stories in the vein of The Dark Knight (2008) in realism and intelligence by wasting time with stories like Batman RIP and the nonsensical stories that followed. DC Comics was losing Batman readers because readers like me really enjoyed the intelligence and realism of The Dark Knight (2008), but when we read a Batman comic book in a search of more we were inundated with dumb, sales gimmick plots. With the launch of the second volumes of Batman (2011) and Detective Comics (2011) as part of DC Comics’ newest sales gimmick (The New 52) though, comic book fans have had something to cheer about amidst a sea of new, yet mediocre, DC Comics books deluging the market. The first issues of Tony S. Daniel’s Detective Comics (2011) and Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman (2011) are so good that they singlehandedly won me, and many others, back into the Bat-fold of readers. These creators are doing this by sticking to the basics of a good Batman story: mystery, action, intelligent composition, great characterization, and returning Batman to a focus on Gotham and its criminal madmen and masterminds first, and the world at large second.

Daniel's Batman

After the mess that Grant Morrison made of the Bat-franchise, it’s nice to see things settle down a bit. Morrison is a great writer, and he did do some interesting things with Batman, but he is better suited to producing works like his brilliant The Invisibles, Flex Mentallo, and the like. His penchant for social commentary and fascination with the mystical are better suited to characters that naturally develop in such stories, like King Mob and Jack Frost from The Invisibles, rather than thrusting those themes upon already established characters like Batman...and Superman. Morrison is nothing if not terribly blunt about his politics and ideas; again something that works only with certain characters, but this type of heavy handedness can drown an established character. Established characters can move towards an exploration of these themes, no doubt, but subtlety makes for a much more engaging story. There’s no subtle introduction of social commentary in Morrison’s works, just check out his first issue of The New 52’s Action Comics (2011). Snyder and Daniel’s plots dwell in the shadows and the darker recesses of the human mind (psychologically not magically), and this type of writing much better suits a character like Batman. Batman works best in these types of stories, and now that these types of stories are back, we can finally declare that the Batman we know and love is back as well.

Detective Comics #1

In the Tony S. Daniel written and drawn Detective Comics (2011) #1, we are treated to an early two page spread of The New 52 Dark Knight as he paces his way across the rooftops of Gotham en route to a confrontation with The Joker, whose in the middle of a maniacal murder, of course. Gotham is dark, smoky, and grim. Batman, with his heavily tech influenced suit (a la The Dark Knight (2008)), is the perfect picture of the dark avenger. Very quickly the scene turns murderously violent when Batman catches up with The Joker. Even though The Joker manages to escape Batman’s clutches, The Dark Knight ends up catching and incarcerating him before the end of the issue. What happens then to The Joker in jail, according to his wishes, is both frightening and perplexing at once, and hints at a new direction for The Joker, one that is as mysterious as it is macabre. Daniel captures his reader with the perfect mix of a realism heavy, violent, and mysterious storytelling that mirrors the atmosphere of The Dark Knight (2008) film, and completely hits the mark as far as how Batman is most effectively presented. Undoubtedly Daniel (and Snyder) will make Batman their own, but the debt they owe to Christopher Nolan is immeasurable. I’m just glad that DC Comics is finally being smart enough to realize that there was a reason that Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008) did so well critically and commercially, and they’re finally applying these attributes to their comic book version of the character.

Batman #1

In the Scott Snyder penned and Greg Capullo penciled Batman (2011) #1 readers are treated to an even more direct tie in to the two most recent Batman films in a very visual way. The Scarecrow looks just like he did Batman Begins (2005) and Two-Face has blond hair, like the actor who portrayed the character in The Dark Knight (2008), Aaron Eckhart. Capullo’s gritty and realistic style, which suits Batman (2011) perfectly, presents us with a Batman whose look also borrows heavily from Batman’s recent big screen look to great affect. Snyder manages to weave a tale that ends with a twist that is just as mysterious as Daniel’s is. Snyder is a stronger storyteller though. He has a masterful grasp of the single issue comic book format. He also packs more worthy dialogue into a Batman book that we’ve seen in a long time. Batman (2011) #1 takes longer to read and digest, and really makes it feel worth the $2.99 that you’ve paid for it. No other New 52 #1 has the storytelling weight and sheer amount of panels that Batman (2011) #1 has. Snyder’s comic book writing career has skyrocketed over the past few years, and he is going to take Batman to heights that the trippy Morrison never could. Snyder does both serious realism and dark supernatural well (see American Vampire), but his strength rests with his character development and ability to weave a tangled narrative that is packed with gravitas and intelligence.


Capullo's Batman

Looking back at the two excellent Bat-Family title debuts starring Bruce Wayne as the one and only Batman, Batman as a comic book character really isn’t returning to form here. He’s catching up to what Nolan made him into. There’s nothing wrong with the comic book catching up to the film. At least Snyder, Daniel, and Capullo are giving us something to cheer about as concerns The New 52, even if they are taking their cue from a creator outside the realm of comics.  





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