Sunday, October 13, 2013

Batman #24 - A Review

Visually, Batman #24 is a stunning book from start to finish.  This should prove no surprise to regular readers, who have grown used to amazing imagery on a regular basis thanks to penciler Greg Capullo and inker Danny Miki.  Yet this issue seems even stronger for the contributions of colorist FCO Plascencia, whose vibrant watercolor-style gradients lend a cinematic aura to the artwork, with alternating oranges and blues dominating most of the palette.    

This may be the first Hunter S. Thompson reference in a mainstream DC Comics book ever.

The issue's imagery borrows a lot from the Batman films of Christopher Nolan.  The idea of Bruce Wayne marking his territory with his symbol  is a reoccurring theme.  It comes off somewhat better here than in the Nolan films, however, as Bruce has good reason to announce his presence beyond showy displays of force.  There's also a greater element of fun, as Bruce creates a Bat-symbol out of squirming members of the Red Hood gang not only to announce his presence but also because it amuses him to do this behind the back of one minion and then whisper into the thug's ear "My bat... it still needs a head." 

Sure, he knocked out power to a good portion of the city to do this... but it's still awesome!

Scott Snyder's plot and dialogue also borrow heavily from the Nolan films and herein lies the issue's one weakness - unoriginality.  We've seen this same origin story for Batman and The Joker played out ad nauseam.  We've heard The Joker - still in his guise as The Red Hood - give similar speeches about the futility of hope.  The fact that the whole affair is well-written does nothing to change the fact that we've heard this story before. 

Thankfully, Snyder does include enough original ideas to make the familiar scenes bearable for long-time Bat-fans.  The best of these is the conceit of Bruce Wayne becoming as much a symbol of Hope in Gotham City as Batman.  Snyder previously established the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne as the inspiration for The Red Hood's philosophy of nihilistic absurdism and Bruce Wayne speaking publicly of Gotham City as a place where people can be made better through adversity is as much a blow to The Red Hood's work and world view as anything Bruce Wayne had done before as a faceless vigilante.

These ideals come full-circle in the back-up story by Snyder and James Tynion IV, with art by the equally awesome Rafael Albuquerque of American Vampire fame.  The story does little more than set-up the next big story detailing Batman's first battle with The Riddler but it does feature a very good speech by Alfred.  On the surface it's about the nature of masks and theater but really it's about fiction and the power of a good story.  It works on both levels and it alone would make this comic a must-read, even if the rest of the issue weren't excellent as well.

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