CA Reviews: Batman #5

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Batman #5 – Writer: Scott Snyder – Artist: Greg Capullo

I think I’ve gone mad.

Everyone else I’ve heard speaking of this issue has lobbied some extreme, hysterical hyperbole at it such as “The greatest script of Snyder’s career” or that it is one of the best Batman issues ever written. What? Maybe I read a different book, or maybe I’m just not as blown away by the rather gimmicky page flipping component of the book as others are, because, from what I read – I was thoroughly nonplussed.

SPOILERS Ahead! Abandon all hope, ye who enter here

The story here is so light that it is almost non-existent. It’s really just a concept for a story, but not a story itself. We open on Commissioner Gordon telling Bullock to leave the Bat-signal on, even though Batman hasn’t responded in eight days, Gordon replies with the “ it’s not for him” line… yep, I’ve seen this before; using the signal as a crime deterrent even when Bats is not responding… familiarity, meet growing contempt.

After this we’re thrown into the rest of the story: Batman has been wandering lost in a maze for eight days and he is now hallucinating.

This is where the issue really starts getting on my nerves; I don’t buy Snyder’s characterization of Batman here. First I don’t think there would be a maze in existence that could hold Batman for eight days, second, even if there were, Batman has undergone thogal for fuck sakes… eight days would be a cakewalk to Batman, he would not be cracking up this easily.

I know, you’re crying out “but you’re just a Morrison fanboy!” – yet let’s be honest here, Morrison worked damn hard to set up Batman’s breakdown in his arc… Snyder spent what… two pages? This is not even remotely as convincing as The R.I.P. near-mental-collapse. I mean, sure the water he had to drink may have been drugged,  but again, this is a character who has spent decades taking drugs and ingesting poisons specifically to build up immunities and learning how to maintain composure while under such drugs. Sure, perhaps I’m being too hard on the story here, but if nearly everyone in the world is going to talk about how this is one of the greatest Batman books EVAR I feel it warrants a stringent review, conducted with an iron fist…

The real ballyhoo around the book generally centers on people being startled by the way it was physically printed; we start to literally take part in Batman’s disorientation because the pages of the book keep changing orientation; finally we’ve turned the whole book all the way around in our hands in order to read the pages properly. This is a discombobulating effect, to be sure, but really that’s all it is; a special effect, a trick. I don’t think it actually adds to the content of the book in any substantial way. It is simply a gimmick, and while I will admit it is undeniably cool, that doesn’t change the fact that I don’t think it enhances the actual story in any real way, so I consider it as nothing more than style over substance.  Of course, people have, and will, convince themselves that this enhances the storytelling, but trust me; it’s a sham. The most intriguing aspect of this concept to me is considering how DC will handle this in the digital version.

The dialog is so sparse and limp throughout this book that even if you took it all out – erased all the word balloons, you’d still be following along with the plot just as well. It’s all almost inconsequential, I mean, if this is a grand attack on the Bat then I should not be sitting by, bored out of my mind, waiting for something to actually happen.

Finally though, we leave batman on another big splash page where he is being stabbed by Talon, right through the gut. It’s old hat by now in this arc to end on Batman seemingly being killed, so why in god’s name should it be considered intriguing or a viable hook to do it yet again? It’s obviously a necessary cop-out conclusion to the non-story that preceded it. Of course, we know it’s a hallucination (Batman’s hands are not owl talons) so really, nothing at all has happened within the bulk of the pages contained in this issue. Batman wandered around and muttered to himself… best script of Snyder’s career?

We do get another short scene on the roof of GCPD where Damian pushes his way towards the now blown-out bat-signal, demanding they get a new one, but eventually, his demand just breaks down into a whimpering plea. Again, this does not really fit the character and I just don’t understand why Snyder chose to include the scene at all, let alone try to pass it off as a poignant moment to end the book on… probably just so he didn’t end yet another issue with an image of Batman being “killed” by Talon.

One thing I can say that was undoubtedly positive about the issue was Greg Capullo’s art – he continues to kill it and this may be his best issue to date. There are a lot of stand-out images in the book and Capullo’s tight and expressive pencils really are the star of this issue for me. Damn near every page is a mini tour-de-force of his skill and ability to make even the lightest stories pop off the page magnificently. Issue by issue, Capullo has been bowling me over more and more – and this is, so far, his apex…  beautiful and creative stuff.

In closing:

Flame-bait this is not. This is honestly the way I feel about the issue and to that end, I want to make special note and say that I’ve really loved this arc so far and this issue in no way diminishes my opinion of  Snyder’s work on the series as a whole.

I simply think this is the weakest issue yet and since I’m holding this series to such a high standard (which has already been set by the author himself), I feel the need to be ruthless in my assessments. I really think once you take out the book turning tricks (which they will probably do in the digital release) it will be seen by most readers as the paper-thin and boring issue that it ultimately is. There really isn’t enough content to even warrant a standard review of this book – if you took out the panel flipping there would be nothing to talk about in regards to the issue which couldn’t be said in one or two sentences.

Let’s hope Snyder bounces back full force into actual story-telling with issue #6.

FINAL SCORE: 2.5 out of 5 stars

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4 responses »

  1. I had the same feeling when reading this issue. Batman seemed weak. This is not the Batman we know, he can rough about anything you throw at him, and he still endures. His super power is his will, and showing him weak is like showing him without any super powers.

    • Yup, he seemed conveniently weak to serve the ‘narrative’- but the thing that really gets my goat is that the next issue really does prove it to be as arbitrary as I thought it was – because what happens? Well not only is Bats still drugged and dehydrated, etc. but the stab wound right through his fucking gut was indeed real- so once we add that quite terrible injury to his broken state you’d think he’d obviously prove to be even weaker, right? Nope… he has the cliché ‘rally of power’ and beats Talon down and escapes. I call bullshit. I think this is a really sloppy story full of nonsensical and inconsistent plot-holes and characterizations… but everyone is eating this shit up, so who am I to bitch… c’est la vie…

  2. Hey Matches.
    First let me say that if “you’re just a morrison fan boy” then so am i. But the thing about morrisons bat-arc is that it *is* batman, absolutely. He boiled all of the elements of the character into a stew that is all of the versions and yet a distinct version. For me, i read the morrison batman with echoes of kevin conroy and shirley walkers music.
    I am in the same boat with you and while I can’t deny that I enjoy snyders work, sometimes, I don’t see what makes Snyder so acclaimed by the internet talkbackers.

    • Hey, thanks for the empathy here… That’s exactly what I love about Morrison’s Batman as well, it’s just so staggeringly… comprehensive. There are great pieces of cinema that don’t have the writing chops and the dedication that Morrison has brought to his current Bats run, he’s delving into the realm of great literature. Snyder is entertaining as hell and can definitely write great stories, but good god, if there were ever a character where you have a LOT to live up to it’s Batman; over his history he has quite literally had all of the best writers in the medium pen multiple stories for him. So while I can certainly enjoy Snyder’s work and find it head and shoulders above things like Detective Comics right now, I still just don’t think he’s done anything significant enough yet to be considered “one of the best” – he’s definitely great and the best writer (besides Morrison!) currently writing stories in the DCU… but there are a LOT of Batman books – I mean, seriously… I’ve been reading them consistently for the past 20+ years and I’d only venture that I’ve absorbed about 80-90% of the total output featuring the character.

      I’ll drag out that old whore cinema once again and leave you with what I think is a good analogy for the situation: Scott Snyder is to comics what Steven Spielberg is to film. Sure, Spielberg is great and I really love some of his films, but when you back up and take in the whole context of the medium he can’t be called one of the greatest of all time. We have decades of comic writers that could represent people such as Fellini, Bergman, Bunuel, Kubrick, Lang, Welles, Wilder, Godard, Truffaunt, Kurosawa, Hitchcock, Cassavetes, Ozu, etc. (the list goes on!) who have come before him and shattered the very constructs and limits of the medium beyond imagination… so turning the pages around doesn’t impress me as much as a script that transcends tropes and evolves the medium. I can’t knock Spielberg (Snyder) because he’s doing good work and you can tell he enjoys it and has some passion – but that doesn’t mean I have to consider him the second coming of sliced bread.

      Thanks for reading!

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