Now that we’re really starting to get settled into these initial “New 52” arcs I’m beginning to enjoy myself much more. The pressure seems to be off; the creative teams are no longer here to awkwardly re-introduce these characters to pre-existing and new fans with sky-high expectations anymore and as such, the books are feeling (at least to me) like they’re settling into their respective grooves. I’ve grown to enjoy some of the books I initially disliked because of a lackluster number one. Of course, Batman was not one of those books… its’ first issue was one of the handful of really great New 52 titles and happily, it has only improved since.
Scott Snyder is weaving a nice, tight little mystery here that is managing to take some cliché elements (ancient secret societies, ‘Batman’s met his match!’, Alfred luckily providing him with the much needed, lynchpin clue, etc.) and make them fascinating. Even constantly hammering home the literal owl connections from the animal kingdom to this new villain seem interesting, even though they shouldn’t be. So how is Snyder doing this? Delivery and mood. Sure Alfred drops the necessary tidbit of information to propel Bats along to his next encounter – but the dialog leading up to it is natural and engaging in a way that distracts from the “easy plot device”. Meanwhile, the villain is just vicious and mysterious enough (so far) to make us want to sit up and pay close attention to the details. His hidden thirteenth floor bunkers are a great touch to this end. Something insidious has been living right under Batman’s feet, operating in secret and in a way, making him an accomplice – these thirteenth floors are located in buildings he owns, after all. This does slightly grate on me because I find it hard to believe that as prepared and as paranoid as Bruce is he wouldn’t have some sort of security or redundancy in place to root out any unauthorized use of his buildings… but it is something I can forgive just because the idea is so damn cool to begin with. Speaking of cool, I enjoyed the bit with the magnet and the gang of thugs wearing the metal masks –
I enjoy it when Batman does something badass with simple devices, without going full-on James bond as it were, and this is a great example of the sort of ingenuity I like Batman to express (although, as one sharp Redditor pointed out to me: if these masks are welded to their heads, how exactly do they eat?).
So while the villain remains very intriguing and the characterization of Bruce and Batman is pretty spot on there are a few odd, slight characterization based incongruities I find a small bit troubling. For instance, I do find myself missing the heightened, methodical Sherlock-like genius of Morrison’s Batman, i.e., Bruce would have known how Alan Wayne died and immediately made the connection himself – especially if Morrison’s stories are still in active continuity; I’m pretty sure Bruce went over his family history with a very fine-toothed comb during all the R.I.P. events.
I also find myself wishing that the other shoe would drop with the Lincoln character. Maybe I’m just reading my own paranoia into this, but it seems very obvious to me that he is connected with the Court of Owls. He’s too knowledgeable and leading during his conversations with Bruce, and if it turns out he is involved, then I think it’s a big misstep on Snyder’s part making Bruce oblivious to the seemingly apparent subterfuge Lincoln is attempting to sow. It seems like blatant foreshadowing done for the sake of… why exactly, I’m not sure…
Either way though, let’s remain in the here and now – the story Snyder has written so far is a great one and is definitely still at the top of the New 52 pile in my mind.
The art is also staying strong and this issue begins to deviate a bit from the norm of the last two issues with some unique paneling:
I’ve always been a sucker for someone who knows how to effectively use negative space in comics. Greg Capullo is knocking it out of the park on this run so far. All the fight scenes have a nice intensity and the creepiness of the hidden thirteenth floor bunkers is palpable. The only thing I could whine about in regards to Capullo’s work is the continued and uncanny resemblance of Lincoln to Bruce – they’re nigh indistinguishable, even when they’re on the same page… if this is intentional, due to the fact that my other suspicions are correct and he is a sinister bastard waiting to pounce, perhaps even take over Bruce’s persona, then I can forgive the identical look for both of these characters… otherwise, what’s the deal, Greg?
All in all this is a great issue. Definitely the best Batman book running right now. Go buy it if you haven’t already.