Monday, January 30, 2012
Finally! A Batman comic book. And Justice League comics don't count. Batman doesn't really interact well with the other super friends and I just want to read a story where he acts grim and scary and talks in a deep voice.
Batman #1 begins where it should probably always begin: Arkham. These are the people that make Gotham City a scary place. And these are Batman's problems. Problems brought on by being too highly effective at scaring away regular criminals.
It's like Roaches that become immune to the high powered poison used to kill them off. Batman has made Gotham a very inhospitable and scary place to be a normal criminal. So a vacuum appears in its place. Still lots of good crime to be had! But whose going to commit that crime when The Batman is lurking in the shadows? Crazy fuckers, that's who.
Scott Snyder uses the narration boxes a bit differently than the first batch of comics I've read. He's using synchronicity. The boxes are Batman's voice but he's speaking about something other than the action that is taking place in the panels. But the action and the boxes together produce a powerful moment. Captain Atom #3 did this with the best effect so far when Captain Atom was pondering his survivor's guilt while saving random people around the world. But that was the only good moment of Captain Atom!
Batman, via the narration boxes, is describing a feature that runs in the Gotham Gazette called 'Gotham is'. People are asked to describe Gotham City in three words or less. The narration boxes hover over Batman putting down an escape attempt in Arkham Asylum. So the reader gets to instantly see a whole bunch of Batman's crazy foes while Batman mentions how sometimes people describe Gotham by the names of the villains he's beating up.
And, of course, sometimes they use his name.
Oh yeah, and The Joker has teamed up with Batman. Why? Who knows? Because he's crazy? Or is it because he's Commissioner Gordon or some other plant in white make-up and a green wig? Although I think a comic book where The Joker replaced Robin would be a nice change of pace. Unless it's been done already.
The two most incorruptible men in Gotham city.
Gordon questions Batman about the night's events and mentions that the security cameras seem to show Batman fighting along side The Joker. "Tell me that'd be ridiculous," he says. "That'd be ridiculous, Jim," says Batman.
Any story in the DC Universe that has ever had Commissioner Gordon mistrust Batman or act in any way corrupt is an Elseworlds story. Never happened. Dream. Make believe. I won't buy it. He is the hope of Gotham and should never be used as shock value to see that the crazy and the despicable finally broke him. He is Batman's leash. Batman is his wild dog. They need each other but they fulfill entirely different roles in keeping the city from sliding into the abyss.
Turns out the Joker was Dick Grayson in some fancy new-fangled computery whatzit mask. He hangs out afterward to go to a party with Bruce and Tim Drake, the other ex-robin, and Damian Wayne, the current Robin. Batman is just The Boy's School for Adventurous Youth.
So Damian Wayne. Too painful to mention a Jason Todd, I guess. Interestingly enough, I have two Cabbage Patch Kids which my mom got me many, many, many years ago. She made Batman and Robin outfits for them. When I get to Batman and Robin, I'll take a picture of them because my mom can sew, bitches. Anyway, my Robin's secret identity is Jason Duane. Jason as in Jason Todd! And Duane as in, um, Damian Wayne said really, really fast!
Batman's secret identity is a little bit more embarrassing than Bruce Wayne. It's, um, ahem, Clement Woody.
Yes, I have dolls! But they're super heroes, asshole!
The banter between Batman and his Robins is really enjoyable. Maybe that's why Batman likes having a Robin by his side. Everyone else treats him like he's either a rich guy and kisses his ass or like he's the scariest motherfucker you can meet in an alleyway. But kids have a way of not caring about that shit. They can be real with him in a way adults can't.
And then I just sat down and shut up and finished reading the comic.
It's terrific. A nice mix of Batman fighting his oldest foes while contemplating what makes Gotham Gotham. A bit of Bruce Wayne interacting with Dick Grayson, his first Robin. A few pages of Bruce Wayne giving a speech at a charity fundraiser where he gets to talk about his father and his plans for the future of Gotham. And then back to Batman as he runs off to investigate a man killed mysteriously.
Snyder has tight control over this story. It's a first issue that balances well between not being a story that knows it's the first story. This could easily work as the first Batman story ever told. You don't have to know any of these characters. He gives you a feel for them all. Bruce. Batman. Dick. Even Tim and Damian get a few lines that show off who they are. Gordon. Harvey. Vicki Vale. Even some of the residents at Arkham.
And it all ends with Harvey (one of Gotham's detectives who is both familiar and unfamiliar to me at the same time) telling Batman what he thinks Gotham is. It's a mystery. And so this issue ends on a mysterious note. DNA found under the murder victims finger nails belongs to Dick Grayson.
Duh duh DUN!