Friday, September 23, 2011

DAMN Good Comics -- BATMAN #1

After writer Scott Snyder's recent stellar run on Detective Comics, expectations were understandably high for him taking on the "New 52" relaunch of Batman.  Thankfully, he doesn't disappoint.

Once you get past the ugly, clunky new cover logo, this first issue positively sings.  Snyder opens with Batman facing off against a horde of Arkham Asylum inmates, then throws you a curve ball with the Joker seemingly teaming up with Batman and using acrobatic martial arts to fight the other inmates.

Wait...That can't be right, can it?

From there, we learn that Post-Flashpoint Batman has some seriously upgraded tech that includes a contact lens with wi-fi access to the Batcave computer and something called an "E.M.P. (electromagnetic pulse?) Mask" that allows the wearer to holographically mimic anyone's face.  The contact lens also has the ability to perform facial recognition and lip reading from far away.  While I'm glad to see Batman has gotten himself some new wonderful toys, I have to wonder if the contact lens as a plot device takes away somewhat from the character's legendary Sherlock Holmes-level detective skills.

As for the art, Greg Capullo provews that DC's faith in giving him such a major title was justified.  His work looks like an interesting blend of classic Howard Chaykin and Matt Wagner, relying heavily on shadows but always making sure that Batman is the most interesting thing on the page.  I have some minor issues with his depiction of the Riddler having a ridiculous question-mark styled mohawk with unnecessary question-mark tattoos on the side of his head, but his take on Two-Face is delightfully horrific and the double-page spread establishing the new Batcave is breathtaking.

I was also glad to see that Batman follows up from a character subplot from last week's Batman and Robin #1 by having Bruce Wayne reaching out to local Gotham City bigwigs to fund a massive project to rebuild several of the city's most derelict neighborhoods.  This apparently means Bruce is finally going to wipe Crime Alley, the place where his parents were murdered, off the map.  And to longtime Batman fans, this means we won't be seeing the iconic, albeit overdone scene of Bruce laying flowers in the spot where his parents died anymore...at least until some other writer comes along at some point in the future and brings it back.

The issue ends with a solid cliffhanger hinting at the possible betrayal of someone very, very close to Bruce, giving us exactly what Batman always needs -- another mystery to solve.  While I'm sure there will be some reasonable explanation, it sets Batman off on the right track for the first time since Grant Morrison left the title.  If both Snyder and Capullo remain on the series for the forseeable future, we could be looking at one of the Best Batman Runs Ever here...

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