‘The Weekly Bat-Signals’ with Shawn Warner, Episode 3

Greetings fellow Gothamites, it’s hard to believe but it has been a week since our last Bat-Chat. This week I am going to focus mainly on The Batman in his canonical form, the comic book. We are going to take a look at the third part of Zero Year out this week as well as the Detective Comics annual #2 that came out a couple of weeks ago and last but certainly not least, I want to dig into the third collected volume of Batman: Black and White and talk about a story called Neighborhood written by Robert Rodi with art by Jon Proctor who is currently working with Daniel Way on their Kickstarter project, Gun Theory. So without further ado let’s see what Mr. Snyder and Mr. Capullo hath wrought for us in Batman #23.

This issue really starts to feel like an origin story more so than the first two have anyway. However that is not to say that the story feels stale or rehashed or that we are re-visiting familiar territory, quite to the contrary Scott Snyder is keeping this inaugural tale and some of the key players very unprecedented. In fact originality has been the benchmark of all of Snyder’s Batman stories beginning with his Black Mirror arc in Detective Comics. What is so wonderful about the way he handles the rich history of the Batman universe and mythology is the amount of respect with which he treats the foundation and the work of the great writers that have come before him. You really get a sense of how much he has been inspired by these innovators and how much he is adding to Batman’s history not altering or editing it and that carries through in Zero Year. Snyder himself said that he was not interested in rewriting Year One which he views more as Jim Gordon’s story than Bruce Wayne’s and I think he has a valid point there. If you take a closer look at Year One (which I plan on doing in an upcoming Bat Signals) I think you will agree. Although Miller and Snyder are very different writers stylistically, they both handle the inherently dark material of Batman’s origin with poetic precision. In Zero Year, Scott Snyder continuously finds new perspectives from which to re-tell Batman’s origin, in doing so he keeps the familiar feeling uncharted.

Issue 23 opens with the leader of The Red Hood Gang recounting his own embellished version of the events leading up to and including the murder of Bruce’s parents and the effects this heinous crime has had on Bruce’s fragile mindset. Capullo and Snyder collaborate here to stunning effect as past and present are contrasted through pictures and words. The child Bruce is nudged ever closer to the epiphany that will ultimately result in his re-birth as Gotham City’s nocturnal vigilante while a considerably more mature Bruce suffers the physical and verbal assault of the Red Hood. Bruce’s past and present collide as the Red Hood draws malicious impetus from Bruce’s anguish.

This issue contains some very emotional moments. One of them is between Bruce and Alfred. Snyder has a somewhat different take on this relationship than we have seen from past writers. In this scene Alfred is stitching Bruce up after a particularly brutal beating, the dialogue shines so brightly in this poignant instance between friends. As he always does, Alfred urges Bruce to take more precautions and at the very least get ample rest but we know all too well that the advice is received but disregarded. Alfred then goes on to tell Bruce that he was there in the hospital when his parents were brought in and that the doctors assured him that everything that could have been done was done and nothing could have changed the outcome. However Alfred seems to believe that he could have done something more perhaps with his battlefield expertise he could have saved them as he had done with many other lost causes who had sustained severe wounds in battle. The ever-loyal butler goes on to assure Bruce that he will always be there to patch him up. This scene is steeped in sentiment and the emotion is palpable. The other scene is at the end of the book, Bruce is alone and speaking to his deceased father, he expresses the deepest self-doubt and begs his father to show him a sign and like a bolt out of the blue comes a bat. This scene is heavy with symbolism and poetry. The colors used by FCO Plascencia in this scene are cool blues, purples and greys while he colors the former scene with warm oranges, diffused peach and muted blues, the contrast in colors is indicative of the contrasting emotions of these two scenes. The artwork overall on this issue is the best to date on Zero Year; Capullo is amazing here, everything from his dramatic perspectives to his dynamic page layouts make this issue a masterpiece.

Snyder’s smart dialogue and clever character choices like Ed Nygma and his connection to the Wayne family make this a shining addition to a stellar Batman run that I hope continues for a very long time.

Next let’s take a look at Detective Comics annual #2 written by John Layman and Joshua Williamson with pencils by Scot Eaton and inks courtesy of Jamie Mendoza. As I’ve said here in previous reviews, the annuals have been significantly improved from days of old. Annuals used to be where you would stick a few unused stories by b and c list creators coupled with a pin-up or poster and maybe re-print a key issue of yore but now both DC and Marvel have stepped up their annuals keeping the creative teams from the regular run and telling stories that are relevant to the current arcs.

Detective annual #2 contains multiple stories featuring Harvey Bullock, all of them are written by John Layman and Joshua Williamson with different artists including returning artist Szymon Kudranski whose dark moody style has worked well on Batman titles previously. All the stories are connected by a single narrative loosely connected to the on-going series by the cop killing villain, The Wrath. However the main villain of this issue is the ethereal, chameleon-like Jane Doe who has a super-natural talent for mimicry. The focus on Harvey Bullock and his ill-fated love life shows a softer more human side of the character than we usually see. I liked the three shorter stories but I can’t help but think that perhaps it would have been more effective to do one long story by a single creative team. This being said, all of the artists turned in fine work in their respective stories. This annual is not a mandatory chapter in the on-going arc but it is a solid addition and a broader look at the big picture that makes up Gotham City.

Lastly this week I dug into an older volume of Batman: Black and White to find this gem titled Neighborhood written by Robert Rodi with art by Jon Proctor. It’s a short story, just five pages but Jon Proctor packs those pages full of darkly moody imagery. I love his work so much I wish he would do more work on Batman. His style fits the character so well especially the stories with a gloomier tone like this one. Neighborhood is a tale of a paranoid who believes Batman is relentlessly pursuing him. The story has the feel of an Alfred Hitchcock Presents or even a bit of a Twilight Zone vibe. I was mainly attracted to this piece because of Proctor’s dynamic artwork but this entire book is full of great black and white Batman stories and is well worth the $19.99 cover price.

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Follow Shawn Warner on Twitter:  @shawnwarner629

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