After the super serious events of the last several months, Batman #19 lightens the tone just bit. It’s the beginning of a two-part story before the series jumps into the past for the 11 issue “Zero Year” arc in June. As with all DC‘s books this month, the description is just a question:
Who would cause Bruce Wayne to use a gun?
The story has a surprise every few pages, so this review will be spoiler free.
Scott Snyder deviates somewhat from his pattern of the last two years, using one of the Dark Knight’s less realistic villains in a more fantastical story, and playing against character expectations along the way. He also drops clues about the upcoming “Zero Year” (Apparently the Batman characters, specifically Gordon, are aware of that term; the bank being robbed in the opening of this issue appears to be the same one hit by the Red Hood Gang back in Batman #0). He continues to show the impact of Damian’s death in a great flashback scene that simultaneously references Batman: Year Two. Unfortunately, that flashback plays havoc with this issue’s already complicated timeline. Add in some unnecessary details about a dead architect, and you have a surprisingly confusing read. One of Snyder’s few flaws as a writer is that he sometimes overestimates the abilities of his readers to infer information.
Greg Capullo once again delivers some beautiful art, although, compared to recent issues, he has surprisingly little to work with visually. That doesn’t stop him, however, from playing with panel shapes (there’s a great shot of Gordon through a gun’s trigger guard) and hiding visual Easter eggs in the city skyline. There’s also a great, hyper-foreshortened shot of the Bat-plane that suggests it’s being stretched out by its insane speed. Finally, this wouldn’t be a Snyder/Capullo Batman issue without some awesomely stomach-turning scene to make you throw up a little in your mouth.
The back-up, by James Tynion IV, is an equally excellent supernatural noir, guest-starring Superman. It’s quick, dirty, and very creepy (thanks, in large part, to the art of Alex Maleev) and highlights Supes’ vulnerability to magic. It’s completely different from anything else we’ve seen in the Bat-books over the last two years.
Batman #19 may not be part of any big storylines, but it’s already far more relevant than most of the shorter arcs we see. Snyder, Capullo, and Tynion have delivered another high-quality Batman adventure.
Zac is currently watching the adventures of another great detective with little respect for the law, Veronica Mars. Follow him on Twitter.
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