Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Batman #50 Review: Superheaviest


Let's start with the new costume: less a refresh and more of a polish, right? There's not much to say about an outfit that looks more or less the same just with yellow trim, making Batman...less stealthy? I'm ambivalent towards it even knowing that this is one costume update that will very much stick around. On to the story itself. The tenth and final part of "Superheavy" is stuffed with narrative almost to it's own detriment. ALMOST. Scott Snyder deftly handles three plots that all intertwine, leading to the eventual takedown of Mr. Bloom: Bruce Wayne's return to the cowl, Jim Gordon's final act of heroism as the Dark Knight of Gotham, and Duke Thomas' confrontation with the real Mr. Bloom.

Where other issues may have collapsed under the pressure of so many interlocking narratives, Snyder has a talent for bringing together ideas in the end, only it's often not in the fashion readers expect. That said, "Superheavy" might be Snyder's least oddball ending since his run on Batman began -- though it's steeped in a sci-fi quagmire of cosmic jargon, the return of the original Batman and the final battle with Mr. Bloom play out rather predictably, though the specifics are rather interesting.

No one presumed that Jim Gordon would die at the end of Batman #50, so the constant reminders that Jim needs to get to a hospital before he keels over from his wounds get very old very quick. Sure -- that kind of build-up works in certain situations, but again; no one reading this issue thought Jim was going to actually die, so the whole practice becomes moot. This hollow tension makes Jim's monologue near the issue's end a bit stale and concocted. I know Jim was always waiting for Batman to return, but he didn't need to go all diva and recite the speech he'd obviously been practicing in the mirror for some time.

Batman -- the one and only -- is also a rather divisive narrative line in Batman #50. Last month saw Bruce Wayne stand up and accept who he is and what he means to Gotham City, yet none of that passion and/or drive seems present this month. As soon as Bruce jumps back into the thick of battle, Penny-One delivers some rather clunky exposition instead of Bruce's actions speaking for themselves. As much as I like Greg Capullo's artwork, and as fantastic as he's been for most of this series, Batman #50's fight sequences don't convey the same thrill they once did like in "The Court of Owls" or "Death of the Family". Perhaps it's my own bias coming into play having read every issue Capullo has pencilled for this run, but the whole "Batman is actually better than he was before!" angle works against the emotional nuance this issue could have had.

By transforming Bruce Wayne into a more perfect version of himself, Snyder has inadvertently ripped away part of what makes Batman Batman. Some people wear their scars like badges of honor, and while I don't believe Bruce Wayne sees them as such, he does appreciate that they represent something, and taking away the physical scars but not the mental ones simply means DC basically pulled a Marvel and de-aged Bruce Wayne. The difference, of course, being that Snyder is making it a narrative element, which only makes sense on a very basic level. Seriously -- what does this actually mean for Batman? He was already the most impressive human being on the planet (arguably), with a fascinating blend of a litany of martial arts talent, tactically-honed strategic subterfuge, and alarmingly adaptive mental dexterity. So, he's just more of these things now? That's it? I don't see the point other than Snyder fulfilling some dream to outdo Grant Morrison's colloquially-known "Bat God" by literally making Batman BETTER THAN EVER BEEEFFFFOOOOOORE!

All this said, Batman #50 is still a great issue that makes good use of the elements introduced since the finale of "Endgame". Jim Gordon's supporting cast -- Julia Pennyworth, Daryl, and Gerri Powers -- are all present and accounted for, while Duke Thomas plants himself even more firmly into Snyder's Batman mythos. Bloom himself is not really the point because, as Batman even points out, "anyone could be Bloom..." His or her identity isn't important. Very much like how, as we grow older, we come to recognize that much of what is actually said is of little consequence, and that how our words make others feel is what truly matters in the end. Bloom represents the paranoia and anger borne from tragedy and terror, the loss of hope that comes from watching your family, friends, and home burn again and again and again.

Jim Gordon did not solve the mystery of Mr. Bloom. We will never know if Bruce Wayne could have. But that's not the point. Snyder approached BatJim the same way he did Bruce Wayne; the Batman is for Gotham is for Batman, and so on. To Snyder, the two entities are mutually exclusive, and when Jim takes the mantle of Batman, the city doesn't respond well. Bloom is a metaphorical symptom for the militarization, privatization, and corporatization of the Batman ideals. As good a man as Jim Gordon is, even he cannot stop the gears of industry, finances, politics, and traditions from grinding through the wrench thrown into the machine.

SCORE: 8/10

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