It blows my mind, but apparently we've barely discussed the DCnU Batmanseries by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, despite it being one of the best superhero books on the shelf right now. Let's see if we can correct that.

 

After reading the most recent issue (#10) and its surprise twist, I've started going back and re-reading the first few, and boy, does it hold up to a second reading. Snyder knows how to bring you in from page one, and keep you going to the last page — which he expertly ends with a cliffhanger.

What I've noticed going back is how he laces things in so early; even the first issue, which is mostly a done-in-one to introduce us to the post-FlashpointBatman universe, sprinkles in the beginning pieces of the arc that has traced through these 10 issues: Lincoln March, the Court of Owls, the battle for Gotham's identity...all those are there in these first 22 pages.

People often complain that Batman keeps going to the well of its same old villains — the Joker, the Riddler, etc. — which is another striking thing about this run. After starting the story with a seven-page slugfest between Batman and all his baddies in Arkham Asylum, Snyder doesn't return to any of them. Following his work on Detective Comicsbefore the relaunch, I think Snyder's demonstrated with that title and this that he really knows how to build the Batman mythos.

And let's not ignore Capullo's art — I think this is one of the only books in the DC relaunch to have not had a single fill-in artist*, so he's really been able to match Snyder's tone and contribute to the story. It really struck me with this most recent issue, where what had been a seemingly weak artistic choice turns out to have been a relevant clue! (I'm trying to avoid spoilers here...) From page one, there's been a dynamism to the visual storytelling that has matched what the story brings.

 

Anyhow, I'll post my specific (spoilerific) thoughts on issue 10 a little later, but I wanted to get the ball rolling so we can talk about this book!

 

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* - I suppose the annual had an artist other than Capullo. Do we count that? I don't think we should count that...

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I don't think that The Flash has had a fill-in.

Anyway, initially I was a little let down by Snyder's Batman run; I was a big fan of his Dick Grayson as Batman stories and the reintroduction of James Gordon, Jr.  I dropped away after issue #8, but came back for #10 when I heard the big bad was unmasked.  If you're a big fan of weird Batman history (going waaaaaaay back to the World's Finest 100 pagers), the villain is a double treat.  There are a lot of fans bent out of shape by the big twist, but 1) We haven't seen the end of this thing yet and 2) The world-building Snyder is doing with Gotham and the Wayne family is interesting enough, and not without precedent, to not bother me.  

I'm trade-waiting, so if we can continue not spoiling the big reveal for issue #10 a while longer, I'll be pleased. Good job so far, guys!

Anyway, I've talked about the first trade (which contains issues #1-7) before, and I'm glad to see I'm not alone in enjoying this. You spelled out better than I did, Alan, why it's so good. My wife and I both zipped through it, and her first remark was "where's the next one?" This is one of the best Batman runs I've seen, and I've seen 40 years' worth.

I do want to mention Batman: Gates of Gotham again. It looks like the gears were turning in Snyder's head a while back about the "real" history of Gotham City, and while it avails itself of the toys lying around, it doesn't repeat what we've seen before. From Gates of Gotham to "Court of Owls," Snyder's stories resonate with the Bat-history we're familiar with, but doesn't regurgitate them -- which makes for darn good reading. Toss in Chip Kidd's revisionist Death by Design (which is out of continuity -- for now) and what Gray and Palmiotti are doing in All-Star Western and the most interesting character in The New 52 is arguably Gotham City herself.

I gave the DCnU Batman a mini-review here and a heartfelt recommendation. It is, IMHO, one of the best of these new series. Batman has more personality, more vulnerability and more humanity than he's had in a long time, though I'm pretty sure there must be at least three of him running around the DCnU.

Are you going to go issue-by-issue, Alan? Whatever you decide, I look forward to it!

 

Cap, I hate to say it, but this is a big reveal that won't wait. If you don't get it spoiled for you here (and you won't hear it here from me), you will elsewhere; I'd seriously consider picking these up in singles if you're really worried about spoilers. It's a good enough story that it will still be enjoyable once you know the (supposed) truth revealed in issue 10, but I think it's more of a kick if you go in blind, if possible.

As for new 52 artists, Flash hasn't had a fill-in, but is about to get 2 in a row while Manapul does the Annual. I don't think Red Hood has had a fill-in, but Rocafort is moving on to Superman soon -- expect that book to get a lot more visually exciting. I can't think of many other titles that haven't had fill-ins, at least from among the ones I read. (Perhaps Captain Atom? Every issue I flip through seems to have Freddie Williams III, whom I wish again and again was on a book I was more interested in.)

Oh, and Batman! Snyder looks like he's going to go down as one of the all-time best Batman writers. He really seems to be reinventing Batman, in a way that Miller and O'Neil did. The effects of his storytelling are more subtle than Morrison's, but I think his additions to Gotham history and geography will be felt for a long time to come. (Although to be fair to Morrison, I would have predicted Damian would be gone almost as soon as Morrison stopped writing the book, but somewhere along the line I was convinced of the kid's staying power.)

 Alan wrote:

It really struck me with this most recent issue, where what had been a seemingly weak artistic choice turns out to have been a relevant clue!

 

Yeah, I read an interview with Snyder, who said what a great guy Capullo was for taking heat for that for 10 months without ever saying, "It was in the script!"

Philip Portelli said:

Are you going to go issue-by-issue, Alan? Whatever you decide, I look forward to it!


I don't really know, honestly — I'm making this up as I go! :) But yeah, I'm thinking I'll at least post to this thread after each issue with my general responses; Snyder gives us a lot to discuss each month!

Rob Staeger said:

Cap, I hate to say it, but this is a big reveal that won't wait. If you don't get it spoiled for you here (and you won't hear it here from me), you will elsewhere; I'd seriously consider picking these up in singles if you're really worried about spoilers. It's a good enough story that it will still be enjoyable once you know the (supposed) truth revealed in issue 10, but I think it's more of a kick if you go in blind, if possible.


I would agree with this assessment. Even if you somehow keep from discovering it for the next several weeks, it's big, and I don't know that you'll easily be able to avoid it (and I don't know that we'll be able to avoid talking about it) for the six months or however long until the next collection comes out.

(If nothing else, I plan to nominate it for a "Biggest Surprise" Cappie...)

Rob Staeger said:

 Alan wrote:

It really struck me with this most recent issue, where what had been a seemingly weak artistic choice turns out to have been a relevant clue!

 

Yeah, I read an interview with Snyder, who said what a great guy Capullo was for taking heat for that for 10 months without ever saying, "It was in the script!"


That's awesome. I was wondering if it was in the script from the beginning, or if Snyder had seen Capullo's pencils on issue one and though, "Here's an interesting direction to go..." Although I figured it was the former, it's kind of fun to imagine it could've been the latter.

I've enjoyed the book more than not. It lost a lot for me in the maze issue - Batman's rallying after a week of being drugged, beaten up, starved and eviscerated was too 'Bat-god' for my tastes. And the Court of Owls, I just don't believe ... If they've been controlling Gotham for decades, how the heck could Batman not know, when he's continually battling to stop people controlling the city? And why would the rich of Gotham need to wear daft masks and meet in semi-floors when they're, er, the rich of Gotham - they already have wealth and power.

As for the wonder of Capullo having such things as Lincoln March, the Owls and the battle for Gotham's identity in the first issue, well, it was the first issue of a storyline that's run uninterrupted forever since.

I like how Snyder writes Bruce and co (despite his demoting Batman in terms of detective abilities), he can write a nice pacy issue even if some of the cliffhangers have been quickly magicked away next month, and I like that he's now rewriting a Bronze Age story. But this thing is going on far too long, if the next storyline looks to be as lengthy, I'm out. Basically, this is a big, daft, fun run with story points I don't expect to stick, and terrific art.
I keep thinking, "Batman's never going to enjoy a Harry Potter movie again after this.".

I've loved every issue of this so far. I'm surprised as well that we haven't had much talk of this around here. It's an amazing run that I hope doesn't end any time soon. I plan to go back and read his work on Detective tomorrow.

Martin Gray said:

I've enjoyed the book more than not. It lost a lot for me in the maze issue - Batman's rallying after a week of being drugged, beaten up, starved and eviscerated was too 'Bat-god' for my tastes. And the Court of Owls, I just don't believe ... If they've been controlling Gotham for decades, how the heck could Batman not know, when he's continually battling to stop people controlling the city? And why would the rich of Gotham need to wear daft masks and meet in semi-floors when they're, er, the rich of Gotham - they already have wealth and power.


I can certainly see those objections. For me, I like the 'Bat-god' conceit (the Batman of Zur-en-arrh, if you will) — that, when he's pushed beyond his limits, this primal, powerful almost Bat-id comes out — so long as it's not used too often. Snyder cashed in that chip here, and I'm okay with it, but I wouldn't want to see it recur anytime soon.

The Court of Owls stuff...well, this is a new universe, a new Batman, and a new Gotham, so we really don't know how they've come into play or not in Batman's new past. (That's kind of the 'Get Out of Jail Free' card of DCU storytelling right now, but there it is.) And as for the rich and powerful wearing masks and meeting in secret locations...well, that's an ages-old conceit of secret societies of the rich and powerful, isn't it?

 

Martin Gray said:

As for the wonder of Capullo having such things as Lincoln March, the Owls and the battle for Gotham's identity in the first issue, well, it was the first issue of a storyline that's run uninterrupted forever since.


What I was trying to get at in my point above, and I may have missed the mark, is that at a glance, the first issue isn't really about any of that. If you look at it again, what is it? Batman fighting his villains in Arkham, then Bruce Wayne doing his socialite Gotham thing, and then a murder mystery with a cliffhanger to the next issue. It could've been just those things; an introduction to the New DCU Batman and his world — mere markers to get the series started, with the plot going into full gear in issue two. Instead, Snyder used it to lay the seeds for things that wouldn't pay off until two, five, ten issues later. I'm not saying it's wondrous, just the mark of good storytelling by someone who knows his craft.

Wandering Sensei said:

I plan to go back and read his work on Detective tomorrow.


I picked that up from the library the other day; I haven't read it yet, but am looking forward to it!

You've a treat in store, Alan, the Detective issues are even better than the Batman stories. I do enjoy 'em, honest - it's just that as with most mainstream comics these days, a stronger editorial hand couldn't helped a writer work through some of the weaker spots.

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