Saturday, 4 April 2015

Batman #5 [The New 52] - DC Comics

BATMAN No. 5, March 2012
There is currently much debate as to where the future of comic books resides, especially with conventional sales apparently falling by up to fifteen percent on previous years. For some commentators the simple answer lies with a move away from the printed medium and instead publishers should wholeheartedly embrace the publication of purely digital editions or rather eComics. Issue Five of “Batman” shows just why such a shift would be something of a mistake, as the magazine relies upon the tangible physicality of it being a twenty-page periodical, in order to tell its story… One which actually forces the reader to become as disorientated as the semi-conscious and delusional Dark Knight within the story.

Superbly written and paced by Scott Snyder “Face The Court” depicts an enfeebled Batman, devoid of food and sustenance for eight days, maniacally stalking an underground maze looking for a way out. Whilst all the time his captors wreak havoc with his sensibilities by photographing his mental and physical decline and creating elaborate traps for the weakened hero to fall into. Bowed but not beaten a visibly shaken and weary Caped Crusader stoically tries to persevere despite the constant assault upon his senses, whether this be giant owl statues, phantoms of his deceased parents or a harrowing picture library full of the faces of past Court of Owls victims.

All of these trials are so well penned by the American author that the reader soon becomes completely immersed in the events themselves. So when Bruce Wayne tentatively sips from the catacombs’ sole source of water, something which is invariably drugged, it is hard not to feel somewhat parched yourself. Then as the stumbling, debilitated Batman becomes increasing lost as he walks down corridor upon corridor, so too does the reader; especially when the narrative turns the book on its side by ninety degrees for several pages before requiring a further adjustment which results in the comic being read upside down and back to front. Such a physical trick, arguably impossible to achieve electronically, really brings home just how damaged the Dark Knight’s psyche actually is and how destabilised his mental process have become.

However much of this issue’s impact must surely also rest upon the magnificent artwork of Greg Capullo, as well as Jonathan Glapion on inks and Francisco Plascencia on colors. This is truly an all-encompassing creative team effort. Their combined work depicting this ‘journey into madness’ is breathtaking and clearly demonstrative of their inventive illustrative genius. Especially impressive, besides fooling the reader into unthinkingly turning the comic book upside down, has to be some of the subtle touches found within the drawings, with Batman’s single glaring blood-shot eye, and apparent manifestation of furry clawed hands and feet additionally helping highlight the character’s increasing insanity.
The variant cover art of "BATMAN" No. 5 by Adam Kubert


  1. I'm not a big fan of Batman or indeed any DC comic but there are a couple of points I'd like to comment on. First, you mention that some people think that comics in the future should all go digital. For me this would be a huge no no! I'm like Rupert Giles, the librarian and Watcher from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We both like the feel and smell of books. There is something deeply satisfying about holding a book in your hands and being able to read it anywhere. E-books can only be read on a computer, laptop or tablet, which not everyone owns. I just recently bought a tablet but reading books on it doesn't feel the same as reading a real book. Plus e-books rely on electricity to read. If you suffer a power cut you're stuffed. At least with a real book you can still read it by candlelight if you lack natural light or electricity. I may be a bit of a dinosaur but I'd hate to live in a world without books. Plus, as you said the trick of turning the artwork on its side and upside down just lends itself to a non-digital medium.
    Second point, I sometimes miss comics you review. I only knew about Dredd:Uprise because you thoughtfully included links to your reviews in your latest batrep. So, I have now added the Brown Bag to my list of blogs I follow so I need never miss another review inadvertently.

    1. Many many thanks Bryan. Just to clarify that I also don't believe eComics is the way to go exclusively myself, though I do read/own a lot (predominantly as "Marvel Worldwide" these days give you free codes to own their comics digitally). Indeed, on a long trip you can't beat reading a collection on your device etc, especially as the transitions from panel to panel (with an appropriate track playing in your headphones) can really immerse you. However like you I much prefer physical comics and indeed take it to the Nth degree by disliking tpbs, simply because that isn't (imho) how a comic should be read. I also buy any eComic I own... if nothing else than for the variant cover artwork :-) Absolutely delighted to have you on board Bryan as you always raise some extremely interesting points in your comments. I'm afraid that they'll be a few more issues of "Batman" coming though (one every two days) as April is the month I've set aside to play 'catch-up' with the Dark Knight. However they'll still be reviews of "'68 Jungle Jim", "Joe Frankenstein", "Afterlife With Archie" and "The Walking Dead" cropping up every few days or so... In any event I genuinely look forward to your observations my friend :-)

    2. Thanks for such a warm welcome, Simon. I dunno why it's taken me so long to follow The Brown Bag properly as I'm always checking out stuff you review here, even if it's stuff I don't read or like. I look forward to following your excellent reviews for as long as you post them.

    3. No worries Bryan... I actually thought what with all your activity on this site that you were following it :-) I have between 5,000-6,000 comics still to review, so what with posting daily I hope to have a few years ahead of me. Plus people keep recommending new titles to me all the time ;-)