|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.