|BATMAN No. 18, May 2013|
Dishearteningly in many ways the Dark Knight depicted within the twenty eight pages of Issue Eighteen of “Batman” is a decidedly unlikeable and unheroic character. Admittedly the man is understandably upset at the “much-publicized comic book death” of his young son, Damian. But even so writer Scott Snyder has still arguably created a much more aggressively violent and savagely unchivalrous Caped Crusader than has been published before.
Clearly both angry and in emotional turmoil as a result of his sudden loss, it is not unsurprising that the grieving father takes his anguish out upon the criminal element of Gotham City. And as such this magazine’s panels depicting Bob Kane's co-creation mowing down fleeing thugs in the batmobile, ripping them by the hair from fast moving motorcars or cracking the windows of their submersibles with a giant mallet is entirely understandable, and even possibly acceptable behaviour.
But to have Batman viciously erupt into such a fit of ferocious rage that without warning he breaks an adolescent girl’s nose is taking his Homeric despair a little too far. Most especially when the so-called philanthropist’s victim is teenager Harper Row, a “possible new female Robin” who had literally just saved him from the jaws of a pack of drug-crazed “genetically modified” fighting dogs and doubtless a painful drawn-out death.
Indeed it can’t even been argued that ‘the Bat’ inadvertently struck out at the city’s electrical grid worker by mistake during the heat of the battle. For the bloodthirsty canines have already fled the alleyway and their owner been beaten unconscious when the decidedly Dark(er) Knight turns to his defenceless would-be-rescuer and asks “Why don’t you block this?” before sending her reeling through a wooden fence.
Perhaps most alarming of all however, is that Snyder has actually gone on record as describing this edition as one with which the New Yorker wanted to demonstrate just how much “somebody can still look at Batman… and see this figure that’s incredibly inspiring”. Just how does assaulting the character that “represents a very young generation in Gotham” encourage “the poorer section” of the City “to be inspired by a character like Batman”?
Bizarrely this messed-up mixed message by the American author’s narrative is seemingly reinforced by the odd decision to utilise the skills of two separate artists and split the comic’s storyline into two chapters. Andy Kubert’s pencilling is impressive, especially when drawing a wide-eyed manic-looking costumed vigilante breaking heads and cracking skulls. The sheer wear and tear detailed into the significantly battered bat-suit is incredible and really emphasises for just how long Bruce Wayne has been pursuing his crime-fighting activities without respite.
Far less successful is Alex Maleev’s work, which in comparison to his colleague’s pictures, appear roughly sketched and lack any dynamism whatsoever. True, the Bulgarian’s script is a far more sedentary affair than that of The Kubert School graduate. But that doesn’t entirely account as to why the Russ Manning Award-winner’s illustrations are far less impactive or exciting.