Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Batman #19 [The New 52] - DC Comics

BATMAN No. 19, June 2013
It is hard to believe that such a confusing and mediocre magazine as Issue Nineteen of “Batman” was the biggest selling comic book of April 2013, especially when Diamond Comic Distributors show it sold an incredible 132,147 copies in order to do so.  For Scott Snyder’s twenty-page narrative, along with its perplexing fold-out cover depicting Jim Gordon as “Bruce Wayne’s greatest foe…”, is a somewhat lack-lustre read which disappointingly seems to suggest the American author was merely ‘going through the motions’ when scripting it. Certainly, despite containing a gunfight with Gotham’s finest, fisticuffs with the Reaper and a ‘bat-a-rang battle’ with 312 pound murderer Brian Wade, “Nowhere Man” lacks the tense dynamic build-up and thrilling suspense usually associated with the New Yorker’s writing.

Instead readers are arguably left with the disconcerting feeling that the Brown University graduate was suffering from the fatigue and aftereffects of having previously masterminded two lengthy multi-title story-arcs. Snyder himself has stated that he wanted this two-parter to be a “fun mystery.” But whilst the prose writer’s description of the “Death Of The Family” Joker saga is accurate in that it was a “grim… grotesque and gruesome” storyline, his intention for this “ode to... the animated series” to be a “…fast-paced action mystery” is not particularly successful and not all that much “fun” either.    

Most of the disappointment stems from the sheer choppiness of the comic’s chronology, as it starts “now” with the billionaire overtly committing an armed robbery and gunning down Jim Gordon, before suddenly dragging events back six days in the past to a time when the Dark Knight is battling the Reaper. However this van heist then turns out to be even further back in the past when it’s unexpectedly revealed to be nothing more than an historical replay from the “cowl archives.” Four pages later and proceedings have really progressed as Batman breaks into the Wade Design building, battled the overweight owner, identified the killer’s true identity as Clayface whilst in the Batwing, and then confronted the shape-changer, now disguised as Lucius Fox, during a meeting at Wayne Industries. Fast it may be, but ‘followable’ and mysterious?

Infinitely superior is the back-up story by James Tynion IV, a sinister supernatural thriller which also features the Man of Steel. At just eight-pages in length “Ghost Lights” at first smacks of the sort of police procedural yarn “Gotham Central” excelled at during its three-year run for “DC Comics”. But then later turns into a disturbingly claustrophobic investigation into the satanic manifestation known as “The Will O’ The Wisp.”   

Drawn by “Daredevil” legend Alex Maleev, the artwork is decidedly different to the crisp bright well-detailed illustrations of this book’s lead penciller Greg Capullo. But the Bulgarian’s more angular, rough sketching style really suits the tone of the thriller, especially when they’re combined with the dank dark palette of colorist Brad Anderson.
The variant cover art of "BATMAN" No. 19 by Al Jaffee

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