Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Batman #20 [The New 52] - DC Comics

BATMAN No. 20, July 2013
Whilst undoubtedly an action-packed high-octane read, this second instalment of “Nowhere Man” arguably demonstrates Scott Snyder’s writing at its most uninventive and lackadaisical. For despite ‘introducing’ a truly formidable-looking cipher-enabled Clayface, and featuring the shape-shifter’s subsequent seriously thrilling fist-fight with the Dark Knight, the New Yorker resorts to some truly cheap tacky gimmicks in order to bring this adventure to a woefully dissatisfying conclusion.

High on this list of disappointments is the way in which Bruce Wayne is so simply overpowered by Basil Karlo despite Gotham City's most eligible bachelor confronting his foe within Wayne Enterprises Red Laboratory; a “little armoury” crammed full of numerous Bat-utilities and weapons. Considering the sheer breadth of familiar armaments at his disposal, it is incomprehensible that the industrialist wouldn't put up some semblance of a contest or at the very least utilise a hidden escape hatch. But instead the Billionaire essentially just stands impotently before his nemesis, who, after a few panels of heavy rhetoric, swallows the wealthy playboy whole.

Dishearteningly however that is nothing compared to the incredible lengths luck then seems to play in the philanthropist’s astounding escape. For starters Snyder would have the reader believe that the business magnate survived being consumed by Clayface by astonishingly holding his breath for over seven minutes because “breathing’s overrated”; something which whilst feasible is somewhat unbelievable even for so dedicated a crimefighter as the Caped Crusader. The American author then follows up this implausible 'superhuman' feat by having Bruce and Lucius Fox escape the writer's homage to the Death Star compactor scene from the 1977 motion picture “Star Wars” by fortuitously discovering a fully-operational concept Batsuit amongst the surrounding detritus. A staggeringly implausible find which permits the duo to easily burst through one of the crushing machine’s extremely solid-looking walls.

Such utter absurdity is unfortunately actually surpassed though towards the end of the comic when an armoured Batman confronts Karlo, and having attacked the clay-like super-villain with hydrogen fluoride, coolant and an electrical charge, ridiculously traps the criminal within “a panic chamber” whilst wearing a ‘fibre DNA mask’ of his alter ego, Bruce Wayne... Thus all-too simply negating the shape-changing criminal's argument to Commissioner Gordon that the cowled vigilante and celebrity socialite are one and the same.

Mercifully, despite being a rather simplistic tale, this comic’s eight-page secondary narrative “Ghost Lights” is a far more enjoyable read. James Tynion IV really captures the sometimes edgy comradery between the World's Greatest Detective and the Man of Steel, and despite its brevity produces a storyline which entertainingly explores Superman’s vulnerability to magic. Artist Alex Maleev also produces some wonderfully dark visuals for this story, providing Batman in particular with some nicely drawn silhouettes.
The variant cover art of "BATMAN" No. 20 by Alex Maleev

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