Friday, 3 July 2015

Batman #23 [The New 52] - DC Comics

BATMAN No. 23, October 2013
First published way back in the November 1939 “Detective Comics” adventure “The Batman Wars Against The Dirigible Of Doom”, the origin of the Dark Knight is forever linked within the minds of serious comic book collectors everywhere with a simple two-page flashback sequence that ends with the billionaire uttering the immortal words “Criminals are a superstitious cowardly lot. So my disguise must be able to strike terror into their hearts. I must be a creature of the night, black, terrible… a… a… a bat!”

Some seventy-five years later, Issue Twenty Three of “Batman” sacrilegiously attempts to alter that Golden Age magic by allowing Scott Snyder to irreverently rewrite such a momentous moment in his “most ambitious and definitely… boldest” narrative yet… And whilst admittedly the sentiment of ‘a huge bat flying through his open window’ remains as the Caped Crusader’s legendary inspiration, everything else in the New Yorker’s new “secret history of Bruce Wayne’s transformation into Batman” is disappointingly different.

To begin with, considering the savagely murderous beating Gotham City’s most eligible bachelor receives at the very beginning of “Secret City: Part Three”, it is unbelievably miraculous that the young vigilante is actually even alive to witness the “omen” of a flying rodent. For within the space of a handful of pages Wayne is blown up, mercilessly battered by a mace, repeatedly ‘chopped’ by an axe, punched numerous times and finally shot twice by the Red Hood and his gang. Yet despite such fearful injuries, breaks, bruising and considerable blood loss, the (future) industrialist still somehow manages to walk all the way back from his residential flat to Wayne Manor and get patched up by a “rusty” Alfred Pennyworth. ‘True grit’ indeed, and a far cry from Bill Finger’s version of a comfortable-looking philanthropist sat surrounded by his family’s wealth, pondering what disguise he should adopt.

However 'the worst is yet to come' as Snyder purportedly ‘respectfully redefines’ the moment Batman is born by having the heavily stitched socialite find his muse not in a chiropteran inadvertently straying into his home but by accidentally activating his long-dead father’s visual mapper of the cave system beneath the mansion. Such a heavily padded scene, no less than five pages in length, doesn’t even contain any defining dialogue unless the American author plans on having the World’s Greatest Detective forever associated with the readily forgettable lines “Yes. I See.” Such an incredibly dire and substandard re-imagining of so iconic a scene makes it easy to believe Snyder's open admission that he lives “with too much anxiety and terror of getting kicked off Batman all the time”.

Tragically not even James Tynion IV’s collaborative five-page short story “The Pit” has much in the way of comfort to offer any aghast readers of this comic book. For whilst the basic plot of a twenty-four year-old Bruce Wayne refusing to kill his opponents in a Norwegian “death match” fighting-pit makes perfect sense. The fact the tale picks up after he’s supposedly been battling multiple foes for “twenty-eight hours straight” is ludicrously unrealistic. Only superseded in silliness by the magazine’s final page… a bizarre advertisement by “DC Comics” for an expanded Batman Universe featuring “The Return Of The Bat-Cow!”
The variant cover art of "BATMAN" No. 23 by Gary Frank

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