|BATMAN No. 24, December 2013|
Described by “DC Comics” as an “amazing, double-sized issue” that contains “a major surprise [which] will change the course of… Batman’s life”, this fifty-four page periodical must still have been something of a disappointment to many of its 124,652 buyers in October 2013 with its “punk rock” shaven-headed Bruce Wayne, reimagining of the Red Hood into Gotham City’s primary Crime Lord and inclusion of Edward Nygma as a major early foe of the Dark Knight. Indeed in his exertions to make this take on Frank Miller’s “Year One” “entirely different”, Scott Snyder has, in many ways, arguably made his narrative unrecognisable as the origin of the Caped Crusader; especially as it features a militaristic-looking thuggish billionaire, who survives his encounter with the mysterious terrorist more through luck than judgement and actually shoots Jim Gordon (with a bean gun) during the self-same confrontation.
Admittedly there’s no doubting the New Yorker’s commitment to his frustrating storyline containing plenty of ‘Bat-tastic’ action. For once a scarred, yet still seemingly fresh-faced, twenty-five year-old Industrialist finishes some incredibly lengthy conversations and investigates Ace Chemicals, the pace of “Dark City” increases at an astonishing rate and has Batman battling not only an apparently endless army of Red Hood Gang members, but the Gotham City Police Department as well; “You will not leap, fly, or hang upside down. You will surrender quietly or I will shoot you. Do you understand?”
In fact despite this battle being unceremoniously interrupted by the sacrificial death of Wayne’s Uncle Philip (Kane), otherwise known as “Red Hood Three-Forty-Seven”, and the unexpected appearance of the Riddler towards the end of the comic, the cowled crime-fighter’s pulse-pounding punch-up with the multiple ruby-masked arms dealers is probably some of Snyder’s best work since “The New 52” title started publication. Certainly Batman’s clash with his dome-wearing arch-nemesis atop the burning chemical factory is potentially one of the best-scripted struggles yet printed between the two popular antagonists.
Dishearteningly the quality of Greg Capullo’s artwork follows in a similar vein to that of the American author’s writing, in that for the first third of the magazine, the Schenectady-born penciller’s drawings, whilst more than competent, lack any sense of dynamism or life. Once Bruce dons his famous costume and tackles the Red Hood Gang however, then the self-taught illustrator’s panels almost leap off of the page with exhilarating vivacity. Sadly the same cannot be said for the dire (back) pages outlined by Rafael Albuquerque. The Brazilian comic book creator’s sketchy style horribly jars with the far more precise, animated pictures of Capullo, and as a result look all the more stiff and unappealing with his cardboard Bruce Wayne, occasionally portly-looking Pennyworth and abominable Riddler.
|The variant cover art of "BATMAN" No. 24 by Guillem March|