Saturday, 13 February 2016

Batman #34 [The New 52] - DC Comics

BATMAN No. 34, October 2014
Perhaps somewhat confusingly jumping “back to the future” with a narrative co-written by “Arkham Manor” author Gerry Duggan, Issue Thirty Four of “Batman” actually takes place after the conclusion of the “DC Comics” weekly series “Batman Eternal” and literally transport’s its 112,186 strong readership to the very “end of Eternal’s continuity” having spent the previous twelve months supposedly regaling them with Scott Snyder’s “yearlong storyline that delved into the Dark Knight’s early days in Gotham City…” As a result it isn’t until a good third of the way through this comic that its audience probably becomes satisfactorily orientated as to just where within the Caped Crusader’s convoluted continuity they are, and even then that is almost solely due to a double-splash of Bruce Wayne’s alter-ego patrolling the metropolis’ nightline within which the hero cogitates upon “the rank and file police” having “turned against” him and “Jim Gordon [being] sentenced to Blackgate for murder.”

Despite this initial, and somewhat lasting confusion however, there is a very good reason as to why this book was the best-selling title of August 2014. For “The Meek” happens to contain an enjoyably straightforward script which genuinely sees the cowled crimefighter make a welcome return to his "World’s Greatest Detective” roots whilst investigating a series of worryingly grisly murders. Indeed the similarities between the American author’s version of Batman with that of Arthur Conan Doyles’ Sherlock Holmes are very striking, and even go so far as having a determined Dark Knight deputising a dog when he believes the hound can assist him in tracking down his quarry’s scent through the grimy alleyways of Gotham’s seedier district.

Somewhat disappointingly though Duggan does rather jarringly remind his audience that this story is set in a technologically-advanced (future) world by having the Caped Crusader utilise a digital mask in order to fool the pathological killer into believing he is Doctor Thompkins. Admittedly the physician is a young under-sized female. But even so it would arguably been more fitting considering the realistic tone of the rest of the plot to have had the vigilante simply don one of his infamous theatrical disguises rather than perhaps lazily rely upon a holographic device.

The atmospherically sketchy, dirty-looking pencilling of ‘guest’ artist Matteo Scalera is also well worth taking note of, and really helps add a level of gritty practicality to the comic’s proceedings. In fact it’s a shame this adventure doesn’t go on for longer as the Parma-born illustrator’s grizzled, taut-jawed and simply caped Batman makes for a refreshing change from Greg Capullo’s more ‘state-of-the-art’ crime-fighter, and his panels are simply packed full of visual oddities such depicting the murderer garrotting one of his victims through a goldfish bowl with a dead cat in it.
The "Selfie" variant cover art of "BATMAN" No. 34 by Ryan Sook

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