Recently I’ve been neglectful about picking up the comics on my pull list, but over the past couple days I’ve done a big catch-up, and holy crap guys, this Scott Snyder/Greg Capullo run on Batman is pretty damn great, isn’t it? I mean I read all of Snyder’s Detective Comics stuff, and the first two issues of Batman, and it was all very good, but now that I’m caught up to issue #7 on Batman I feel confident in saying this is the first truly great Batman story to come along in years. It may just be the best story since Frank Miller’s 80s heyday.
Like any comics reader with any sense, I’m a big fan of Batman as a character, but unfortunately most Batman stories really aren’t very good. He’s just a hard character to do right — even some of my favorite writers like Grant Morrison and Bill Willingham have had very mixed success with the character. The last time I consistently enjoyed Batman comics was when Greg Rucka was doing Detective Comics — a run that is, unbelievably, over a decade old now.
So, what’s this Snyder/Capullo run doing so right? Why’s it so much better than almost all other Bat-comics? Well…
Spoilers Note – I tried not to reveal specific plot points, but this article does talk about what’s happened in the first seven issues of Batman in general terms. Beware those who want to stay completely spoiler-free.
Gotham Feels Like a Real City
Batman comics really love to go on about Gotham — every bad Bat-story starts with a pile of narration boxes in which Batman expounds on how Gotham is a dark dangerous lady, but dammit she’s his and blah blah blah.
Despite this fixation on Gotham, we’ve never really been given many specifics about the place. Gotham, for all intents and purposes, has basically just been an extra shadowy version Springfield from the Simpsons. Where does it exist? Who knows. What’s its geography? It changes depending on the demands of the story. What’s its history? Who’s to say — as far as we know the city sprung to life fully formed when Bruce Wayne was born.
Hell, even Springfield has a few recognizable landmarks like Moe’s and the Kwik-E-Mart — Gotham in most stories is just a collection of generic dingy alleys for Batman to punch bad guys in.
Snyder has changed all that — he’s given the city history, landmarks and a specific geography and skyline. More important, he’s given the city a personality — Gotham is an old city built around even older families and money that’s gone rotten at the core and now spreads that rot to anyone who dares enter it. We’ve been hearing forever about how dark and dangerous Gotham is, but we now know why, specifically, it’s so dark and dangerous and that’s a huge step forward.
Badass Batman Comes to Gotham
For a long time there’s basically been two Batmans — the super-competent JLA Batman who finds ways to punch out Superman on the regular, and the Batman of actual Batman comics who finds himself challenged by guys like the Mad Hatter and the Ventriloquist.
It’s obvious why this happens — Batman’s abilities need to be pumped up when he’s hanging out with Superman and Wonder Woman, otherwise the fact that they keep him around would make no sense. Still, it’s always frustrating to read some five-part story in which Batman struggles to defeat lame villains like Grotesk or Orca the whale woman while he’s off fighting Darkseid and Prometheus in greater DC Universe stuff.
Usually Batman would need two 5-issue arcs to take out both Two-Face and Killer Croc.
Snyder, thankfully, has done away with this divide, and lets super-competent Batman have his way with Gotham. The first scene of Batman #1 involves Batman shutting down an Arkham breakout and beating all his most infamous villains in one fell swoop — and why not? A guy with a winning record against Superman shouldn’t have any trouble putting down the Riddler for the 100th time. This is a Batman on top of his game, who’s not taking any crap from the regular circus troupe of villains.