Monday, July 31, 2017

Random Thoughts On... Scott Snyder's and Greg Capullo's Batman Run

For a while now, I’ve been going through most of my comics’ collection. I’ve mostly been doing it to weed out anything I don’t want anymore. So far, it’s only been a couple of things but not anything too big.  I’ve mostly been reading my not-so-complete collection of Post-Crisis Superman. I’ve collected stuff from the late 80’s to the late 90’s. When I get past 1999, that’s when it’ll get pretty spotty. Still, Post-Crisis Superman will make the cut. I’ve ran across some subpar issues, but it’s pretty good so far.

Anyway, one run I wanted to revisit was Scott Snyder’s and Greg Capullo’s run on Batman. At the time this series was coming out, folk were claiming it was the best series on shelves. The word of mouth got me on this one. While I was already a Batman fan, I only read a little involving the character. Most of my fandom came from the movies and animated series. Since the New 52 was starting up and I was starting to get comics regularly, I jumped in and stayed to the bitter end. Since Scott Snyder (not related to Zack Snyder) is revving up for a Batman-centered event called Dark Days: Metal, I thought it was finally time to read and talk about this run.

As I said above, Snyder’s and Capullo’s run was part of the DC’s New 52 initiative. Snyder already had some experience with Batman (the Dick Grayson variety)  since he was writing Detective Comics before this run. I didn’t know who Capullo was, though. All I knew was that he worked on Spawn and X-Force. Their run on Batman would last about 52 issues, the whole entirety of New 52 and “DC You”. There would also be a few special issues in there but I’m pretty much focusing on the main book.

Snyder was pretty much on the whole time with some writers coming in and helping out with back-ups and annuals. James Tynion IV, Gerry Dugan, Brian Azzerello, and a couple of others would help out at times. While Capullo had a couple of breaks here and there, he did a lot of his own work on the book. Other artists included folk like Andy Kubert, Jock, and, Jason Fabok, and Alex Maleev. The backups would also be handled by Rafael Albuquerque and others. Inkers would also vary here and there. Capullo’s main inkers were Johnathan Glapion and Danny Miki.

Here’s a quick but long rundown of the series:
You know you're getting something good when a series starts out like this.
  • The Court of Owls (#1-7) – Batman starts to uncover a well-hidden organization called the Court of Owls. Not only are they well-funded, they may have ties to the Wayne family itself.
  • The Night of Owls (#8-11, Annual #1) – This was part of a crossover with the other Bat-books. Basically, the Bat family have to protect Gotham when the Court of Owls decide to reign havoc and take over Gotham by force.
  • #0 – This was part of DC’s Zero Month. It looks at a time during Bruce’s life where he was just a vigilante, not Batman. It was basically a precursor to Zero Year, the new origin on Bruce’s first year as a vigilante.
  • #12 – This looks at a character named Harper Row, a poor teenager who takes a fascination with Batman.
  • Death of the Family (#13-17) – The Joker returns from his hiatus and personally comes after the Bat family and the GCPD.
  • #18 – This also centers on Harper Row as she starts to become a vigilante. Also, Batman is reeling from the aftermath of Batman Incorporated. Let’s just say that something happens to Damien.
  • Clayface arc (#19-20) – While Bruce is still reeling from what happened to at the end of Batman Inc., Clayface decides to have some fun as Bruce Wayne himself.
  • Zero Year (#21-26, #29-33, Annual #2) – This is Batman’s new origin going forward. It shows Bruce taking on the biggest threats and and ultimately adopting the cape and cowl. He faces off against threats like the Red Hood Gang and some nerd named Edward Nygma. We also see him forge relationships with his closest allies and become the bad mofo we know him to be. Think Batman Begins but more fantastic.
  • #28 – This is basically a pre-curser to Batman Eternal, a weekly maxi-series that showcased Batman and his world. Let’s just say that stuff is a little different with Harper Row becoming a superhero and Catwoman leading the criminal underworld.
  • #34 – This is a one-off issue where Batman goes up against a random criminal. It also references things going on in Batman Eternal at that time
  • Endgame (#35-40, Annual #3) – Here, the Joker returns and becomes more of a threat to Gotham and Batman. Some major DC players even get involved. Let’s just say that major stuff goes down in this arc.
  • Superheavy (#41-50, Annual #4) – After the events of Endgame, a new Batman step in the arena. I’ll keep the reveal to myself, though. The new Batman has to take on something that threatens the entire city. He may get some help from a certain billionaire though. Yeah, I’m not spoiling any of this. This was pretty much the last arc for Snyder and Capullo.
  • Epilogue (#51) – This officially ended Snyder’s and Capullo’s run on Batman.

Now that I’ve re-read all of this run, what do I think? I can say that it is a pretty good run of Batman comics for the most part. Snyder, Capullo, and the rest of the gang did their best to make this series work. Heck, the fact that I stuck around to the end should say something. There was a reason this book was considered to be the best from DC’s New 52/DC You initiative. The run started out strong and ended well for the most part. Even though are bumps in the road, this was still good.
One of the trippiest issues I've ever read.

The Writing
Scott Snyder did a lot of good things here.  Unlike most heroes in the New 52, Snyder didn’t have to revamp much for Batman since a lot of his history was left in. While he would write a new origin down the road, he came in and wrote Batman how he wanted. Luckily, it was the Batman everyone knew and liked. To me, his Batman was cool but not too perfect. Some writers would tend to write Batman as someone who’s right at everything and can do no wrong. Snyder’s Batman was competent but he had moments where he’d miss the ball. While we get examples like this in “Zero Year,” we get times in some arcs like “Court of Owls,” “Death of the Family,” and “Endgame.”

He didn’t forget about Bruce Wayne either. It just wasn’t all about Batman. He even had a nice sense of humor and didn’t take everything so seriously. While he is focused on the mission, he’s not too much of a sourpuss. I also liked how the relationships between Batman and his many supporting characters were written. I liked his interactions characters like Alfred, Commissioner Gordon, Nightwing, and others. Gotham City itself was brought to life especially in the writing. Usually, Bruce (or another person) would wax on about some aspect of Gotham. While those monologues didn’t always hit the mark, I liked them since it showed that Bruce knew his city.

I also liked the new concepts and characters introduced in this run. The idea of a secret organization existing without Batman knowing was pretty cool. The Court of Owls were a nice addition to the mythos. We also get a couple of allies like Harper Row and Duke Thomas introduced here and they were fine for the most part. We even got a new Batman for a while in the final arc, “Superheavy.” Someone gets tasked by a corporation to be a law-abiding Batman in a robot suit while Bruce is… away. While I wasn’t a big fan of the final arc, it was interesting to see this person carry on the mantle for a while.
I'll give you one hint... It's not Bruce nor Dick.

The villains were definitely challenging for the World’s Greatest Detective. As I said above, The Court of Owls were a worthy, interesting foe for Batman. Towards the end of the run, a new villain came onto the scene by the name of Dr. Bloom. While “Superheavy” wasn’t one a great arc, I thought Bloom was fine. Of course, Snyder revamped most of Batman’s rogues for the New 52 and most of them worked. I liked how the Riddler was used in “Zero Year” and Clayface got a nice revamp. Of course, The Joker made his return in this book and they played him up as force of nature. While some aspects weren’t that good, the Joker was cool.
Okay, now that's better! No "I ain't got no face" Joker here!

Even though Snyder didn’t handle most of the backups and annuals, he did play a role in them. The writing was usually left up to other writers like James Tynion IV, Gerry Dugan, and Brian Azzerello. The writing for those were pretty good. They tended to expand on whatever story Snyder was writing at the time. I can see why Tynion has been given so much to do these days. Not only has he written on Batman: Eternal, he’s on Detective Comics and the Dark Days: Metal event.

The artwork for the series was really good. Greg Capullo really brought his A-game to the series and it showed. He took the reins and steered the course throughout the series. His artwork was stylized a bit but it felt true to Batman and Gotham City. He didn’t go too overboard with his style. His Gotham looked big and kind of overwhelming at times. Batman/Bruce Wayne looked awesome. I liked that we didn’t just see one costume nor look for Bruce either. Everyone looked on model for the most part. There were some revamps done with some supporting characters and villains. They worked for the most part. The action scenes looked epic and the smaller, introspective scenes were pretty effective.

 Another thing about the artwork that was good was the colors. They all popped off the screen especially with Capullo’s artwork. You also had other artists contribute through fill-in issues, annuals, and backups. Rafeal Albuquerque, Andy Kubert, Jock, and Jason Fabok were just some of the artists that came in to help. Even though they only did some minimal work, it was good work.
Got some nice Kubert artwork here!

Problems With Run
Yes, we got another Batman/Superman fight... At least Snyder's remark at the bottom makes up for it.

While there are a lot of good things to say about the volume, I did find some problems while re-reading the run. I wasn’t a fan of some of the stories. I can’t say that they were legitimately bad, but they weren’t all that great either. Sometimes, it could get too dialogue-heavy. While I liked that Snyder would really make it a read, there were times where it could get to be too much. A perfect example would be to look at some of the long-winded monologues from Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. I liked them, but could you get to the point?

Snyder’s run was also pretty laden with long arcs. While I liked them, it could get a little out of hand. I mostly saw that with “Superheavy” and “Zero Year”. I know what you’re thinking. I do like “Zero Year” and think it’s one of the run’s highlights. Still, that thing was long! There were also times where the endings for some arcs could get a little shaky. It’s like Snyder would start out strong and finish catching his breath. Also, how many times did Gotham need to be thrown into “city-wide chaos mode?” That did get a little repetitive especially toward the end of the run.
"Superheavy" wasn't the best arc, but you have to admit it that it was kind of fun.

I wasn’t also a big fan of some revamped villains here. The biggest one on the list is Mr. Freeze. In the first annual, we got a new origin for Freeze and I wasn’t a fan. It just didn’t gel with me when seeing how he’s treated in other media like the Arkham games or Batman: TAS. Also, the revamped Joker took some getting used to. “Death of the Family” was an okay arc to me. The Joker’s role in it was kind of weird. Just read it and see what I’m talking about. I liked him more in “Endgame.” Other than these things and some small nitpicks, the writing was pretty good.

I really don’t have many problems with the artwork. I can pretty much take it as is but I did have a couple of criticisms. I wasn’t a big fan of some of the violence in the series. There were times were it got a little too gruesome for me. The Joker’s look in “Death of the Family” is a big example. It just took him too far over into the creepy bin. I get why he looked liked that but it just didn’t work for me. At least it was just that arc.

I also wasn’t a fan of some of the re-designs for some villains. These designs were literally at the beginning of the series where Batman faces off against them in Arkham Asylum. Luckily, those designs didn’t stick around. Then, Maggie Sawyer shows up towards the end of the series and I couldn’t tell if that was really her or not. There were also some points here and there where the artwork wasn’t all perfect. Even some of the filler artists had some not-so-perfect moments.
Low, Clayface... low.


In the end, this was a good run for Batman and a good run in general. It’s not a perfect one, though. I also can’t say it’s the best Batman run since I haven’t read too many of them. Still, if you’re a fan who hasn’t read many Bat-comics, this wouldn’t be a bad start. Well, if you excuse me, I’ll be getting back to playing The Witcher 3, doing work, doing house work, and living life. Until then, Peace, God Bless, and don’t punch horses unless you’re Batman.
Ta-da! And for my next trick, I'll come back from the dead... again!

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