Set 14, 2015

BLOSSOM ROW: a review of Batman #44

The issue begins with a body in the Gotham Marshes. “The body lies less than one foot from the city limit. A boy, not even six years old.” Batman’s shadow comes and scares the crows away. “He will punish the one who did it, and stop it from happening again.” A silent vow that would result in a city-wide search and put into motion a more interior, epiphanic form of Year Two.

Seems I’m more of a Scott Snyder fan when it comes to his light touches. I’ve followed such immense mythos updates as his Court of Owls, but when he pulls off something like Batman #44, I can’t help but pay attention. While issues like these can be taken as fillers—as one-shots that barely connect with the arc and serve various functions, perhaps to buy time until the artist catches up or until the series could synchronize with continuity parallels (like Detective Comics and Batman/Superman, in this case)—for me, it’s as if those long arcs of Eternal and Endgame had been committed to satiate fanchild appetites and indulge expectations just so ground gets cleared for something like #44 to sigh.

“And the story begins with coils. Coils upon coils.”

“A Simple Case” is Snyder’s story, but he shares writing credit with Brian Azzarello. Maybe the stuff I like belongs to Azzarello. I’ve read enough of his work to believe that the chain of events (Penguin, gangs, the father on the sickbed, the boy, and Penguin again, and the gangs again, the policeman) and the alternate chain (no spoiler here) both belong to him, such that the story “ends with more coils, circling the boy.” But who deserves the pat for the lost sneaker? Or for this touch: “There was a game Bruce used to play as a boy. He’d heard anecdotes about how the Miagani Indians put their fingers to the ground to ‘listen’ for coming changes in the land.”

My initial take on Jock’s work is that it’s too stylized for the issue. Too Vertigo, too Legends of the Dark Knight. Almost Jae Lee. I would have wanted something more basic, something clean. Then again, I’m not sure my idea would work with Lee Loughridge’s palette, particularly that effect where the sunlit panel clusters give the flashback while the grayish ones frame the present. The whole thing might come off as glare rather than nuance.

Possible also that it’s precisely gritty art like this that would work quite well with the cuts of newspaper text, the swathes of white representing snatches of Wayne’s early research. This technique begins with the sophomoric “mental note” at the bottom third page, but culminates in the essential city-text two-page sprawl towards the end of the comic. It’s the usual cowled figure surveying his city from a high, unshared perch, but it’s also Batman reading his own insufficient reading of Gotham.

The comic seems to tie in with the Superheavy arc as an issue-long flashback (a flashback within a flashback, but again: no spoilers). However, I’m more interested in thematic connections: Gordon is seen collaborating with the protagonist, entering with a quip on the bat equipment, a part of which currently installs him as the city’s legit-type Bat-hero. Wayne is depicted as a bleeding heart philanthropist, which is both a way to frame Batman as a project and a means for critiquing its internal paradox, its distant sort of involvement. The current “tabula rasa” Bruce Wayne has already been featured in previous issues as moving in a nonviolent direction, the way his parents worked with the grassroots when they were alive.

Most of all, what attracts me to this issue is how it’s a catalog of failures, one consistent with Snyder’s idea of Batman as a self-aware tragedy. “A Simple Case” is not where Batman starts and nowhere near where he ends, but it might as well be the point where Bruce begins to understand what Alfred (butler, erstwhile theatre actor) had intuited the day Bruce slipped on the purple gloves: his boy Batman, should he succeed, would become a high figure for both hope and inadequacy.

—para kay Eugene: dahil masyadong mahaba para i-text

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