Three years down the line from launching The New 52 and to pretty much noone’s surprise, Scott Snyder’s run on Batman has stood out as the best book in DC’s line. Unfortunately new readers that missed #1 way back in September 2011 have had a pretty tough time of jumping onto this book – through Court of Owls, City of Owls and Death in the Family Snyder has been working within big, expansive arcs. So coming of the back of Snyder’s year long Zero Year arc (maybe my favorite work ever written by Snyder) DC has thrown in a simple one shot for #34, bring Batman back to the present day.
Snyder and regular artist Greg Capullo take an issue off, with Gerry Duggan writing this issue’s script (from a story by both Duggan and Snyder) and art by Matteo Scalera. Gerry Dugan is soon to be a Batman regular as he launches DC’s new book Arkham Manor in October, so this is a great chance to see how he handles both Batman and Gotham. For me this was a book off two halves. The plot starts off as a simplistic cat and mouse chase, as Batman tracks down a killer who’s taking out Dr Leslie Thompkins’ patients. I will admit that the first half of this book left me a little underwhelmed. There were some nice individual scenes (the hobo scene under the bridge on pages 10 and 11 being a good example) but this all seemed very formulaic.
In the second half of this book though, Duggan takes this simplistic ‘Batman tracking killer’ scenario and nicely develops it. This killer wants to be anonymous, a pretty unique attribute in a city that contains The Penguin and The Joker, leading to a satisfying conclusion, putting the book’s first half into perspective. I would go as far to say that this book’s final two scenes were my favourite parts, and the fact that one of these scenes takes place in Arkham Asylum and involves Border is very promising for Duggan’s future work.
The real stars of this issue for me were Matteo Scalera’s artwork and Lee Loughridge’s colouring. It’s amazing work. Scalera’s pencils are detailed and expressive; his lines lay heavy on the page, scratchily filling in shadow and facial features, giving fine detail around the killer’s devilish smile and piercing eyes (a panel on page 14 depicting the killer spying on Doctor Thompkins through a window, the slate curtains shadowing his face, was particularly striking). Loughridge litters the issue with pain drops and splashes, adding to the murky atmosphere. I don’t want to give anything away, but the artwork and colouring on the final two pages are incredibly impressive.
This issue definitely leaves me interested in Duggan’s future work on Arkham Manor, but I am looking forward to Snyder and Capullo’s return with Batman #35 in October, and the start of a new multiple issue arc.
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