This second issue of Scott Snyder’s Batman isn’t quite as compelling as the first. This is largely because it doesn’t provide much of a compelling exploration of the mystery set up by the previous issue’s cliffhanger, instead embarking on a mission to introduce a very different story strand that’s also something of a mystery — albeit one that allows for a fair amount of action as well as character development.
As with the first issue, Snyder seems intent on using the book to explore Gotham as much as it does Batman, drawing connections between the city and its protector in several ways — some subtle, some more obvious. I like the fact that we’re also getting a sense of the Wayne family legacy in Gotham, as well as some reinforcement of the ways in which Batman reflects the values of the city.
Also interesting is the “Court of Owls” concept that Snyder introduces here, which we don’t really learn much about (although they have an apparent link to the Wayne family — including, perhaps, the murder of Bruce’s father?) but which would seem to have the potential to function as a dark reflection of Batman’s own mission: a secret society aimed at keeping Gotham bad, rather than making it better.
Along the way, artist Greg Capullo gets a chance to again show off his skills for slick action-oriented sequences, utilising some effective cartooning techniques that give Batman’s antics a real sense of motion and fluidity.
Snyder seems to be playing on the “Batman as James Bond” vibe successfully exploited by the likes of Grant Morrison in this title, with several exciting/glamorous/dynamic encounters that are all given a certain level of sheen by his artist, particularly a showdown between Bruce and a master assassin towards the end of the issue.
The darker, dingier aspects of Bruce’s life are also handled well by Capullo, such as the autopsy scene in which the book’s artwork plays a greater part than the text in gradually revealing the technical trickery that allows Batman to spy on the city morgue.
Capullo’s art isn’t perfect; notably, I had the same problem as last issue in telling the difference between Bruce and another key character, Lincoln March, a potential mayoral candidate. Whilst the dialogue between the two characters is well-written and fleshes out their relationship satisfyingly — so much so that I was disappointed to see the story take the turn that it ultimately did — the physical similarity of the two characters feels like a misstep when Capullo could have easily made them more distinct.
For example, without the dialogue in this panel, would you really be sure which one of these characters is Bruce?
However, given the familial areas explored by the issue’s plot, this physical similarity could be more significant than it first appears, so I won’t hold it against the book too severely.
As much as I’m enjoying this book, I’m finding it a little slow to really get going, especially given its apparent need to set up several different mystery subplots before taking readers to the point at which they have a strong sense of the larger story that’s transpiring. However, there’s a strong sense that Snyder has a coherent vision for both the book and the title character, and I’m enjoying his exploration of the histories of Gotham City and the Wayne dynasty. Along with some enjoyable action scenes ably illustrated by Capullo, there’s definitely enough here to make Batman one of the handful of new DC titles that I’ll be keeping an eye on.
A journalist and sometime comics reviewer, Dave Wallace was raised on a traditional European diet of Beano comics, Asterix collections and Tintin books before growing up and discovering that sequential art could — occasionally — be even better than that. He has an unashamed soft spot for time-travel stories, Spider-Man, and anything by Alan Moore or Grant Morrison, and has been known to spend far too much on luxurious hardcover editions of his favorite books when it’s something he really likes. Maybe one day he’ll get around to writing down his own stories that have been knocking around his head for a while now.