Writer: Brian Azarello
Artists: Lee Bermejo(p), Mick Gray(i), Grant Goleash(c)
I don't mind waiting for a book when it's this good. This isn't the first time Batman found himself ensnared in a mystery involving political intrigue. Way back in his pre-Crisis eponymous title, Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy involved him in a plot orchestrated by the CIA who didn't think much of the Dark Knight or his talents. Such an attitude may have reflected Mr. Moench's belief that the CIA are scarier than Batman. In real life, probably true. In fiction, such a tactic I believe undermines the star.
Brian Azzarello makes a point in showing Batman to be just the opposite in terms of terror and in terms of philosophy. Batman out-spooks one of the spooks in Batman/Deathblow and isn't above using the agent's own dirty tactics against him. It's also interesting that these tactics Batman uses are the same employed by the private eyes of fiction. Thus, his methods reinforce his nature as a detective.
Mr. Azzarello parallels the philosophies of Deathblow and Batman in that they do not see the world in shades of gray. True heroes, they see the world in black and white: right or wrong. Quite frankly, this is how I also judge. I don't believe it's incorrect or naive. If the government saw things more in black and white rather than shades of gray, it's unlikely we would be caught in such historical morasses of deceit and death: Tuskegee or making deals with certain Arabian devils for a short term gain just as examples.
Ultimately, it's Batman's honesty that saves him from ending up fallen on the chessboard that the government has created. The irony is that because of the highly placed inviduals' duplicitous nature, they seek the stuff of smoke and mirrors. The story itself is a mirror to our own world, and yet because this is a Batman adventure, Mr. Azarello knows he must find a means to make it that the hero remains the hero. He finds a means without diminishing the themes of betrayal or the labyrinthine means in which the bad men who run the world achieve their goals.
Mr. Azarello's partners Bermejo and Gray with Goleash create a memorable battlefield for the forces of good to contend against evil. The architecture of the ten-years-past train station as well as the structural integrity of Gotham City's nineteen twenties deco decor as well as Batman: Animated airships play an important part in the dialogue as well as a play to the eye. These vivid panels are surprisingly few when compared to the scenes where the characters take the spotlight, yet the texture remains with the reader even when the scene changes. You never forget that you are watching events unfold in a city with a rich history--an integral factor with regards to the time shifting story.
The characters themselves are given the artistic care equal to the city maintenance. Deathblow while beefed up actually would fit in our world. While Batman is still the larger than life hero, the artists draw him in such a way where the costume would make sense in the real world. He is a leathery creation that almost appears to have stepped out from another age. In a way he is. The antagonists are drawn with a heavy emphasis on seediness, yet these features are not over the top or cartoony rather a physical manifestation of guilt that the human beings buried deep inside them feel.
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