Writer: Shane McCarthy
Artist: Cliff Chiang
Publisher: DC Comics
Well, this was a nice surprise. After a yearlong storyline by David Lapham, who's normally an exceptional storyteller, which dragged on and on and on…, We're treated to a two-parter that gives us a Batman that we haven't seen in the DCU for a very long time.
This is my first exposure to Shane McCarthy, and I have to admit I'm quite impressed. He's crafted a story that is playing on all of Batman's strengths as a detective, which seems DC has conveniently forgotten is a major aspect of Batman. McCarthy's Batman is not infallible. As Bruce Wayne, he cannot even tie a bowtie, but he's very self-assured, though not to the extreme, of himself. McCarthy has taken Batman out of the Batcave and away from all the gadgetry that has become the norm. He's allowing Batman to use his intelligence.
The villain in this issue, Victor Zsasz, is the perfect choice. He's just a human being, albeit a psycho-killer human being who kills anyone and everyone in his path without rhyme or reason. And that's the character's strength in his battle against Batman: No pattern. There is no way for Batman to predict where and when he'll strike next. McCarthy masterfully plays upon this theme. McCarthy also throws more onto the pile, so to speak, in having Zsasz brutally attack and stab Alfred. This occurs while Alfred's in attendance, along with Bruce Wayne, at a police charity ball as a statement to the police that he can go anywhere and do anything and they cannot stop him. It's that section of the story in which Bruce Wayne, and not Batman, shines. McCarthy allows Wayne to take control of the situation, rushing Alfred to the hospital, instead of having Wayne stick to his “mousy playboy” image. I want more of that Bruce Wayne!
The art by Cliff Chiang is solid as always. His work on Human Target was underrated in my opinion. He deserves more projects like this one to allow him a much wider exposure. His Batman is not the overly muscled, chiseled, body builder type that has been prevalent of late. His Batman is quite believable. There are many pages in this issue I personally would love to own, especially page 9 when Batman is confronted on a rooftop by Gotham's finest. It's a classic moment.
I realize that issue #817 begins James Robinson's 4-issue run as writer (along with 4-issues of Batman), but after he's done with his story I'd love to see McCarty and Chiang become the regular team on this title. They did something with this issue that has not been done in a long time: They've crafted a Batman story that is about the man himself, not the persona that's been created and over-used poorly. So to those who are tired of the “Batman as a high and mighty, know-it-all jerk” stories, I urge you to pick this and next issue up. You will not be disappointed.
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