Friday, October 28, 2011

Batman #1

DC Comics, 24 pages, $ 2.99

Writer: Scott Snyder
Penciler: Greg Capullo
Inker: Jonathan Glapion
Colorist: FCO Plascencia
Letterer: Jimmy Betancourt

I was looking forward to this one, based on Scott Snyder’s Detective Comics work and the unexpected match-up with Greg Capullo, who hasn’t done any major Marvel or DC work since the mid-1990s.

As it turns out, Capullo holds up his end of the bargain. Stylistically, his stuff looks much more attractive and distinctive here than I was hoping for, based on the X-Force and Spawn stuff I remembered from way back. And as a storyteller, he’s grown by leaps and bounds. Arguably, the image of Bruce Wayne presenting his new vision for Gotham City looks rather underwhelming—I get the sense that the story calls for it to be a bigger deal than just the bunch of megalomaniac, Dubai-style skyscrapers we get to see, anyway. Overall, though, Capullo’s storytelling is rock-solid, and his art is crisp and plain fun to look at.

I expected more from Snyder’s story, though. First up, it seems oddly reserved, in terms of how the characters and the plot are presented. Granted, this is the flagship Batman book—which, perhaps surprisingly, ended up beating Action Comics for the No. 1 slot of the Diamond chart in September—, so I can see why Snyder didn’t want to hit any potential newcomers in the audience over the head and slowly rebuild Batman, Bruce Wayne, the supporting cast and Gotham City from the ground up, to make it as accessible as possible. That’s fair enough, and he’s doing it well.

As far as the plot is concerned, though, I think he’s playing things a little too close to the vest. Will anyone in the audience buy into Dick Grayson as a murder suspect? I’m skeptical. Even if you take the book on its own terms and pretend that you’ve never heard anything about Batman stories before, he’s presented as the kind of character who’s “safe,” as far as the notion of running around as a killer is concerned. He doesn’t work as a red herring, and if Snyder honestly wants to pursue this road, he’s running the risk of undermining his protagonist with the audience, because everybody but Batman will already be wise to the fact that Grayson is a red herring.

Other than that, though, Batman is as well-made as any of the “New 52” relaunches, in terms of how the scenes are constructed or how the characters are introduced. It also helps that Snyder knows how to write prose, which, judging from those 52 debut issues, is a dying art among superhero writers. My reservations on the story notwithstanding, it’s a relief to get a Batman comic by a writer who knows what he’s doing, and who takes his craft seriously.

Grade: B-

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