Review: Batman #4 by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo
by RJ Schwabe on December 23, 2011

The DCnU is an interesting place. So much of it has erased that which I liked and that which I relied on, as a reader of DC Comics, such as the existence of Perez’s Teen Titans, the legacy of the Justice Society, the long-standing romance of Green Arrow and Black Canary, and even the domestic life of Superman and Lois Lane.

And yet, at the same time, there is such little change in both the Batman and Green Lantern universes that I can remain in their little corner of the DCnU and pretend that nothing has happened. It is rather curious.

Scott Snyder’s Batman has definitely been getting the most internet acclaim. Everyone really likes Snyder’s take on Batman and Bruce Wayne. Of all of the new villains that have been created for the DCnU1, I think the Council of Owls has the most staying power. It is a very interesting addition to the Batman mythos, and if it is incorporated, I definitely can see it being a staple of Batman’s universe for years to come.

I almost feel as if I have said all of my platitudes for this title, and just want to read and enjoy rather than critically review. But someone should review this thing, so why not me.

Batman #4: Face the Court

Published By: DC Comics
Writer: Scott Snyder
Pencils: Greg Capullo
Cover Price: $2.99
Release Date: 12/21/2011
Review: Digital Copy (from Comixology)

In the previous issue, Batman was investigating the Court of Owls, who was trying to kill Bruce Wayne. The Court has connections to Gotham City’s past, and including a connection to Allan Wayne, who died by falling in a manhole cover. Batman investigates buildings that have a secret 13th floor. While investigating the newest one, the Talon causes the floor to explode.

Synopsis

  • Batman is able to escape the explosion inside the Talon’s hideout by cutting a hole in the wall before the floor explodes.
  • Bruce confers with Dick about the case as he examines the exhumed remains of his great-grandfather Alan Wayne.
  • Bruce tells Dick the story of when he was a child, and personally investigated the murder of his parents, fearing the involvement of the Court of Owls. While investigating a house, he was trapped there for a week.
  • Batman investigates the sewer where Alan Wayne was found over 100 years ago, and he gets abducted by The Talon.
  • Batman is confronted by the Court of Owls who has trapped him in a labyrinth.

Questions and Answers

Answer: Joe Chill is still the murderer of Batman’s parents in the DCnU

Answer: Bruce does not believe in the existence of the Council of Owls because he has investigated it both as a child and as an adult, and found no traces of its existence.

Answer: Alan Wayne, Bruce’s great-grandfather, was killed by being stabbed to death

Analysis

This was very good. I mean, everyone has said already that this series is really good. But, let’s put a different spin on it for just a second: It is tough to introduce a new character into any long-running comic book mythos that actually sticks beyond a current creative team. Even more so for a mythos like Batman who has the best rogues gallery ever. I think Snyder is creating some very powerful additions to Batman and Gotham City that I have not felt since the Hush storyline.

I am not sure if this is one of the GREATEST Bruce Wayne illustrations of all time, or if this is really just Greg Capullo amusing himself. So, here is a taped and bruised up Bruce Wayne holding onto the skull of his great-grandfather. Now, admittedly Bruce is not holding the skull of anyone he has ever met, but it still is family. And yet, Bruce has casually picked up the skull as if it was the skull of any other human being, to introduce to Dick. It is so clinical and detached and purpose-driven, that it is just amazing.

OR, it is that Greg Capullo was working late one night, finishing up his art, having a drink and one of his buddies dared him to give Batman the Hamlet pose2 with his great-grandfather’s skull.

I am very mixed on the idea of Bruce Wayne as a child, investigating the Court of Owls, and being reasonably successful at it. It is a very cool idea, but it suggests that Bruce was exceptional before the murder of his parents. For the most part, this flies in the face of the rest of the Batman mythos. The idea has always been that Bruce was a normal man3, and it was the tragedy that made him extraordinary. I don’t mind it, but I wouldn’t want Snyder or anyone else to go down this road.4

I hope that the Council of Owls is not behind the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents, or at least not directly connected with it. This is just a preference, on my part. I don’t think it would ruin Batman, or affect the perception. And in some ways, it would make the new adversary stronger going forward, and not just a writer creation that gets discarded when someone new takes over. But, the simple idea that Batman’s endless struggle against crime is based on a lone criminal who killed Thomas and Martha Wayne

I said it before, but I really appreciate that Snyder is making a real connection between Bruce and Dick. They are able to have a connection, as adults, to each other that is different than that of Tim or Damien. They have evolved into colleagues, and not just sensei and student. Bruce is still the alpha of the relationship, but to make the case that their relationship is different than that of the other Robins is nice.5

The imagery of Gordon standing next to the Bat Signal, waiting for Batman, who is watching from another rooftop, was very powerful, but unwarranted in some way. Or more specifically, the story has not suggested that Bruce is being affected by this case more than any other case. So why is he ignoring Gordon’s Bat Signal? It was rather strange. Yes, the case has gotten personal, but the words do not match the art in this particular case.

I was very confused by the scene where The Talon attacks Bruce. Was Bruce knocked out and then woke up in the Labyrinth, or did he break through the wall and fall into the specific spot in Labyrinth?

I am curious about the Labyrinth cliff-hanger for next month. My guess is that Batman will have to get through the maze without his utility belt to survive and gain some sort of advantage of the Court of Owls. This story is an old genre-fiction staple, but I haven’t seen it used recently. Maybe it is retro enough to be cool again, and not cliché.

Verdict

Extremely well done. I think Batman is certainly the traditional superhero comic that I most look forward to reading each month. Scott Snyder is able to both combine the traditional Batman mythology with a very new story. And I certainly appreciate that he doesn’t need any tricks to draw you in (sex, violence, shocking cliffhangers, etc.). It’s just a very well done story-arc that I hope goes on for a while.

Overall Grade: 8.5 (Keep the Train Going)

Current Series Grade: A-

Footnotes

  1. Or at least the one’s I’ve read so far.
  2. “Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is!”
  3. Obviously a normal man with a strong build and naturally strong frame, but no different from any athletic man you would meet on the street.
  4. Cringing at the idea of “Young Bruce Wayne Adventures”
  5. Although, it would be nice if ONE of the books would define the relationship between Bruce and Tim, as we have no clue of their relationship in the DCnU.


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