As the ‘Superheavy’ story arc draws towards its conclusion Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV take an issue to deal with the heartbreaking return of Batman. The anticipation for this moment has been unbelievably high but was anyone prepared for this?
It’s unlikely that there is a single comic book fan out there who doesn’t associate Snyder and Tynion with the word ‘quality’. They are two of the finest writers in this medium that you are ever going to see. Snyder in particular has delivered consistently amazing works for years now. His current run on this title has been flawless and his work on ‘American Vampire’ and ‘Wytches’ was heralded as some of the finest comic writing of this generation. So then it should come as no surprise that the pair delivered such a brilliant gut punch with their reintroduction of The Caped Crusader.
It would have been so easy for the pair to cave to pressure early on in Jim Gordon’s run as Batman and bring back Bruce Wayne earlier than intended. Thankfully they stuck to their guns and delivered a story that fans didn’t even know they needed.
This saga stripped the character of Bruce of all the horrors and burdens of his former life, leaving him free to carve out his own path free from his mission. What came from that was a man who showed that, even without all that he had been through, he was willing to give up everything for what was right. Since the events of ‘Endgame’ he has been selflessly helping the community and finding love without breaking one bone in the process. Ultimately though, he had to pay the price of the man he once was and it was a heavy price indeed.
This issue’s success hinged largely on the dynamic between Alfred and the new Bruce Wayne. Alfred, ever the faithful friend, was faced with the most difficult decision of his life as he had to choose between the happy, normal man who stood before him and the tormented hero that Gotham needed. To choose one would be to kill the other.
That emotional resonance is not lost of the audience as Snyder and Tynion grab you by the heart early on with Alfred pleading for his master to turn back and live the life he has forged for himself, a life not weighed down by villains and misery. He knows what it means to be Batman and it is not what he wants for his closest and most loved friend.
For his part, Bruce is essentially taking a leap of faith. He doesn’t know what lies beyond that Batman shaped veil, not truly, but he does know that he is the only one who can stop Mr. Bloom and save Gotham in its hour of need. He knows doing so will mean his life, his love, will be gone but he also knows that it is a sacrifice he has to make to keep them safe.
As Bruce subjects himself to the machine that should restore his brain to its pre-reset state readers are treated to a vivid couple of pages showing all of the Batmen that might have been if the cloning program were to work. It is a strange sequence full of out there gadgets and unorthodox Batmen but it is one that fits with the scene. Bruce’s brain is being pushed near to its breaking point so it makes perfect sense for these few pages to be presented in the style of nonsensical fever dream.
The pain is shown clearly in Alfred throughout this entire comic by a combination of Snyder and Tynion’s sincere, emotional, and touching verbiage as well as Yanick Paquette’s beautifully detailed drawings. The agony etched onto the poor old man’s face is as mesmerising as it is believable.
Despite the pleas of his oldest friend, Bruce gives up everything in order to return to his past life. No man can share a mind with Batman and so the happier Bruce Wayne is pushed out, killed in order to restore Gotham’s greatest hero.
It is a truly sad ending as the emotion that once lay clear across the face of Bruce is nowhere to be found, instead replaced by the heavy eyed droop of a man worn weary by the weight of his own existence.
In the end Batman lives once more. It just took the death of Bruce Wayne to bring him back. That is the power of Snyder and Co. and it is why their run of this title will forever be remembered as one of the greatest in comic history. It is with great sorrow that readers recently learnt of their plan to leave the book after issue #51, but rather than mourn the loss of the team let’s instead enjoy the last two pieces of art that they bring us.
Score: 5 out of 5.
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