In the penultimate Batman tale to be penned by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, Bruce Wayne is back in action as The Bat. It’d been a long time coming but this, the conclusion of the ‘Superheavy’ arc, was undoubtedly the right place to restore Batman to his factory settings as it were. Not least because the next creative team is going to need that blank slate to work with when Rebirth hits the shelves.
It was at the conclusion of ‘Endgame’ where fans last saw Wayne don to the cape and cowl. Ever since then the mantle has been taken up by Jim Gordon, in one of the most unlikely plotlines in Batman history. Despite the brave and somewhat questionable route Snyder took the series in, he once again knocked out of the park as he delivered yet another definitive Batman story. Over the course of Superheavy it wasn’t just Gotham and Gordon who underwent massive changes thanks to the relentless menace of Mr. Bloom, it was also Bruce himself.
Issue #50 brought back Batman in iconic fashion and highlighted those changes perfectly. From the moment he is first seen, standing atop the Bat signal and bathed in its light, it is clear that this is a rejuvenated Caped Crusader who is no longer as shadowy a figure as he once was. His costume can attest to that as it now features lighter elements that seem to portray this personality shift, this hope that now surrounds the character after his prolonged absence. It is that sense of new found hope and faith that infiltrates every page of this comic.
The story here is not just that Batman is the one true hero in Gotham, it has never truly been about that, but is rather about the strength that he gives the people of Gotham to rise up against their oppressors and fight back. Snyder reaffirms Bats as a symbol of the people’s strength and makes it abundantly clear that without them he cannot win the day. In doing this he does more than just reset the status quo before departing from the book, he leaves the next team with a multi-faceted take on the legendary character and plenty of avenues to explore that may not have been apparent previously.
Other areas of the comic are very much an effort at resetting all of the changes, however. Jim Gordon is once again the Police Commissioner; a role he is much better suited to. The villain has been vanquished at long last, leaving the way for a new big bad to burst onto the scene in the Rebirth issue. Also the relationships that were developed during this ten issue arc seem to have been cast aside largely as Bruce no longer remembers his brief life as a civilian and other characters are returning to their previously established roles. All things considered, there is a decidedly ‘Zero Year’ feel to this finale as it provides the fertile soil needed to cultivate entirely new stories, free from previously established constraints.
It’s not just Snyder who is setting up to bow out as Greg Capullo will be leaving alongside him in the next issue. It stands to reason then that his art was just as incredible as the writing. He has always given a sense of enormity to his visuals and that was no different in this issue as Bloom towers over the city in menacing fashion, and a portal of sorts threatens to swallow Gotham whole. The entirety of his work lends gravity to the story being told and the sense of danger is high as Superheavy draws to a close.
The colours provided by Plascencia and Fairbairn are also exquisite as they convey tone perfectly in each panel. Darkness is used appropriately in a way that keeps the core tenants of Batman alive but so is light as it signals a new horizon fast approaching. The theme of change and completion are both told wonderfully both in story and in art and the colours play a large role in that.
This five year run by Snyder and Capullo has been the best in Batman history. Never has such a long spell on a book been so consistently amazing. Be it in the innovative ‘Court of Owls’ or any of the other arcs previously mentioned, they have delivered a story that will live on in the hearts and minds of fans for generations to come. With one more issue left in their run there is sense of sadness amongst fans but the enjoyment factor attached to these books is in no way lessened by it. They have set the standard for all Batman books and Rebirth will have to deliver big to live up to it.
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