Written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV
Art by Yanick Paquette and Nathan Fairbairn
Lettering by Steve Wands
Published by DC Comics
Review by Pierce Lydon
'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10
One of the ideas that has long been at the center of Scott Snyder’s Batman has been that Batman is a eternal concept that exists beyond the grave. Snuck in DC’s relaunched anniversary of Detective Comics #27, Snyder’s introduction of a cloning machine that would essentially make the Caped Crusader immortal might be a bit more of a sci-fi bent than we’re used to seeing in this title, divorcing Bruce from the cape and cowl asked Batman’s supporting characters (and readers) to reevaluate what it means to be the World’s Greatest Detective. With Gotham on the ropes at the merciless hands of Mr. Bloom and Bruce Wayne discovering his true identity, Batman’s return seems inevitable. But Snyder and co-writer James Tynion IV don’t make it easy for him (or for guest artist Yanick Paquette, for that matter). This issue is brutally intense and reminds readers why Batman is one of the most beloved characters in history.
I’ll admit that I wasn’t onboard at first with the way that Scott Snyder brought Batman back from beyond. It seemed a little bit forced, and it felt like a frustrating departure from what Snyder and Greg Capullo were trying to achieve with the title. Making Batman a literal "Batman Eternal" lessens the effect that his legacy can have as we saw when Dick Grayson took over the cowl way back when. But here, Snyder earns Batman’s unlikeliest of returns - he maintains Bruce Wayne’s position as the human being most willing to make the ultimate sacrifice in service to the planet. Most heroes might have one life to give. But Bruce Wayne will give you all of them.
Also particularly impressive in this issue is Snyder and Tynion’s characterization of Alfred. Now, for the record, I’ve never thought that either writer was a slouch when it came to characterization, but there have been times where their plots have limited their ability to do meaningful work with a character. (Their reintroduction of Mister Freeze comes to mind.) But in this issue, we get a scene that calls back to Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, with Alfred pleading with Bruce to not become Batman once more. And I think that it works a lot better here.
The comic books have the full weight of what’s come before them in a different way from the films, and Alfred has stood by Bruce through the death of his parents, the death and rebirth of his son, the death and rebirth and death and rebirth of his nemesis, and more. Alfred has seen the full effect that being Batman has had on Bruce, and you can’t help but feel something when Alfred clings to a Bruce Wayne that doesn’t bear the brunt of humanity’s existence and survival on his shoulders. When you take away his immense wealth and ninja training, Batman, on some level, is a stand-in for all humans in the DCU, and for this shadow of Bruce Wayne to recognize that the world needs Batman more than it needs him is him recognizing that the sometimes the most heroic thing you can do is sacrifice happiness for a chance to bring it to others.
Artist Yanick Paquette turns in a great issue here, further tugging at our heartstrings with images that show how Bruce Wayne and Batman can coexist, that Bruce can be a husband and father and still make the world a better place. Paquette has always been a master of creating mood with his work and it’s easy to see why he was tapped for this issue. The desperation in the script is palpable and present on Alfred’s face. The determination of Bruce to make this sacrifice is evident. The heartbreak of Julie Madison realizing that she doesn’t get to have the life she dreamed she would is intrinsic, and it’s all possible because of Paquette’s expressiveness and the strength of his linework.
This is an issue without supervillains and generally without spandex costumes. No one fights crime. No one leaps tall buildings. No one gets socked in the jaw. There’s no Batmobile. This Batman stripped down stripped down to one question - can Bruce Wayne lose himself so that Batman can save many? Paquette understands the gravity of these moments and delivers them resolutely. It’s his method that allows a slightly off-kilter concept like a cloning and memory reintegration machine sell so easily.
And I’d be remiss not to mention Nathan Fairbairn's coloring which gets darker and darker and Bruce resolves to become vengeance, to become the (k)night. With a single panel, the characters know and we know, the Batman is back and it chills to the bone.
My second favorite part of any hero story is the moment when the hero suits up for the first time. That montage is great, because as an audience it’s the moment you’ve been waiting for. The hero is answering the call and they’re going to save the day! But it pales in comparison to another.
My favorite part of any hero story is when the hero has to double down on their resolution to become a hero, because they realize that it’s a lot harder than they thought. This is that moment for Batman. This is that moment in Scott Snyder’s run. This is a creative team saying, “we’ve put this guy through hell, but even happiness itself can’t stop him.” And that’s why people love Batman. Because against all odds, this guy, millionaire or not, ninja or not, gets up and decides to be a hero. And I think that’s how most people want to view themselves. Snyder’s Batman is a reflection of our innermost desires and our purest intentions. If you’ve ever tied a towel around your neck and snuck around in the shadows ready to leap to action at the first sign of injustice, this one is for you. Bruce Wayne is dead. Long live Batman.