Best Shots Review: BATMAN #50

"Batman #50" preview
Credit: Greg Capullo (DC Comics)
Credit: DC Comics

Batman #50
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Greg Capullo, Danny Miki, Fco Plascencia, Yanick Paquette and Nathan Fairbairn
Lettering by Steve Wands
Published by DC Comics
Review by Justin Partridge
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

"Superheavy" was never a story about Bruce Wayne. Though a good deal of its page count was about showing Bruce in a shell of domesticity and then later shattering that comfort in order to get him back into the cowl, the real leading man was Jim Gordon. Batman #50 finally brings Gordon’s time as the Batman reaching full circle, and allows him to receive the hero’s send off that he deserves. Writer Scott Snyder, along with his substantially talented art team which, this month, includes his former Swamp Thing cohorts Yanick Paquette and Nathan Fairbairn, goes very big for Bruce’s first day back in the cowl, but never once does he allow his real lead to get lost in the shuffle. Though this issue’s main hook is finally seeing original-recipe Batman back in the streets, mixing it up with super-criminals, Batman #50 is the tribute Gotham’s top cop deserves.

Picking up from Batman #49’s dire cliffhanger, this mammoth fiftieth issue delivers the goods, but just not in a way that readers will be expecting. Though most of the issue’s opening pages are devoted to Bruce, now stronger and faster than ever thanks to the healing effects of the wonder drug Dionesium, dealing out brutal justice to Bloom’s followers in a two-page splash comprised of widescreen panels, it’s obvious to see that Batman is still the co-star of Gordon’s story. Frankly, this was the best possible outcome for this penultimate issue. Though everyone was excited for Bruce’s return, if Gordon was just shuffled aside for wall-to-wall Bat-butt-kickings, I would have felt cheated at best and at worst short-changed. "Superheavy," for good or ill, was a paradigm shift for Batman as a title, and I am happy to report that this final part brings the story home with a crazy big and satisfying conclusion.

As for the story itself, Scott Snyder throws a lot at the audience and thankfully, most of it lands pretty well. After the neat bit of house-cleaning for the incoming creative team with the Dionesium, Snyder wastes no time getting both Batmen into the thick of things in order to end Bloom’s reign of terror once and for all. While the team-up aspects of the story are fun as hell, it is still refreshing to see Jim Gordon, for the most part, taking point in this issue. Batman, once again, functions as an avenging angel, distracting a building-sized Bloom with a kaiju-inspired Bat-Mech while Gordon races to deliver a decisive blow to the mad villain. After years of seeing the two work together as separate yet integral components of the Gotham justice system, seeing them actually team up effectively in the field is a real pleasure to watch.

The only thing that doesn’t really work for Batman #50 is the clunky inclusion of Duke, Gotham’s newest Robin, and our audience surrogate for We Are Robin. It seems that he and his “brother” Daryl are way more closely entwined with Bloom’s origins than we could have realized, and it comes across as a little too convenient. That said, seeing Batman clad in his new retro-inspired costume saving Duke from certain death is a damn stirring moment, and one that punctuates Batman #50 very well.

Speaking of punctuation, Greg Capullo, Danny Miki and Fco Plascencia deliver plenty of them throughout Batman #50 and each one of them looks drop dead gorgeous. Though they peak a little early with Batman’s splash-page scuffle with Bloom’s henchmen, Capullo, Miki and Plascencia still give it their all with the city-shaking battle between machine and monster, really selling the chaos and destruction of Bloom and Batman’s titanic struggle. The art team even allow themselves a hefty dose of trippy visuals in the issue’s denouement; a clever tip of the hat to the out-there stories that came before it. While I am hard-pressed to find a complaint with the regular art team, I am, however, disappointed in Yanick Paquette and Nathan Fairbairn’s contribution to the issue. This isn’t to say that their offering is bad - quite the opposite. Paquette’s smooth and intricate pages along with Fairbairn’s plaintive colors are always a welcome site, no matter the book. I more so have an issue with how little they have to do. After the the frenetic action from the regular art team, the devoid of action and dialogue-heavy epilogue is almost jarring to a reader. That said however Batman #50 still looks fantastic and keeps the series at the consistent visual level that we’ve all come to expect.

Though the understudy has had his time and the real star of the show has once again graced the stage, Batman #50 is one hell of curtain call for Jim Gordon. While the exploits of Bruce Wayne are mainly wish fulfillment, Scott Snyder, in putting Gordon in the suit even for a little while, gave us a Batman that could be us and in doing so, reminded us why Batman matters. Gordon himself even comes to realization as he faces down the horror of Bloom; “He’s the superhero who sees in us the heroes that we can be.” Superheavy may be remembered for its fantastic artwork or its terrifying new villain, but for me, it will always be the story that showed that anyone could be Batman, and that is worth its weight in Batmantium.

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