Spoilers ahead for today's Batman #43.
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Greg Capullo, Danny Miki and Fco Plascencia
Lettering by Steve Wands
Published by DC Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
It's a brand new day in Gotham City - but what does that mean for the Dark Knight who seemingly gave his life to defend it? Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo finally begin to give some answers in Batman #43, and while some of the pacing can feel a little bumpy, the sheer chutzpah this team is bringing makes this book worth the buy.
Ever since the explosive finale of "Endgame" and the promotion of Jim Gordon as a new, GCPD-sponsored Batman, one question has lingered - whatever happened to Bruce Wayne? Scott Snyder begins the issue with a meeting of the minds, as Bruce finally comes face-to-face with his successor. Admittedly, some of the story logic gymnastics feel a little silly - after all they've been through, having Jim Gordon approaching Bruce for advice without knowing his secret identity pulls the suspension of disbelief just past the breaking point - but if you stick through it, you'll see that Snyder is taking some major risks with his story.
As readers will discover, the Batman really did die that night, falling down into the darkness with his immortal foe, the Joker. And yet, Bruce Wayne still lives. Without giving too much away, Snyder actually takes a particularly ingenious angle with some overlooked plot threads from "Endgame" (and even Detective Comics #27), making Bruce's retirement from the cape and cowl feel organic and true - and it makes Bruce's inevitable return seem that much more challenging. What happens to a Batman who has lost the will to become more than just a man? It brings us back to what was a tremendous strength in Snyder and Capullo's "Court of Owls" arc - namely, while Batman might be the most ferocious thing on the block, he's far from infallible or unbeatable, which makes us question exactly how he'll come back. Snyder has created the latest and greatest trap for the original Dark Knight Detective - or a path to his greatest reinvention yet.
Yet what about Jim Gordon, the new man behind the cowl? This is where artist Greg Capullo comes in, as Snyder lets him flex his muscles with a tense shootout featuring the new Dark Knight. Capullo is bringing an interesting new iconography to Batman - particularly when this traditionally gun-averse character pulls out a Batarang pistol. But you can also notice the change with some of the small details - Jim, for example, is a thinner, more wiry fighter than Bruce, and it's definitely a sight when you see Batman with a cigarette in his mouth. (Not to mention Capullo's creepy take on Mr. Bloom, a literally twisted character that evokes his early days drawing the Violator's distended limbs on Spawn.) Colorist Fco Plascencia especially kills on the Jim Gordon scenes, using some wonderful contrasts with rust reds and bright blues, not to mention a black and green motif that works well for this tech-wearing Batman.
Like I said earlier, this isn't a perfect book by any means - Snyder's structure feels a little episodic here, which means that instead of getting one strong story, we're getting four short ones of varying quality. (And unfortunately, the Jim-Bruce scene feels a little heavy with the dialogue, while the final scenes with Mr. Bloom just feels a little overdone with the carnage.) Additionally, some of the talkier scenes don't quite give Capullo enough to do - granted, the team more than makes up for it in the second half of the book, but that makes for a slightly slow first half.
But even if takes a little while to warm up, the thought behind Batman #43 is more than sufficient here. It's clear that Snyder has put some thought into the passing of the baton from Bruce to Jim - and perhaps back from Jim to Bruce again. This transition could have been particularly bumpy, but Snyder has given us a suitable reason for Bruce to be absent, and has taken solid steps towards giving Jim Gordon a solid rogues gallery of his own. It's a brand-new Gotham City, and let it never be said that Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo haven't taken great steps to earn it.