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: 7 out of 10
Titled "Superheavy," Scott Snyder may be feeling that pressure with the latest issue of Batman. And why wouldn't he? Not only does he have the normal expectations that come with writing one of DC's flagship books, but he's got a lot of storyline to juggle, bouncing between Jim Gordon's dangerous first outings as the new Batman, Bruce Wayne's conflicted retirement as an amnesiac man of the people, a brand-new Robin in the wings, not to mention the mystery behind brand-new baddie Mister Bloom. It's a lot to take in, and it's not surprising that Batman #46 feels a little transitory as a result.
Still, you can't fault Snyder for his ambition. He packs a lot into this issue, as we return to find Mister Bloom threatening a room full of Gotham's biggest philanthropists. Snyder's Bloom reminds me a lot of Heath Ledger's Joker, with his long soliloquies and dark humor - but once Gordon actually comes onto the scene, you can see just how canny Snyder himself is. In many ways, Snyder is doing his own deconstruction of the Batman mythos similar to the way Dan Slott did with Superior Spider-Man. As Gordon struggles to take on a foe that Bruce Wayne probably could have KO'd in his sleep. Bloom says what a lot of critics might be thinking - "Because of you, 'Bat' has lost all its meaning." But like Superior Spider-Man before it, Snyder's fledgling Batman is all about examining the way the Dark Knight does business, tweaking it, and then putting a new spin on a timeless icon - in this case, showing the kinds of breakthroughs in tactics and technology when you don't have a total egotist like Bruce calling the shots.
The other fun addition here has to be the inclusion of Duke Thomas as the latest Robin to join the fold. While Snyder is guilty of tapping the new sidekick well a little too often - we saw it with Bluebird and Spoiler in Batman Eternal, and we're seeing it with Cassandra Cain in Batman and Robin Eternal - it makes sense for Duke to take his spot now, with a new Batman running around Gotham. And it doesn't hurt that he's a real charmer. In many ways, Duke reminds me of a little of Tim Drake from back in the day - while he might not be a natural athletic fighter like Dick Grayson was, Duke is fiercely intelligent, breaking into the Penguin's lair using nothing more than science factoids and a jury-rigged cable. Duke also keeps artist Greg Capullo's artwork from getting too bleak, with the bendy and menacing Mister Bloom - I love Duke's helmet, which gives him a look that's different than most of the Robins before him, and more importantly, I like the mischievous glint in his eye. (I also love the designs that Capullo gives Penguin's associates, making them look animated and dangerous, even behind a leather S&M mask.)
Of course, like I said before, this is a somewhat transitory issue of Batman, and that keeps this issue from hitting quite as hard as some of its predecessors. Snyder has to bounce from scene to scene, which makes some of the pacing feel a little choppy and difficult to really digest. Additionally, while Greg Capullo's take on Mister Bloom is eerie and unsettling - watching a deadly-looking flower open on his face is something you probably won't forget - Bloom actually winds up dominating the comic a little too much visually, making Gordon wilt a little bit in his shadow. But like I've said before, the real anchor around Batman's neck has to be the original Batman himself - while I totally get why Snyder has to set up Bruce snapping out of his domestic bliss and getting back into the cape and cowl, he's not a particularly endearing or compelling side character right now. If anything, Bruce actually comes off as self-involved and wishy-washy, even in his particularly cushy retirement, and takes even more valuable page real estate away from Jim Gordon, who needs it more than ever.
Ultimately, though, I can't dock Snyder too much, because it's obvious that he has a lot of plates he needs to be spinning with this new spin on Batman. There's a lot going on here, ranging from a new Bat-cycle to the history of the Narrows to Geri Powers' plans to put a Batbot in every major city in the DC Universe. It's a lot, and even worse, he's going to have a thankless job. Snyder's going to have purists calling for his head, not giving him the time or the leeway to show us a different angle on the Dark Knight - and honestly, given the fairly one-note characterization Bruce has had for decades, it's not bad to give Gotham a shift every once in awhile. But by not having a truly clean break from the past, Snyder slows down his own book. Granted, not every issue is going to be a home run, and expecting that is unrealistic - instead, consider this issue a seed that will bear fruit soon enough.