Brandon Borzelli's Geek Goggle Reviews
Snyder, Azzarello, Jock & Loughridge
The latest issue of "Batman" is a departure from the sprawling narrative that Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo are putting together. This issue is a thirty-page, one-shot, co-written by Brian Azzarello, entitled, "A Simple Case." On the surface the comic book is a very strong offering. It returns Batman to the man-on-the-street criminal investigator as he looks into a fifteen year old's death that seems to be the result of a some important criminals. The comic book could have been a great read if not for some editorial choices and some heavy-handed attempts at jamming real life's social hot-button topics into a comic book. Generally, this is an entertaining enough read that will set you back five bucks in the process.
Batman and Gordon find a boy's body just outside the city limits of Gotham. He's got four bullets in him but appears to have been killed from a fall of over a thousand feet. This sets things in motion.
Batman tracks down The Penguin because of his ties to crime and things that fly. This leads him down a path of connecting dots through multiple other parties before finding that things are not as they appear.
The comic has highs and lows. The writing is superb. Even if the ominous narrator seems to be no particular character is not your preferred style, the narrative is used with great effect. The comic draws the reader in with the mystery and with each reveal the reader is through a new assumption about the boy's death. The bait-and-switch is done to perfection several times in the comic book with the narrator's voice adding some color to the suspense. The comic book is constructed in a perfect way.
Some of the problems with the comic include the missed opportunity for Batman to become a detective again. The direction under Snyder has been to remove the detective skills and replace them with brute force. Things don't change much here. Beyond Batman determining that the Penguin is a suspect he relies on information from Gordon and a random run-in with the deceased boy's cousin to get to the bottom of the case. Batman is more than someone that is handed information or beats it out of people and that is how is portrayed in most of the Batman comics in this run. This was a missed opportunity at making Batman a detective again, if only for one issue.
The comic also tries to jam in social problems, such as racial components, economic inequality and others into the boy's history. The problem here is that the store that the kid is so desperate to protect is in the middle of a gang zone during a gang war. How much is it really worth protecting and is it really up to Bruce Wayne or a bank to somehow save the store? Maybe if the store were getting taken away via eminent domain then this would have been a worthwhile angle to play. The question I kept asking was, "why doesn't the family get out of there before they get killed?"
Without any context given to the story about the cop that seems to target black youths the entire sequence appears to simply be included to piggyback off of real life events. This is doing a disservice to real people who lose their lives and makes the storytelling appear cheap or lazy. If the creators wanted to visit this angle they should have taken the time to fully explore it and make it an entire issue and not a two-page throwaway sequence.
Jock on art is a welcome sight. His style is very different from Capullo but it definitely fits with Batman very well. The gritty line work, the harsh faces, the grim back drops all work to set a somber tone for this tale. The visuals are up to the task of telling a fantastic Batman story.
"Batman" tells a one-shot set outside of the Snyder-Capullo narrative. Snyder, Azzarello and Jock put the Dark Knight in a situation where he is investigating a murdered fifteen-year old. The comic book contains stunning visuals that make this story a memorable one. However, the book is slowed down by the lack of detective work on the part of Batman. He seems to simply ask questions or beat people while Gordon runs police tests on evidence rather than connecting his own dots and working things through on his own. The comic also tries to jam in real-life social topics to create a more tragic victim and this tactic doesn't fit the story. The comic is worth a look but there are plenty of other Batman one-shots that are better and cheaper than the five dollar price tag that this one carries.
4 out of 5 Geek Goggles