Batman #19: Bruce Wayne Off The Rails

Batman #19

 

It’s so nice when we get a chance to breathe. Since before the New 52, the life of Batman, though split between Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne, has been one hectic battle after another. Grayson battled James Gordon Jr., serial killer extraordinaire, then Bruce took on the Court of Owls and, of course, the Joker. Writer Scott Snyder has penned some of the best Batman stories ever. Soon he will reveal his latest opus, Batman Zero Year. For now though, we get a little breather from the chaos.

This is not to say Batman #19 is Bruce on vacation – just that the story is a smaller mystery, something a little less epic. Snyder does what he does best, he hooks us from the get go. Batman #19 opens with Bruce Wayne robbing a bank and shooting Commissioner Gordon. Right then and there, we know the mystery has begun. Who is this really? Why Bruce Wayne, and why the nod that this criminal might know Wayne’s secret? As soon as we’re hooked, Snyder begins to unravel the mystery.

I have to stop right here to give a nod to Snyder on the whole Damian thing. Grant Morrison once again proved how much he sucks when it comes to writing Batman by killing off Damian Wayne in an obvious glory move. Killing Damian did nothing to enhance the Batman mythos, it just allowed Morrison to continue believing he’s “edgy.” All the other Bat-mags have gone way, way over the top on Batman’s psychological breakdown (check the latest issue of Batman & Robin if you don’t believe me). Snyder approaches it differently and, in the mind of somebody who has been reading Batman since the age of seven, perfectly. It’s a simple scene between the Dark Knight and Alfred. Eloquent, concise and wonderful.

From there, Batman #19 spirals into a dark story involving apparent suicide, murder and the return of Clayface. Does the master of mimicry have something to do with the opening scene? Pretty safe bet there. Snyder keeps the story moving at a brisk pace. You can sense he’s having as much fun writing this as we are reading it. Everybody loves a sublime and layered story arc, but a good old-fashioned Batman adventure is always welcome.

Greg Capullo’s art is first rate as always. His Reaper in this issue is classic, and though he eases back of the noir elements the Joker story called for, Capullo has replaced it with a brightness and speed to what he’s doing. Capullo matches the pace of his art with Snyder’s story. As with every issue, Capullo uses the whole page. His panel placement, scale, backgrounds and foreground action all blend to capture the best aspects of the story.

Danny Miki’s inks are a nice touch, and really subtle. With Capullo’s work, heavy inks could really tip the balance of the scene. Miki understands how Capullo pencils and inks accordingly. They firm up the work, give it weight, but never overshadow it. FCO Plascencia’s colors are also well executed, especially Clayface and the battle with the Reaper.

Batman #19 may not be an epic story arc, but it process Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo can tell any Batman story, in any style, and make it sing.

8

(4 Story, 4 Art)