Every other comic-book site is busy struggling with Arkham City right now. It's a massive game, which will probably take them at least a week to complete. So, while the staff of Comics Alliance and Newsarama get to grips with punching sharks in the face and gagging Harley Quinn, let's sneak in a quick look at Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's Batman, issue #2!
Which, you may have already noted through your expert 'eyes', we thought was great. Here are the reasons why:
Many writers make it clear that Batman hates being Bruce Wayne. The constant socialising, glad-handing, drinking and women are just the front to hide his activities as the Dark Knight. But then they forget to make it clear just how much he revels wearing the cape and stopping some crime. Not so Snyder. The first action sequence of issue #2 shows Batman chasing some villains in a helicopter, on a train-track, using his Bat-Bike. When a train appears and come hurtling towards Batman, he simply smiles, jumps the bike onto the train, races along the roof, and jumps through the front window of the helicopter.
It's like Snyder kept finding ways to one-up himself, and decided to see how many of them he could fit into one issue. Batman is fighting a helicopter! He pulls people out the window! He races a train! He uses the train to get to the helicopter! He smashes his bike through the helicopter! It's such a great scene, and the reason it works is because Batman is having such a great time. As readers, we know how far he will go to catch these criminals, and the joy is in watching the criminals realise they've underestimated him. It calls to mind the scene in Batman & Robin #1 by Grant Morrison, in which the duo chase down a frog-man and simultaneously punch him. After years of super-prepared villains who have a plan nailed down, it's nice to see Batman get to chase down and terrify some useless goons.
2: The Supporting Cast
From reading issue #1, you'd think that Batman's supporting cast would be all the various Robins, and Alfred. Issue #2 switches that round a bit, and shows why this book is the flagship of the Batman line. Out go the two Robins who are inessential to the plot - Damian and Tim - and Nightwing is brought in as an equal partner to Batman. The first issue left with a cliffhanger which is quickly resolved, but the important thing is how Snyder establishes Dick Grayson as a vital source of support for Bruce Wayne. In only two pages, we get to see Batman's trust in his friend an long-time ally, and move the plot along. While Nightwing has his own title, his appearance here gives the Batman book a feel of grandiosity - if he wants to, Snyder would be able to claim any character from any of the other books and have them appear here.
We also get to see Lincoln March's role expanded, as well as a sequence which shows the reliability of Jim Gordon. Without a title of his own, Gordon settles into the background of this series (and Batwoman) rather easily, which is a relief. He'll probably come into his own as the series continues, but for the moment he doesn't overshadow Batman. His main purpose is to deliver some exposition, keep the ominous, dark tone of the book running, and set things up for Nightwing's arrival - which breaks the ominous, dark tone. These little moments of levity are probably going to prove massively important as the months roll on and Gotham City crushes Batman's faith and trust in himself. The characters are serving the plot in little ways, but staying true to their nature.
The Christopher Nolan films show Gotham as a dank, alleyway-drip of a place. The previous films showed it as an overwrought tribute to neon Gothic architecture. Capullo and Snyder mix the two, which helps build the city into a convincing, realistic sort of place while being completely ludicrous. Again, that's a smart way of tying Gotham to Batman himself, who is both realistic and ludicrous at the same time. The fight scenes here have a sense of place, as Snyder roots them to certain locations. Wayne Tower is a perfect symbol for the city as a whole - it has a gothic style, while being modern and hi-tech in design. It represents the way Batman towers above the city, his reputation staked on his knowledge of all there is. So, of course, Snyder kicks him out the window.
Capullo's eye for composition in the free-falling sequence is staggering. He hides Bruce's plan until the last minute, meaning that the readers are as unaware as the assassin sent to kill him. His knowledge that there is a thirteen gargoyle on the tower is what saves him, and that gives him some more self-belief as a hero. But while we've seen that his faith in Nightwing, or Gordon, is well-placed; Synder makes sure to point out that his faith in the city is wrong. He's being set up, and the tower which looms over the rest of the city is actually a tribute to Batman's ego. He believes he sees over everything, when really there is something much deeper going on. Giving us a look at the skyline of Gotham shows us the actual size of the city - which is nice, after years of a never-ending skyscraper-land where new buildings pop up whenever the writer wants a new location for his stories - but also gives us a beautiful framework for the rest of the story.
We first see Wayne Tower during daybreak, as the sun rises on the city. By the time we're done, night settle over the tower and the court of owls begin their work.
An exceptional issue.