Publisher: DC Comics
Writer(s): Scott Snyder, Brian Azzarrello
Artist(s): Greg Capullo, Danny Miki (Inks), FCO Placencia (Colours), Jock
Release Date: 16th March, 2016
After the events of Endgame, Bruce Wayne has no memory of his life as Batman. A reluctant Jim Gotham is seen as the perfect replacement, and is approached by Geri Powers to become the new Batman, complete with an 8-foot tall, mechanised Bat-suit, a host of new gadgets including a Bat-truck (!), and a dedicated round-the-clock support unit. The city is in desperate need of help after the Joker’s latest bout of insanity, and to compound matters, a dangerous new supervillain has emerged, providing low-level criminals with genetically enhanced abilities.
I wasn’t really sure how I felt about the idea of a mechanised ‘bunny-bat’ piloted by Jim Gordon fronting the Batman title. I mean, I know many others have worn the cape and cowl to vary degrees of success, but c’mon, Jim Gordon as Batman? It’s madness, surely? What I truly didn’t expect, though, was that the bold gamble taken by this creative team in attempting such an idea would pay off so spectacularly, and take my understanding of the character and his supporting cast to yet another level.
Jim Gordon’s first mission as Batman opens with him hanging upside down from a blimp, and this simple but effective visual metaphor encapsulates the central theme of the arc. Gotham has been turned upside down in the wake of Endgame, and the event has helped usher in a new age of super-criminals, in much the same way as the city once transitioned from organised crime to more demented, freakish villains of Batman’s classic rogue’s gallery. It creates a literal and figurative shift in perspective for each of the lead characters, offering each a better understanding and appreciation of the part the other plays.
For example, Gordon’s commentary on social injustice and failure of the public at a governmental level is an interesting angle for this new Batman to explore, given that he is part of, and bound by, the system he sees as inherently broken. By contrast, Bruce now has a more hands-on role, where previously he was able to exist in a grey area between right and wrong, with more focus on halting criminal activity from a distance as opposed to solving the greater social issues. Those same issues are explored in more detail in a fantastic self-contained story illustrated by the incomparable Jock, and co-written by Snyder and Brian Azzarrello. Here the narrative takes a step back to provide more background on the burgeoning threat of Mr Bloom, and highlight the complexities of attempting societal change.
Aside from the focus on Bruce and Jim’s switcheroo, one of the story’s more profound elements concerns Alfred, who rather than mourning the loss of the city’s protector, celebrates ‘Gotham’s gift’ of a Bruce Wayne minus the psychological trauma, allowing him to finally become the man he might have been. This thread allows Snyder to explore further the father/son dynamic between the two, and it gives the story a strong emotional foundation to balance the hyperbolic nature of the main narrative.
Pulling this ambitious story together are some of the finest artists working in the industry today. Jock’s contribution is one of the book’s many highlights, the tension and foreboding atmosphere he is able to create with his scratchy, expressionist style is a perfect fit for the story he illustrates. However, the main man here is Greg Capullo, whose insatiable eye for detail, and unique compositional style combine to create some truly memorable moments. You can add a few more characters to his growing list of additions to the Bat-Lore, such as the Bat-Mech, The Devil Pigs, and of course, Mr Bloom, who is one of the creepiest, most ruthless, and surprisingly complex villains to appear in some time. The work of inker Danny Miki and colourist FCO Placencia can’t be understated either, with the former’s insanely precise work, and the latter’s unconventional neon-infused approach contributing greatly to the book’s stunning visual package.
It’ll be a sad day when this team finally call it quits on Batman, and unfortunately that day is rapidly approaching. Volume 8 is yet another memorable addition to the character’s mythology that opens a truly unique new chapter, and it’s one that no Bat-Fan should be without.
The Writer of this piece was: Martin Doyle
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