Ding dong, the bird is dead. To be a little more clear, Robin is dead, and this issue marks the new status quo for Batman. Sure he’s still grieving, but this’ll be the first taste of a Batman that’s a little more on his own. Scott Snyder continues to write, but Greg Capullo is off. New art and a different direction for the story forces us to ask, is it good?
Batman (2011-) #18 (DC Comics)
Not since Batman #12 have we been outside the usual narrative. In that issue Snyder reintroduced Harper Row to get a new perspective outside of Batman. I reviewed it way back in August and it was a nice departure from the Court of Owls storyline. The super short summary goes like this: she’s good with tech, wears a nose ring and has a gay brother named Cullen.
This issue opens with Harper and Cullen visiting their father in the largest maximum security prison in the western hemisphere. Basically it’s where the criminals go who aren’t crazy enough for Arkham. Harper is tracking Batman and she somehow notices something is off with him. She doesn’t know it’s due to Damian dying, but since then she has observed he’s become brutal and relentless when fighting crime.
Daddy issues. Ugh.
This brutal Batman reminds me of The Dark Knight Returns Batman.
It’s important to note Harper and Cullen hold Batman dear. This is because he saved their lives and they idolize what he does for Gotham. That said, Harper’s ability to figure out Batman’s psychosis simply by observing him is a bit much. If you allow this detail to go you’ll be able to enjoy the budding relationship between Bats and Harper.
I can’t stop laughing at that silly hammer.
Obviously Batman is in a dark place now that Damian is gone, but to express this dark place by telling rather than showing kills this issue’s strength. There are a couple messages in this issue, some dealing with Harper’s role in the Batman family, but also how Batman draws strength from the city of Gotham itself. Sadly these messages fall flat when you’ve got a narrator telling you how Batman feels, characters conversing about their feelings and a sullen Bruce Wayne sulking it up. Comics are a visual medium and you need to show, not tell. The heavy dialogue drags down an issue with some strong character points.
Detective skills with five days of no sleep.
Similar to Batman #12, Snyder doesn’t do enough to show us Harper Row as the strong and able heroic Gotham citizen but instead sticks to a heavy-handed internal monologue. So far she’s a strong willed and potentially important new character in the Batman family, but when her story is told by her internal monologue it leaves a lot to be desired; it reads like her diary. It comes off a little cheap and a little melodramatic.
The issue is also a little fuzzy on how Harper’s new message technology works. With the help of Wayne Corp there’s some kind of message system Harper can use to signal Batman which involves lighting rooms in skyscrapers to spell out messages. Essentially Harper gets a Bat signal of her own…only it allows her to throw it on any building. Let’s forget that’s invading citizens’ lives by controlling their lights, it’s also a little weird you need to spell out one word over a 200 story building. If this message system sticks around I’d love to get a little more explanation.
Suckerpunch the chick who just saved you. Smooth Batman…real smooth.
Art is by Andy Kubert for the first 20 pages and wrapped up by Alex Maleev for the last eight. Kubert does a good job with the action when it happens, giving the book the traditional superhero comic feel. Maleev’s work does a good job creating atmosphere for the final conversation between Harper and Batman. Considering it’s all jibber-jabber his style helps sell this emotional moment for the characters.
There’s no crying in crime fighting!
- Great art used strategically by two artists
- Harper is a strong character to look out for
- Show, don’t tell!
- Bogged down by the dialogue
When was the last time a new character was introduced that stuck around in a Batman comic? I suppose you could say Damian (rest his soul). Harper Row is a strong character that allows us to see what it’s like on the street level of Gotham. Too often Batman sticks to his rogues, these super villains that are larger than life, and Harper allows writers to get back to the street crime and detective stories Batman thrives in. That said, the promise of this character isn’t enough to propel this issue into a must-buy area. In a visual medium the story is strongest when it balances narrative and action. Characters standing around with word bubbles taking up real estate is not ideal. It also weakens the story when we’re being told how Batman feels by a third party character who doesn’t know squat.
Is It Good?
Decent issue but I wasn’t happy with the lack of visual storytelling.