***WARNING: Spoilers ahead for the latest issue of Batman.***
By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder
The intensity is cranking up again in Batman, as we head toward Bruce Wayne’s inevitable return to the cape and cowl. And now that Bruce and The Joker have been reunited (the amnesiac versions, mind you), it’s time to start asking the tough questions.
With no memories of his time as Batman, and only secondhand knowledge of his former life, an amnesiac Bruce Wayne must decide whether to bear the burden of a hero, or keep his current life. Of all people, he runs into The Joker on a park bench. Like Bruce, Joker seems to have no memory of who he was. But perhaps there’s no one more appropriate to be with Bruce as he contemplates his fate. Meanwhile, Mr. Bloom is on the rampage in Gotham City and the current Batman, Jim Gordon, is at his mercy. The fate of the entire city hangs in the balance as Bruce makes his choice.
When we started this “Superheavy” story, and we found out what had happened to Bruce, part of our path became clear. The iconic hero has a chance to start over and live something of a normal life, but he chooses the way of the hero all over again. It’s a classic tale. It’s just a question of how Snyder and Capullo would choose to tell it. I can’t say I’ve loved their entire run, but what we get in this issue is pretty damn satisfying.
In this park bench sequence, it’s left ambiguous just how much The Joker remembers about his former self. At a few different points it seems like the Harlequin of Hell is revealing himself to Bruce, but it’s simply a misunderstanding. As a reader this is frustrating, especially when a gun is brought into the scene. But there’s also a dark humor in it that I can appreciate. It’s very Joker-ish in that sense.
Snyder gives us a role reversal, as Bruce ponders what the point of this new life was if he’s simply going to go back. He nearly says aloud that this is almost like a big joke. Then The Joker, of all characters, floats the idea that perhaps existing in the here and now is enough, and that change is okay.
This is almost an upside down version of The Killing Joke. I particularly enjoyed Bruce briefly considering The Joker’s usual mindset, that life is essentially a worthless joke, before making his decision. On the flip side, The Joker considers the idea that meaning can be found in everyday existence. To Snyder’s credit, he gives us a scene that can only happen in this story. The ambiguous nature of just how much The Joker knows also leaves us wondering if, when The Joker returns, he’ll know Bruce’s identity. Snyder and Capullo are starting to reassemble what they took apart in Death of the Family and Endgame. Bruce also has a hell of a line to close the issue.
But oddly enough, this isn’t the highlight of the issue. Mr. Bloom, a villain that I had considered a lame duck before, steals the show by growing giant-sized and monologuing.
As he speaks to Gotham at large and tries to lure them to his cause, what’s truly scary is how much modern truth is injected into his insane rant. Bloom is making a bunch of metaphors about Gotham being a big garden when he says…
“In a garden, the gardeners pretend to take care of you. Look how pretty they make your lives. The police shoot you unarmed. Then shoot you again. And again. Your politicians. They take your money, and let you wither. Business poisons you. They say you can do well here, but you’re poor as hell. Aren’t you?”
Moments later, he urges Gotham to rise up against a corrupt system. There’s a chilling reality in those sentences. Obviously it’s coming from an insane character with a garden fetish. But that doesn’t make it any less impactful.
While I’ve had my issues with some of Scott Snyder’s writing choices on Batman, I’ve had very few complaints with Greg Capullo’s art. That trend continues here. In the Bruce/Joker scenes, The Joker looks perhaps as normal as we’ve ever seen him. But that madman is clearly lingering under the surface. Thus, the question of whether that madman is in control becomes even more pressing. Also, look closely at the cover. There’s a lone tear sliding down Batman’s mask. That’s a truly awesome touch.
This issue was a big win, no doubt about it But these next two issues of Batman, which will wrap up this story, have the potential to be among the best Snyder and Capullo have done. The stakes are high. There’s little doubt Batman can rise to the occasion. Let’s just hope this story can do the same.
Images from comicbookmovie.com.
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