Batman, Vol. 9: Bloom

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Includes spoilers for Batman: Endgame and minor spoilers for Superheavy, Part 1.

Superheavy part 2 concludes the controversial story arc of Snyder and Capullo’s run wherein Jim Gordon takes up the mantle of Batman, all city-sanctioned. I honestly never thought I wanted to see Commissioner Gordon as Batman, but the way Snyder and Capullo told the story was fantastic, with an epic finale fitting of a run so grand.

Because Jim Gordon is very involved with the justice system, this creates an incredibly interesting dichotomy to the classic Batman, who has mostly always worked outside the law, though with a relationship with it (specifically, Gordon himself). Now, with Gordon as Batman, he must have a relationship with himself, persay, as a law man. This requires him to constantly question who and what Batman is and should be, giving him an entirely different perspective on the symbol.

Which, on the subject of Gordon becoming Batman, the “Superheavy” arc compliments Snyder and Capullo’s previous runs so well. Because of the world they have created, Gordon is the logical choice for taking over (as Dick Grayson, for example, was never a huge part of this series—plus, of course, the want to do something different), and while I was a tiny bit skeptical at first, I knew trusting in Snyder/Capullo would never be a bad choice. “Endgame”, particularly the last issue, delivered for me one of the most moving, most amazing moments in comic history. Those two characters dying in such a fantastically brutal way, made such an impact that going anywhere would have been difficult, especially choosing someone like Gordon taking over. I think they handled it very smartly by almost immediately showing Bruce alive—after all, no one (for the most part) stays dead for long in comics, so why build up a mystery that would only disappoint in the end if it was built up so much only to lead to what everyone expected? And, while a side story to the main action of Gordon as Batman, Bruce’s storyline is interesting and never drags down the main story.

And the main story itself is fantastic. As I said, Gordon as Batman really is fascinating to watch, and while he does a good enough job for a while, with a villain like Mr. Bloom Snyder and Capullo show that no one besides Bruce can stay Batman for long.

Snyder has always delivered amazing villains, but I’ve particularly loved his new, original creations, such as the Court of Owls and this villain, Mr. Bloom. In short, Mr. Bloom is amazingly horrifying, in many ways thanks to Capullo’s art. Bloom himself really does become like a weed in Gotham that cannot be exterminated, his whole body like murderous roots refusing to relent their grips and torments on the “garden” of Gotham City.

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Which, I really have to pause to just praise the art. I’ve said it before, but Greg Capullo is honestly perfect for Batman, especially with Snyder. With this universe he and Snyder have created, he simply cannot be replaced. This is proven in issue #49 where Yanick Paquette takes over the art duty. Now don’t get me wrong, Paquette is an amazing, amazing artist (and also works extremely well with Snyder, as seen with their run on Swamp Thing), and he does a fantastic job with the issue. It’s beautifully drawn and a pleasure to look at.

That said, it’s also jarring and takes you out of the book, at least in my opinion (and again, at no fault of Paquette). It simply removes the reader from the world of Snyder and Capullo’s Batman, which is equally theirs together, and only works with other creators for side stories (such as the back-up stories in previous arcs, and issue #44 that I’ll mention later). I realize this was somewhat necessary, but I’d rather have waited another month or two so that Capullo would be able to do it, especially since it’s the penultimate episode of the storyline. Because of the way it does slightly take you out of the story (at least, just at first), this really is the only negative I have with the whole arc, which says a lot because this is only a negative in terms of preference and my want of Snyder and Capullo to be mostly alone for their issues, especially for the final arc these two masters have created.

That said, on the other hand you have issue #44, as I mentioned, where the change in artist did work in my opinion when Jock took over. Not because Jock is a better artist than Paquette (they’re both so amazing but also so incomparable because of how they differ [though I will admit that personally speaking, I do prefer Jock’s art, but that’s not the reason for my argument here]), but because of what the issue was: a flashback, not a chronological part of the story. This worked perfectly because the change of art cemented the idea of a different Gotham City, which in turn worked perfectly with the story at hand.

But, back to Capullo, he’s fantastic at everything he does with Batman, especially the more horror-esque moments. Mr. Bloom is terrifying, and while some credit of course must be given to Snyder, he would not work nearly as well without Capullo, which is really what makes comics so great—I said this in the review of their Absolute Court of Owls: this is what comics can and should be. The writer and artist are supposed to be able to work so well together that one without the other wouldn’t work as well, and together they simply enhance each other. That describes Snyder and Capullo perfectly.

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What’s particularly incredible to me is that it seems as if Capullo can do anything. Just thinking back on everything he’s drawn through their entire run on Batman, it’s insane to me realizing that whatever Snyder asks, Capullo can deliver. Especially with the villains.

Whether it was with the Court of Owls, the Joker, or with Mr. Bloom in this volume, Capullo has always gone above and beyond with his truly terrifying villains, while at the same time he does a perfect job with lighter moments, and creating trustworthy-looking characters.

One example that includes a slight spoiler: When we see Bruce talking to (we assume) the Joker in the park, it may be some of the most fantastic work that Capullo has ever done, specifically because of the subtlety: the Joker looks completely harmless and honest, yet there is just a tiny hint of a smile—of something more—that clues the reader in to his true identity (and of course, the facial structure that we’ve come to know through Death of the Family, Endgame, etc.). Which, on this note, all the moments with the Joker were fantastic, as Snyder and Capullo just hinted at things without ever actually fully revealing anything, which just really lent itself nicely to the comic as a whole and to the tone they set with Endgame, and never slowed down the main story.

batman-41-preview-1Continuing with the art, the colors as always were fantastic. FCO Plascencia is without a doubt my favorite colorist, and this comic is why. So often there’s incredibly bright, beautiful colors (bright purples and pinks, for example) that would seem to be very out of place in a Batman story—especially one as dark as Snyder and Capullo make—yet somehow, it fits perfectly and is never jarring in the slightest. Yes, Snyder and Capullo’s work is amazing, but it’s accented so fantastically by Plascencia’s colors that he, too, is a crucial cog in the creative machine, and without his colors, the series would simply not be as good.

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All in all, this is a perfect arc for Snyder, Capullo, & Co. to end on, if their run really had to end. Endgame would have felt too heavy-handed, as if they were trying to really create an “endgame” for their run. Instead, having another arc after Endgame allows them to partially resolve those events while still leaving enough mystery so that the reader is wholly satisfied. What’s fascinating to me is that this might actually be my least favorite arc of theirs, but that’s only because every single issue was so, so amazing. This arc particularly really is nearly perfect, and I think as an ending arc, is the perfect arc to end on, especially while still having one last final issue (#51) for the team to really say goodbye to the fans outside of any story arc constraints. Every loose end is wrapped up just enough to be perfectly satisfying, whereas ending with Endgame wouldn’t have allowed that.

Throughout their run on Batman, and especially in their final arc, Snyder, Capullo, & Co. really show just how superheavy the mantle of Batman is and can be, and how important Batman really is.

I can’t wait to see what they do next together, and I hope DC puts out Absolute editions for the rest of their run besides just Court of Owls, as every arc really deserves it.

Without a doubt, this is one of the comics I can’t recommend enough.

 

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