Review: Batman #37

Batman #37 moves with purely terrifying kinetic energy. With art at a higher production value than just about anything else on the market guided by writing done with a higher level of intelligence and nuance than just about anything else on the market, the latest issue of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman saga impresses more than any issue of the “Endgame” arc thus far. It creates a thrilling and claustrophobic atmosphere that makes it near impossible to look away from the page, and even more difficult not to throw money at DC Comics for the next chapter in the story. It’s amazing.

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Snyder’s writing is so grounded in horror that even his superhero stories embody terror in the same general fashion that his straight-horror creator-owned work does. Everything that happens in this issue is suspenseful music to one’s ears, all culminating into a pot that delves into deep fears of Batman, Commissioner Gordon, and other citizens of Gotham. In both “Endgame” and his past arc “Death of the Family,” Snyder and Capullo present more or less the only wholly scary version of the Joker in comic book form, save for parts of Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke.

There’s a scene towards the end of the comic that spikes the adrenaline in both Batman and Gordon, delivering sequences that cut to their cores all thanks to the cunningly evil acts of the Joker. Through brilliant page layouts, these two scenes are spliced together to turn the excitement level up from 10 all the way to 20. Batman’s trouble isn’t totally original but shocking and powerful all the same. On the other half of the coin, Gordon’s run-in with the Joker reveals something rather unsettling about his character, aided most by simple, unfocused upon facial expression in his reaction.

The art team of Capullo on pencils, Danny Miki on inking, and FCO Plascencia on coloring has produced one of the most stunning issues of Batman yet with this 37th issue. The first page is a pretty realistic and completely creepy image of Bruce, frozen by paralysis from Joker-gas, trying to think himself out of emotionally breaking. It’s followed up by pages filled with detail that gets across every bit of finesse necessary for all of the twitching fear on strong men’s faces and for all of the little hands creeping in the background. It’s a comic that creates environments that feel cramped but that are still zipped through with a fast pace. Most of the comic is dark, filled with blobs of jet-black shadow, but it’s not without its tints of blue and orange, and occasional bits of jarring color.

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Not managing to be quite perfect, some small issues are worth noting. For one thing, unfortunate timing means that this story runs parallel to the “Amazo Virus” arc in Justice League. Both storylines feature an infection damaging large groups of innocent city folk, and a desperate hunt for a “patient zero” to figure out an antidote. This takes away from the oomph of the plot some because of the lame familiarity. It’s still entertaining in its own right, though, and this won’t be an issue for those reading in a trade much further down the line when this comic is inevitably recommended by comic readers of the future for anyone looking for essential Joker stories.

Another mild disappointment that hurts the arc as a whole is the drop in quality from the main story to the backups. These backups, penned by James Tynion IV, are well-written and provide captivating backstory that feels relevant to the main story. However, the art in these backups, while always unique and interesting, are never all that great. The backup of #37 is perhaps the best looking so far, with surreal and scrappy art by John Mccrea. It’s not bad art; honestly, it’s good. Coming off of art from Capullo really does leave a certain impact that makes the “good” art hard to appreciate for what it is, though. Past backups on Batman treated readers to comic book industry greats like Jock and Raphael Albuquerque, and sadly, that’s not what’s currently on the pages of the latest arc.

Most important here is the main story, and it will surely go down in history as something special. Snyder and Capullo have such a strong grasp of the Batman character that it is hard to imagine what the next creative team is going to have to do not to look puny in comparison. Batman #37 is an amazing reminder that despite any sad cancellations and weird continuity changes from DC Comics, there is a downright excellent comic that comes out every month that goes by the simple, unfettered title of Batman.

Story: Scott Snyder Art: Greg Capullo
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.75 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy

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