Mr H. and Alex Discuss: Superheavy

Batman_Vol_2_41What started as Mr H and Alex talking about their Batman #49 minireviews quickly evolved into a full blown discussion about Scott Snyder‘s entire run on Batman from the outset of the New 52 all the way through to the fiftieth issue. Originally conceived as a single post, they quickly realized something: Mr H and Alex have a lot to say about this run, so they’ll be tackling it an arc at a time.

Well it’s the same Bat-time on the same Bat-channel, so Mr. H and Alex are back at it again. This time they’re talking about Superheavy, a nine issue story arc that ran from issue #41 to the (as of this discussion) yet to be published issue #50.

There will be spoilers so if you haven’t read this story yet and you want to avoid spoilers, we’d advise you stop here.


Mr. H: Welcome back Gothamites! So we are fixing to talk about the final arc from the Dynamic Duo of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

First thing I have to touch upon is the name. “Superheavy” it just doesn’t pop. It’s probably a metaphor for the weight of the world being on the new Batman‘s shoulder or it could relate to his suit. Either way it’s just underwhelming. For an arc that is this important, it needs to have more panache.

The good news? It starts out absolutely epically epic! The new Batman turns out to be none other than long time Batman ally: James Gordon.

No longer the Commissioner, Jim is drafted into the Gotham City Police Department program to create a new Batman. What’s great about this is not only do we get a new Batman we’ve never seen before but Snyder expertly uses Jim to put us, the readers in his shoes. We get to see Jim become Batman from the ground up.

Now there was a lot (I mean a lot) of fan backlash to this idea when it was first solicited. Fans were against almost everything. A new Batman, being a part of the police, no Bruce Wayne, and the suit. Oh the suit! Fans coined it “RobobunnyBatman. The color of the suit was a bright metallic blue and looked like it came out of a Japanese anime cartoon and had ridiculous antenna like bunny ears. I was in the negative crowd at first, but I remembered something. If anyone could pull this off, it’s Scott Snyder. Boy how I was right.

The first issue was magic. Opening up with Jim in his Robo Bat-Suit hanging upside down magnetically from a sort of blimp in the sky with the bat-signal shining down from above! Just a wicked cool visual in my opinion. It was something we never saw before and it was cool.

batman jim.pngWhat I also liked was being brought up to speed on Jim‘s Batman training. Seeing him give up cigarettes for candy cigarettes was a nice touch. Him talking to his long time friend and partner Harvey Bullock about being unsure of the whole thing was great too. I liked how Jim didn’t want to be Batman because he felt he could never do the job Bruce did. He realized that Batman is a necessity though so he went on with it. Like a good soldier.

What I loved most however was Jim‘s actually Batman suit. It was so great. No cape. Just black and yellow and looks like a cross between a Navy Seal and Batman. Just an awesome design. This showed me Jim wasn’t just going to try and be Bruce. He was redesigning Batman from the ground up.

Well I’ve hogged the mic enough for the moment. What are your thoughts? Take it away Alex!

Alex: Hah, yeah, like you I was staunchly opposed to the Robobunny Batsuit. I think that my biggest problem with the whole concept was the suit itself, not the man wearing it. While not the first person I’d have expected to take up the mantle of the Bat after Bruce‘s fate during Endgame, Gordon as a police-sponsored Batman makes perfect sense to me. The very idea that the authorities recognized that they were largely ineffective against certain aspects of the criminal underworld, that they needed something else to combat them now that the Dark Knight had vanished was awesome.

Giving the spotlight to a man many underestimate was an awesome touch; I love how as the story began Gordon was very much an establishment Batman, sticking within the parameters of his mission, but as it progressed you see him ditch the mechsuit, and becoming more of a rogue agent. I see that as Snyder telling us that you can try and have Batman work for somebody, for some authority, but that he won’t be as effective as he could be.

Batman can work with the authorities, but working for them he loses some of his effectiveness.

Mr. H: What I think it showed for the most part is while the prospect of privatizing something as successful as Batman it ultimately loses its sharp edge. Especially in the criminal element. In the case of Jim Gordon. No one fears him. He’s not the boogeyman. He’s officer Gordon in a mechanized Batsuit. So right of the bat (heh happy accident there) criminals know he will operate within the full letter of the law. It makes  it makes it more difficult for Jim. Not any less fun mind you, just more difficult. It’s important to remember how unique Bruce Wayne is. As Batman he’s not just a man in a funny rubber suit. He’s a spirit. The embodiment of one man’s  total dedication to his war on crime, so much so that he will risk everything for it. Even his own soul.

bearded bruceNow what was fantastic about this story is we finally got to see a Bruce Wayne that was truly at peace. Due to losing his memory with his last battle with the Joker, we got a Bruce that never had the trauma to become the Dark Knight. This aspect of the story was absolutely fascinating and a joy to watch. Snyder made this such a exploration of what a happy Bruce would be like and he didn’t fall into obvious pitfalls. In this iteration, yes he’s still very rich but he truly fights for the little guy. Instead of him being CEO of Wayne Enterprises, he spends his days volunteering at a children’s recreation center. Identifying with this myself it just pulls on my heart strings. Oh and they gave Bruce a beard! So much yes, I approve.

Alex:I think that a happy Bruce, contrasting with Gordon’s struggles provided some of the best aspects of the arc. I actually think this is one of the few times we have seen Bruce Wayne in comics, and not Batman wearing a Bruce mask (just look at the last page of #49 to see what I mean).

This whole story really emphasizes just how much Batman took from Bruce in order to serve Gotham.

A minor complaint for me, though, and this is also applicable for Endgame‘s finale, was the inclusion of characters introduced through Batman: Eternal because I didn’t read that series I had no idea who they were. Minor compliant, like I said, but one that took me out of the story just enough to be annoying.

Mr. H: Well said Alex. Some complaints from me too. Wait did I say complaints? That’s right I don’t take everything Scott Snyder serves me and eat it up on a bat-shaped fan spoon. First off I get that he was trying to make the point that Gotham will forge itself against each individual differently, case in point with our new Batman (Jim Gordon) but it would have been awesome to see him interact even briefly with some of Bruce‘s classic villians. I think Jim vs Harvey would have been so good as a main story or even side story. Jim should have been the ground level Batman compared to Bruce‘s urban myth. Would have been nice but I understand the point of wanting Jim removed from the norm.

However the new antagonist Mr. Bloom, just missed all the marks for me. I get that a new Uber villain (leave it to the high school girls where they can handle it better) was needed for this tale but it just met me with an unresounding… meh. It just wasn’t there. The design was spooky enough but the character himself was just boring. He has these seeds that he can endow himself and others with amazing powers. Which I know it’s comic books but it was just too wacky for me. I felt he was forced as a major threat when more than likely Bruce will dispatch him very easily.Mr. Bloom.jpg

I wanted to watch Jim grow and succeed as a Batman for a new generation but after the first few issues it was increasingly apparent he was a place holder. Which is a shame. Such a treasure trove of character moments that could have been there. Ah what could have been…

Alex: Yeah, I agree there. I think that had Snyder held off on Bruce‘s reveal until later in the series, there’d have been so much more of an impact.

Batman-44-coverI would have loved to have seen how Snyder and Capullo put Gordon‘s Batman up against Two-Face, or R’as Al Ghul for an issue or two so that we would be able to see just how
different the urban legend Batman and the authoritatively sanctioned Batman would be. Honestly, I think that we’re it not for Bruce‘s return as the Bat coinciding with issue #50, we would have seen a lot more of Gordon‘s Batman in this series. A lost opportunity there, I think.

That said, for me this entire arc was made exponentially better by issue #44. I gushed over that issue in my review of it, so it’s no secret I loved it (I think I gave it my Best Issue of 2015 in the yearly round up). What did you think of that issue, specifically, mate?

Mr. H: Oh dropping the big guns to get back on positive track eh mate? Well to me it is the second greatest issue in their whole run up to date. (The greatest being Batman #49) A near flawless comic. Again in the wrong hands that one off story could have been a disaster. Thankfully Snyder humanizes Bruce Wayne better than anybody else. Whether he’s in or out of the cowl. It was a tragic tale that had such a serious tone that I was glad Snyder enlisted the art chores of his old pal Jock. As much as I am a crazy Capullo fanboy, this wouldn’t have had the same impact with him drawing. It gave us a little more insight on Mr. Bloom‘s rise to power but didn’t make me care about it. I took that issue for what it was. A literary masterpiece, the likes of which we will not likely see in a long time.

Alex: Actually, I was going to point out that Batman #44 threw into harsh contrast the shortcomings of the previous issues. Batman #44 is a literary masterpiece, aye, but it’s also a shining example of just how visually interesting a comic can be. From the muted, yet incredibly effective colouring by Lee Loughbridge, and Deron Bennett‘s lettering one of the few times I’ve noticed the lettering in a comic book in a good way. It’s just beautiful.

batman 44 lettered.jpg

But, and here’s the kicker, with Batman #44 Snyder gives us a stunning comic, yeah, but he also stumbles a little by trying to weave Mr. Bloom into the long and storied history of Gotham by trying to tie him into Bruce‘s past. As a standalone issue, #44 is great. As part of the whole…

Mr. H: Along with issue #44 we have the spectacular issue #49. To me if I was on a desert island other than the classic Dark Knight Returns graphic novel, this would be my choice. It to me represents the single greatest exposition of the Bruce Wayne and Alfred characters in published Batman history. No one and I mean no one gets the relationship between Bruce Wayne and Alfred better than Scott Snyder. He gets the truth. Bruce is not Alfred‘s master. Bruce is Alfred‘s son, plain and simple. He raised him and just wants him to have peace. The heartbreaking lengths Alfred has to help Bruce go through to re-become Batman is just a soul punch. It’s excruciatingly beautiful.

Batman 49 alfred batman.jpg I also love how Snyder gets that Julie Madison is Bruce‘s ultimate love. He gave her the possibility of the life he’s always wanted with her. However he knows, for Batman and Gotham to live, Bruce Wayne has to die. Bruce goes and falls on his sword for all of us. It’s what makes Batman in my opinion the greatest fictional character of all time.


 

And that’s a fantastic place to end today. Tomorrow, Mr. H and Alex are going to be talking about the conclusion to Superheavy with an entire Mr. H and Alex Discuss focused on Batman #50. Both of them have been sitting on the edge of their chairs salivating over the thought of this issue for the past month, so join them on the same Bat-channel, at the same Bat-time and find out just how much they have to say about a single giant sized issue!