By Jarrod Jones. This. This is what it means when you use the word “timeless”.
The forty-fourth issue of Batman is a prime example of deft and incredibly nuanced comics storytelling. It’s a book that recalls the works of Bat-creators from not-so long ago; not just from the O’Neils and the Engleharts, but from the Moenchs and the Millers as well. It’s a street-level Batman story told like any good Batman story ought to be told: lurid, captivating, honest, and thoroughly devastating. But most importantly, it’s a prime example of what’s possible when professionals take the format to which they’re committed and make it relevant to the world beyond. So let’s revise. This is what it means when you use the word “important”.
It’s a story that could easily fill an entire installment of Batman: Black and White, an outside-continuity anthology series that distilled the essence of the Dark Knight into his most potent and primal form: a strange, righteous creature who stalks prey that may not know it needs to be punished, a dauntless crusader who only rests when the sun’s piercing beams begin to stretch along Gotham’s narrow, broken streets. It’s a story I actively wish for every time I pick up a book titled Batman.
It’s also a Batman story that resides within the confines of the world Scott Snyder and dozens of writers set into place at the beginning of the New 52. And while those confines usually demand a more universally-accessible bent to its stories (for instance, Batman‘s latest villain du jour, Mr. Bloom, makes a trades-friendly appearance), the very presence of Brian Azzarello means that the Hero That Snyder Built is about to be jostled by his cape. Azzarello’s concepts of evil don’t have the cunning precision or grandiosity of a Snyder heavy; rather the 100 Bullets writer depicts evil as something far more primal, something far more innate. (Within continuity, this issue’s Batman has his first volley with a nurtured evil, which provides us this chilling line: “I’m not the bad guy here — I’m just here.”) The alchemy between Azzarello’s realism and Snyder’s ambition is truly the stuff of greatness.
It’s the ideas Messrs. Snyder and Azzarello employ in this issue that don’t often find their way into superhero comics, and it’s not by accident that these men chose Gotham’s latest lost son (a youth named Peter) to be wrapped in a hoodie, wildly seeking to find some footing in a world crusted over with misuse and societal disease. “So a bad man in an alley selling something monstrous to a desperate kid. In the end, a simple case,” the Batman thinks. Of course, he knows it’s more complicated than that. We know it’s far more complicated than that.
It’s in this moment that Snyder, Azzarello, and artist Jock — who provides us a career-defining display of talent — place Batman over the city he attempts to protect, as the words he’s read of the world that envelops him unfurl into a chasm of pain, corruption, misery, and neglect. Reason can be found in there somewhere. But it will take more than just him to find it.
Ideas like that haven’t come from a superhero comic in a very long time.
Written by Scott Snyder & Brian Azzarello.
Art by Jock.
Colored by Lee Loughridge.
10 out of 10