By Jarrod Jones. If you were to look past all the casual bloodletting of American Vampire, the ancient evil of Wytches or the nigh-operatic thunder of Batman, you’ll find the architect behind it all is something of a sentimentalist.
Scott Snyder is a sentimentalist. Don’t confuse the word, now — it’s not my intention to paint the man as softhearted or anything like that; if he felt compelled to, Scott Snyder could conjure a story that would give even your great-grandchildren nightmares, regardless of your age or how strong your stomach was. That’s his craft, and he is damn good at it. But if you were to leaf through Batman #51, the last issue in the now-legendary run of Snyder and artist Greg Capullo (and inker Danny Miki and colorist FCO Plascencia), with all the visual Easter Eggs and poetic captions peppered all over the place, you’d swear Snyder was writing a love letter to the Batman himself. In a way, you can view this issue as a final farewell.
Of course, Snyder isn’t leaving Gotham City forever. We know that All-Star Batman is right around the corner, a series that will allow the writer to explore darker and more complex facets to the Caped Crusader — not just the complexities of his psyche, but of his city as well. There have always been those writers who, through their individual successes with the character, have found themselves forever draped in the shadow of the Batman for the rest of their careers. Batman #51 reads as though Scott Snyder not only accepts this, he’s totally fine with it.
Batman #51 is titled “Gotham Is”, a callback to the earlier issues of Snyder & Capullo’s far-too stupendous Court of Owls storyarc (the first of this creative team’s run). It works as a closing chapter to an overall magnificent saga, but it also works as a “thank you” to all the readers who stuck with this team for the duration. There’s another function of this issue, however, one that mystifies me just a bit — Batman#51 goes out of its way in order to set things back to the way they were before this team came and shook the foundations of Gotham City to its core. Instead of leaving future writers to weave lingering plot threads into the wider tapestry, Snyder ties a bow with them, almost as if to say, “There. Now leave a mark of your own.”
Greg Capullo is complicit in all of this. Hell, you can tell he’s totally game: there’s a moment where Batman runs across a more leery Edward Nygma, who we haven’t seen since Zero Year, and Capullo has the Crud of Conundrums strike a martial arts stance, like he’s been training for a rematch during his long stretch at Arkham Asylum. (Note that Zero Year takes place before Batman #1, where the Dark Knight gave the Riddler another humbling beat-down. Hilarious.) It’s one of several winks that the artist places diligently into this issue. Yes, he’s moving on to a high-profile project with comic book guru Mark Millar later this year, but you can tell Mr. Capullo is going to miss the bleak skyline of Gotham City, one he forged at the beginning of the New 52. We can look at it now as Capullo’s dauntless declaration of intent. It’s enough to give you goosebumps.
There’s a coincidental twist that comes towards the end of Batman #51 that nearly betrays all this goodwill with its nostalgia-tinged sentimentality. But a writer like Snyder has never been afraid of coincidences. He approaches them as he would anything else and applies this development to his story without incident. There’s a lyricism that comes with this reveal, one that’s used to bring us back around to issue #1 — a saga come full circle. It provides a comfortable closure that we never felt — not once — at the ends of Death of the Family, Zero Year or even Endgame. In saying goodbye to a top-notch run, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo pay their respects to the readers that helped it to endure.
Written by Scott Snyder.
Art by Greg Capullo.
Inks by Danny Miki.
Colors by FCO Plascencia.
Letters by Steve Wands.
9 out of 10