Pick of the Week

Pick of the Week – 01.18.2012 – Batman #5

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Avg Rating: 4.8
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Batman_Full_5
Written by SCOTT SNYDER
Art by GREG CAPULLO and JONATHAN GLAPION
Cover by GREG CAPULLO
Variant cover by ANDY KUBERT
B&W variant cover by GREG CAPULLO

Size: 32 pages
Price: 2.99

Batman has many wonderful toys. To aid in his obsessive and never-ending war on crime he has gadgets of all shapes and sizes. But his greatest weapon cannot be found hanging in the Batcave or in a compartment of his utility belt. No, Batman’s greatest weapon is his mind.

The only way to truly defeat Batman is to break his mind.

I love stories where the villain goes after Batman’s mind. He’s crazy enough as it is, so pushing him over the edge into madness usually isn’t that difficult. I remember fondly the story that ran in Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight in which Batman got addicted to the Venom drug. Sure, the addiction was partly physical, but when I close my eyes I can still picture the pages where Alfred had to lock Bruce up in the Batcave until he defeated his mental addiction. And the of course, there was the Black Glove storyline that Grant Morrison wrote a few years ago in which a shadowy group of baddies banded together to attack Batman mentally.

And that leads us to The Court of Owls and the current predicament that Batman finds himself in. You might recall in the last issue that in the course of his investigating this mysterious Court of Owls, Batman was captured and awoke to find himself in a giant maze or, as the creepily owl masked people on the giant video screen called it, The Labyrinth. As Batman #5 opens up it’s been 8 days since that moment and no one in Gotham City has seen hide nor hair of its Caped Crusader. Where has he been? What has he been up to?

Going crazy in The Labyrinth, that’s what.

For 8 days Batman has been trapped in a David Lynch fever dream. He’s in a maze. No food. The only water is drugged. There are periods of disorienting light and deep darkness. Every time he turns a corner he finds himself in a room with strange objects and creepy photographs. Mysterious people in creepy masks taunt him. And then just when he things he has everything sussed out and that he has gained an upper hand on The Court of Owls, he ends up right back where he started. (It is a maze, after all.)

Oh, and The Court of Owls’ badass enforcer, The Talon, is in there with him and he’s feeling quite stabby.

But The Talon’s not the only one in there with Batman. Oh no. We’re in there with him too.

I really appreciate when comic books take advantage of the medium and do things you can’t do anywhere else. In Batman #5, as Batman spirals deeper into madness, so too does the artwork begin to spiral, and thus the act of reading the book becomes one of actual creating a physical spiral in the real world. As Batman makes his way through the maze the artwork starts in the standard portrait view. And then it switches to landscape view and you have to rotate the book 90s degrees. And then after a few pages you have to rotate the book 90 degrees again when the art switches to an upside down portrait view before it slams back around 180 degrees as the story leaves The Labyrinth. The very act of reading the book is to physically create Batman’s spiral into madness. It’s almost as if you are watching him circle the drain. It was a bold and exciting move to try something that unusual in comic books, which is a medium that thrives upon the familiar. I applaud Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo for pitching the idea and DC editorial for giving it a chance. It paid off wonderfully.

And speaking of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, this creative team continues to fire on all cylinders. They are digging deep into what makes Batman who he is and turning that against him in a compelling way that is producing one of the most fun superhero books out there right now.

We’ve talked to Scott Snyder a lot over the last year and he has been extremely excited about getting to tell this story. The idea that there is a secret part of Gotham City that has kept itself hidden from Batman for all these years (although not as long as you might think since it’s the New 52), and that one of Batman’s greatest strengths–his confidence in his mastery of Gotham City–might actually end up his greatest liability, is very interesting. It takes Batman out of his comfort zone and whenever you take a protagonist out of their comfort zone, especially an overly confident protagonist, then you usually end up with great stories.

Greg Capullo continues to shine and in this issue, as great as the story is, it’s all about the art. Along with inker Jonathan Glapion, colorist… um… FCO, and letterer Richard Starkings, Capullo has crafted a descent into madness without sacrificing his trademark dynamic flare. Pages are filled with small overlapping panels. Imagery is repeated. Colors are washed out. Images are blurry. Everything here on the page is in service to the story and the story is harrowing. It’s disconcerting to see Batman–his cowl ripped, his face stubbled, his costume grimy–flat on his stomach and desperately pawing at a crack in the floor because he thinks it might hold a clue.

Look, it’s Batman we’re talking about so we know that, in the end, he’s going to find is way out of this and defeat The Court of Owls. (Probably.) Elements of the story might be familiar but it’s the journey from hubris to rock bottom to redemption and victory that this is all about. In comics, as in any other storytelling medium, in the end it all comes down to the story being told. How successful is the execution? How compelling is the plot and the characters? Right now the story that Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo are telling in Batman is resulting in one of the best comic books on the stands right now, bar none.

Conor Kilpatrick
See you next month. Same Bat-time. Same Bat-channel.
conor@ifanboy.com

Comments

  1. deezer deezer says:

    There was so much about this issue that I liked, so that even if the end of the arc tanks (which I highly doubt it will), I’d still call it a success. I love things that play with the medium (like the “Choose Your Own Adventure” issue of The Unwritten), and I loved everything in this, from Harvey Bullock pulling a reverse Batman to start it all off to Damian at the end, I really, REALLY can’t wait for the next issue.

  2. Rtousi Rtousi says:

    Just finished the episode myself, I was going to write a review but the only word I had for this issues is WOW! This is what comics should be.

  3. jackietam jackietam says:

    Hey. The cover actually depicted what happened in the issue!

  4. Limitless Limitless says:

    I just finished reading this issue and immediately knew it would be the pick of the week.

    I only have one friend that really reads comics with any regularity, and he’s my room mate. So, on Wednesdays when I get home from work around 4 in the morning, I take the comics I know he’ll like and slide them under his door, organized to which I think he should read first. This will be on top with a sticky note with one word stuck to the front.

    Trippy.

  5. TurdSandwich TurdSandwich says:

    Amen, I loved this issue. I thought it was a really cool how Batmans mask was all fucked up and his one eye was red; that imagery along with his cape seemingly growing, shrinking, and getting all tattered really added to the increasing levels of madness that Bruce was experiencing. I agree about the interactive nature of the pages spinning, that was a clever way of conveying the overall frantic mood.
    Narratively speaking this was pretty different from the last 4 issues also. The pages were filled with the inner ramblings of Batman, it was a sort of stream-of-conscious style; and it was the art that really progressed the story. I would have been shocked if this wasn’t the POW, great pick Connor.

  6. Agree wholeheartedly with this choice. However, Connor, I have to point out that the LOTDK series you refer to “Venom”, which was written by Dennis O’Neil and is one of the great Batman stories IMHO, did not, in fact involve Bane.

    It introduced the idea of Santa Prisca (actually pulled in from The Question) and Venom, but the men who got Bruce addicted to Venom were government agents, who were testing out the drug. Bane came later, which was one of the cool things about him… he was born from an already established part of the mythology. Venom almost broke Bruce, so when a man fueled by Venom came to town it was a natural fit that he could do the same.

  7. This was unreadable in digital format, which is the only format I purchase weekly books in. I was extremely disappointed with this issue simply because I didn’t want to keep rotating my laptop left and right like I was trying to read House of Leaves digitally (which would be just as terrible an idea and also shows just how uncharacteristically unoriginal Snyder was with this issue).

    • SEChambers says:

      I highly doubt that Mark Z. Danielewski’s only half decent book was the first to require the reader to turn it in circles to read it. I’d rather have that then the 100,345 typical fist fight ending that I’d most likely find in Detective Comics these days.

    • Conor Kilpatrick Conor Kilpatrick (@cskilpatrick) says:

      I read it both ways. Worked out fine for me.

    • LucasEwalt says:

      Yeah. And don’t you hate how everything you read that requires you to go from left to right and top to bottom is just ripping off the Epic of Gilgamesh? How unoriginal…

    • JimAdkins JimAdkins says:

      I agree that if I were reading it on a laptop, I would have been annoyed. On my tablet, it worked out as I could turn it any way I wanted to.

      Despite this small inconvenience, the story and art were amazing and I thought the turning really showed how tilted Batman’s mind had become.

    • thered thered says:

      i think that reading it on my laptop was a kind of fun experience. it only added to the crazy feeling that he was trying to deliver by making me twist my head around and read upside down. by the time i was done i felt a little bit unhinged, in a good way.

    • RaulTheMan RaulTheMan says:

      I think, thehopelessgamer, that you forget this are comics which are first and foremost of the physical form and that digital is pretty much secondary, for now. So when they set out to make this issue they were most likely not thinking about how it would read on a tablet. This comic shines in the format it was meant to be experienced in, and having you experience the book in that manner only adds to the unique immersion which only comics can provide.

    • Skyfire124 Skyfire124 says:

      @JimAdkins I keep thinking how annoying it would have been to read it on a tablet with auto-rotate as I’d try to turn it and it would just flip back into an unreadable position..lol

    • shemko shemko says:

      This would be cool on a tablet if you had the forethought to turn off auto-rotate.

      At least the reading experience wouldn’t be interrupted by right-side-up ads.

  8. That freakin eye man! This issue was so awesome. Best issue of anything that I have read in awhile. Also…that eye will haunt me forever

  9. I just literally finished the issue and……Holy fucking shit.

    I’m having a crisis…..This was just….I need to rest. This was without a doubt, the greatest single issue I’ve read in comics. Hyperbole be damned!

    #scottsnyderjustwon2012

  10. RandyFlagg RandyFlagg says:

    The page with the stabbing is perfect.

    It’s not easy to make Batman seem so vulnerable, but damn if it didn’t happen here.

  11. SEChambers says:

    I actually really like the fact that Talon may or may not be an homage to Gary Frank’s Nighthawk.

  12. Metamorphic Metamorphic says:

    I was on holiday and so I’m really behind on my comics. That didn’t stop me from reading this issue of Batman. One word: AMAZING! I have tons more to read but it’s going to be hard to top this as a Pick of the Week.

  13. acowell429 acowell429 says:

    This book was mind blowing. Scott Snyder keeps raising the bar on this series. I have said it before and I will say it again… single best book out there right now hands down. Scott Snyder’s story telling is unparalleled but lets just for a moment talk about the art in this issue. Holy shit it is good. From the depiction of that one crazy eye to the tattering of batman’s cape, the art did just as much for the story as the internal dialog from batman. great issue, great story, and great mystery surrounding the entire plot line.

  14. BronxRonin BronxRonin says:

    Wow…poor Bruce. Great issue from a fascinating story arc and I don’t have to buy multiple issues of other books for a great story.

  15. nastysnow nastysnow says:

    Nice to see snyders checks continue to come in lol. But ya this was my pick. batman is the only new 52 book im loveing, so sign me up for more.

  16. The variant cover I got is by Chris Burnham. Was there one by Andy Kubert?

  17. I hate that I can’t get my books until friday! Been loving this run on Batman! Actually, I am buying 3 of the bat books currently and been enjoying all three, can’t decide which is my favorite. But if this issue is half as good as this review makes it sound, this one might pull ahead for me.

  18. JokersNuts JokersNuts says:

    The best book of the run so far, I was just blown away. Very cool, but how does it read in digital?

    • Conor Kilpatrick Conor Kilpatrick (@cskilpatrick) says:

      Great on a tablet.

    • Yeah wouldn’t the thing continue to flip around?

      Like on my iPod, if I turn it slightly it flips the image to fit the screen.

    • warmachine15 warmachine15 says:

      Yeah, I read Batman digitally on my Android phone. It was a bloody NIGHTMARE to read. I had to tilt my head to the side in order to read it. I couldn’t find a panel-lock button that would lock it into a fixed position or anything.

    • Conor Kilpatrick Conor Kilpatrick (@cskilpatrick) says:

      @TNC: You can lock an iPad to keep it from rotating. Or you can do what I did: put the iPad down on a table and move around it in a circle. It was fun.

    • @conor: That just seems cumbersome…..but interesting to note there is a lock feature.

    • @conor–thats a great low tech solution!

    • stuclach stuclach says:

      I read it upside down and at odd angles. Very immersive.

    • i employed the “Kilpatrick method” to read this issue…pretty fun. =)

    • Parri Parri (@pazzatron) says:

      I read it in sore neck mode; every time I flipped my iPad to compensate the new orientation the image rotated. My decent into madness was almost as fast as Batman’s.

      Then I read it again with rotation lock. Wasn’t as fun.

    • Zeppo Zeppo says:

      I didn’t use the lock feature, I just tiled my head. It helped to create the feeling Bruce was likely going through. Fustratign at first, then it started messing with my head.

      A great way to get readers engaged. It worked digitally for me.

      It’s not my pick of the week though.

    • misterckent misterckent says:

      I was utterly confused when I read this last night. I didn’t have it sitting down and when the panels started flipping, I was pretty irritated. It definitely disturbed the flow. I hear what you’re saying Conor and it’s no knock against the story or art or anything, but digitally, this was tough. It wasn’t until I read this review that I understood it was on purpose.

    • Jesse1125 Jesse1125 says:

      and here I thought my Ipod touch was BUSTED!! I genuinley thought that they efffed up the page orientation upon transferring it to digital! I’m sure the issue version would’ve been more fun & interactive (spinning the book around!!)
      Overall I just keep repeating to my self ” Wait, is this real?” What’s going on in this maze?” Just a cool way to break down the man to defeat the hero.
      Here’s to hoping Damian is the cavalry and he comes to the rescue(more father/son bonding)

  19. Blargo Blargo says:

    I loved how the more demented Batman became, the more he started to look like he did in Dark Knight Returns.

  20. zlbenson zlbenson says:

    I kinda regret dropping Batman so quickly, didn’t think it would be a story I was interested in. But I ain’t hesitating to jump back in with this one. Very unique read. I dug it.

  21. K.FLIP K.FLIP says:

    Best issue yet. I never doubt Scott Snyder. There is always a pay off and this was it and were not even halfway through the arc. It’s all about the writer. The writer makes the character and Snyder knows Batman.

  22. trobinson79 trobinson79 says:

    This was simply amazing to read. I give Scott Snyder lots of props for everything he writes lately, but extra, extra props to Greg Capullo. His art almost screamed Frank Miller-style in DKR in this issue. It showcased how gritty this was getting and how Batman is losing control. Kudos all around.

  23. Ultron8 Ultron8 says:

    Great choice, I’m really looking forward to reading this issue at the weekend

  24. ComicROAMER ComicROAMER says:

    I literally got confused and starting reading backwards, didn’t know which way I was going. Just like Batman. Brilliant. Then a giant owl came through my window and scratched my face off

  25. greendart greendart says:

    This was a pretty amazing issue. Other great comics this week IMO:

    Uncanny X-Men #5. Didn’t hate Land’s art like I normally do, loved the inter connectivity between the main x-titles these days, and the way they all split up into pairs reminded me of Giant Size X-Men

  26. boosebaster boosebaster says:

    I’m not sure laying out the panels in this way added a single thing to the story. It’s not like it hasn’t been done before and the idea isn’t *that* clever.

    Just came across as ever so slightly gimmicky – this was one of the best single issues I’ve ever read. Turning the comic around while reading it didn’t take away from that, but neither did it add to it. Batman’s spiral into madness was illustrated perfectly well by the stellar writing and art, thankyou very much.

    • KenOchalek KenOchalek says:

      I kind of agree. I liked the hell out of this issue and it’ll probably be my POTW, but I’d hesitate before calling it the best of issue of the year already.

      Again, I liked it a lot, but if you’ve read Promethea I don’t think the labyrinthine storytelling seems quite as innovative. I tried reading the book backwards — parts of it work that way, but parts of it don’t (maybe that was the point thought?)

      Still, I appreciate that using techniques like this in one of the best-selling titles going is pretty brave!

    • farceur318 says:

      I agree about it feeling gimmicky. The writing itself was incredible and haunting, and this was by far my pick of the week, but the rotating pages were a distraction that took me out of the story more than it pulled me into it. Never mind the fact that reading this on a PC was basically impossible.

    • boosebaster boosebaster says:

      I don’t know why Comixology didn’t just rotate the pages at their end!

    • when was the last time an A-list, mainstream comic actually engaged the physical object you were holding as a storytelling device? I dunno..a polybag, or a character death/PR blitz is a gimmick, i see this more as a creative story technique.

    • JimAdkins JimAdkins says:

      “I don’t know why Comixology didn’t just rotate the pages at their end!”

      @boosebaster If they had “fixed” the digital version so we all didn’t have to rotate, those of us who are on digital would have complained that it was different than what is presented on the page. Granted it didn’t work perfectly (laptops and PCs aren’t as easy to flip around) but I’m very glad that they made it the same as the page. If it was different I would have felt like I was missing out.

    • Conor Kilpatrick Conor Kilpatrick (@cskilpatrick) says:

      @boosebaster @JimAdkins It also would have defeated the whole purpose of the issue and changed the intent of the authors. The fan complaints would not have compared to Snyder and Capullo’s complaints, trust me.

    • JimAdkins JimAdkins says:

      @Conor Good. To me it is very comforting to know that as a digital user, I will get as close to the real page as they can make it.

    • I agree that I wouldn’t have wanted Comixology to change the pages – I just wish Snyder and Capullo hadn’t done it at all. Completely agree that it’s just a gimmick, and sadly for me, it really did detract from the story and the art.

    • boosebaster boosebaster says:

      OK I read this again on Comixology on a desktop and I’m now turned around on this point.

      The people saying it was “unreadable”?…I never had reason to know this before but I have just discovered that reading upside down is exactly as easy as reading right-way-round.

  27. edward says:

    Great issue. It’s interesting to see a trippy mental tale like this told by an artist like Copullo instead of in a more expressionist style.

  28. ScottB ScottB says:

    I’m loving this! Someone who was looking to get back into comics was asking me what I was reading and this was the first thing that jumped at me. So much fun! I also love the explanation of why the Talon and Court of Owls did not remove his mask before throwing him in the maze.

  29. It’s getting to the point where I think every great writer on Batman HAS to have at least one moment where we see Bruce completely out of his mind.

  30. mark. mark. says:

    i am so. so. so. looking forward to when this is put out in trade.

  31. houseian houseian says:

    Why did Batman have claws/talons by the end? I thought it was just him going crazy with his clawing at the floor, but they are still there when he is stabbed.

    • I would guess he’s tripping on the water. We see the disorientation that Batman sees, because we don’t know any more than he does about the Courtship of the Owl. Which is awesome.

      Or they could just be turning Batman into an owl creature. Who knows? I guess we will in thirty Bat-Days.

    • houseian houseian says:

      Oh yeah definitely awesome. 30 LONG Bat days, can’t wait!

      I just thought that final stabbing image seemed from a different perspective hence the question.

  32. Josh Flanagan Josh Flanagan (@jaflanagan) says:

    Who hates fun now, jerks?

  33. flapjaxx flapjaxx says:

    It was okay, but the spaced-out narrative from Bruce felt a little cookie-cutter to me. He’s Batman; he should have his wits about him a bit more than he did. He wouldn’t've fell so easily into all those traps. He literally didn’t figure anything out until the end, and even then it’s not like he really did anything special. The rotated/flipped pages were…okay. I don’t see it as any great innovation, though.

    I do like Snyder’s Batman. I constantly see it as a 3.5 or 4 star book. Definitely. But I just don’t see it as the elite 5-star effort that most other people seem to think it is. It’s fine, but I don’t think this really competes with great runs of the recent past like Brubaker’s early Cap stuff, or Morrison’s Batman when it was really good, or Uncanny X-Force. Batman’s solid right now, but it feels sort of generic.

    Capullo’s art is very very good, though.

    • edward says:

      I agree that most depictions of Batman would have him more mentally together than what happened here. But that’s what’s great about it. it’s give the character some fallibility. It’s interesting for a change

    • KenOchalek KenOchalek says:

      I think Bruce’s loss of mental faculties is pretty believable — the book said he’d been in there (without any food and only drugged water to drink) for EIGHT DAYS.

      I get cranky when I miss lunch.

      I think it’s safe to say every single one of us on this comment thread would be DEAD under the same circumstances.

    • Well 94% of all the people who participate in this site agree as well.

      Soooooooooooo yeah.

  34. filippod filippod (@filippodee) says:

    Very creative. Next issue will be printed with special ink which disappears within 30 seconds after exposure to light. Digital version: the pages slowly dim then are deleted. Deluxe digital version additionally deletes one random file from your device every second. Deluxe print version self ignites.

  35. mickmac59 mickmac59 says:

    Great issue, great series. Didn’t have a problem with “spin the comic” – thought it was used well & entirely appropriate (I did read the paper version, though). Coincidentally, I read this right after I’d read an old trade copy of The Cult a friend had lent me, another story where Batman is worn down mentally – as a story hook I think this works really well.

  36. Ooh I loved both The Cult and the Venom storyline. That scene in Venom where Bruce finally comes up from the cave and looks like he lost 80 pounds and has a big shaggy beard was great. And Jason Todd watching Bruce go nuts and kick the shit out of the whole mob in the sewer was awesome in The Cult. I can’t wait to see Bruce (not Batman) kick the crap out of the Talon in the end. The Court of Owls is the best addition to the Bat mythos since Ras Al Ghul was introduced.

    I read this issue and didn’t even glance at any of my other books….I need to come up for air.

  37. PeteSandusky PeteSandusky says:

    Yeah. Finished this one and looked at other current Bat family titles with a renewed disdain.

  38. Capullo really is doing some awesome work. I don’t think I ever saw his work until Batman, and he is quite simply one of the best Bat artists I’ve ever seen. Dont stop!

  39. jlddlj11 jlddlj11 says:

    Even browsing this, still not a big fan. Other artists have shown spiraling with us turning the book in the real world and in the pages with the panels spiraling. That’s the way I’d do it (but I’m no artist), and the pages end with you holding the book up before having to turn it again. I do give the ads some attention (don’t ask me what ad was on the inside cover but I know I glanced it lol) and when we jump back to the “sane” parts the book’s upside down and still disorienting. But that’s just my thoughts.

    Great job, Batman team, because you did something really well here and I’m in the minority but I’ve got to say I was bothered by the second set of sideways pages, even when I got what was going on. However, now that the Owls made a move, I can’t wait for Batman to recover and lay some smack down lol

    Also, Batman wouldn’t have any food and water in that utility belt? Longer than 8 days may have been necessary then, and would make the search all the more desperate. Good luck!

  40. shemko shemko says:

    Dave Sim was the master of this kind of thing back in Cerebus. More people should read it.

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