Pick of the Week
What did the
Art by Greg Capullo, Danny Miki, & Alex Maleev
Colors by FCO Plascenica & Brad Anderson
Letters by Comicraft & Dezi Sienty
Cover by Greg Capullo & FCO Plascencia
Size: 40 pages
Modern day comics are event comics, and by that I mean that audiences have shown time and again that, for the most part, they don’t care to buy a comic book unless the story is IMPORTANT. That is why so many titles are caught in a never-ending cycle of epic tales and crossovers and company-wide events. Smaller stories are decried as “filler” and given a resounding and dreaded (and lazy) “Meh.” The only vote that the readership has is with its wallet and through that the readership has shown that it’s firmly in the camp of I WANT BIG STORIES, which the various publishers are more than happy to supply.
Which is why it was so utterly satisfying to open up Batman #19 and see that the what we have here is the first part of a two-part Clayface story.
That’s it. No earth-shattering epic. No crossover involving every book in the Batfamily. Just a Clayface story. An utterly satisfying and masterfully done Clayface story, but none-the-less, just a Clayface story.
And it felt so good to read.
Sometimes, you just want to see a villain get up to some dastardly scheme followed closely by your hero showing up and clobbering the crap out of them and foiling the scheme and saving the day. You used to get that a lot in comics, before everything had to be IMPORTANT. You’d get stories about heroes and villains and their never-ending battles; and there would be punching and there would be kicking—and depending on the hero and the villain there would be some smooching—and if the story was good you’d learn something about the characters in the midst of all the brouhaha. After a bunch of those stories then you’d build up to the big IMPORTANT story and it would be that much more satisfying because it would feel earned because you got a chance to live in the world a bit and get to know and (hopefully) care about the characters.
What I’m trying to say with the that Old Man Digression is that in the midst of all the Deaths of the Family and the Zero Years (stories I both enjoyed and look forward to greatly) it was really fun to just read a story about Batman facing off against one of his classic villains, one I haven’t seen in a long time.
The cover for Batman #19 shows Bruce Wayne pointing a gun at his buddy Commissioner Jim Gordon. But… but why?! (Don’t get me started on this idiotic SHOCKING covers gimmick that DC has rolled out this month. That’s whole other digression.) It’s no surprise that writer Scott Snyder finds a way to make the most out of this gimmick. The issue opens up with Bruce Wayne robbing a bank, acting like a jerk to a pretty blonde, shooting Commissioner Gordon with a shotgun and letting him see the Batsuit he has on under his what I assume to be a finely hand-crafted Italian suit. I was immediately sucked into this story because, for all his psychosis and the recent loss of his son, this was all a little out of character for Bruce. Why was he doing this? What the hell was going on? Having gone so long without seeing Clayface, I have to admit that it didn’t even occur to me that he might be behind all of this—but of course he was! Having experienced a secondary mutation (copyright Marvel Comics), Clayface has now not only lost all of previous humanity but can now completely mimic someone with just the smallest exposure to a bit of DNA.
That, folks, is about it. Batman finds himself with a mystery to solve (someone close to Bruce Wayne starts acting unusually murderous and suicidal) and he’s off to the races to find out just what the heck is going on, and in the course of doing so runs headlong into Clayface. Simple. But also classic, and in that sense, wonderful.
The other interesting aspect about Batman #19 is that this marks the first issue with a new inker for Greg Capullo. Danny Miki takes over for Jonathan Glapion and there is definitely a change in the way the art looks. It’s a cleaner looking book now. All the rough lines have been smoothed away and the overall look of the art is much more polished. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not, I haven’t decided yet. I quite enjoyed the rough line that was used before under Glapion, it gave the book a bit of a dirty feel which I thought was appropriate for Batman and for Gotham City. It’s a minor thing, and I’m sure I’ll get used to the cleaner style, and in the meantime Capullo’s pencils are as fantastic and dynamic as ever.
And that doesn’t even mention the fine back-up story written by James Tynion IV and (actually) drawn by Alex Maleev in which Superman shows up to find out if Batman is okay after the death of his son, and Batman shows that he is not the most forthcoming with his emotions so instead they end up tussling with a supernatural being who is kidnapping and killing people in Gotham City. It’s a dark and moody tale that plays up to Maleev’s strengths as an artist.
The bottom line is this: I love a grand epic tale. I love a big and IMPORTANT story. I love an earth-shattering event. They’re exciting and I’m not knocking them. But sometimes I also just want Hal Jordan to be a space cop and sometimes I just want Batman to go out there and foil a supervillain’s crime and then come home and brood in the Batcave while Alfred brings him some tea on a silver tray. Those stories are IMPORTANT too, just in a completely different way. Batman #19 reminded me of what I am (usually) missing these days when I make my way through my stack of comics on Wednesday.
It’s been a long day and I could use some tea.