REVIEW: Batman #7

Batman #7

Batman #7

Written by Scott Snyder
Pencils by Greg Capullo
Inks by Jonathan Glapion
Colors by FCO
Letters by Richard Starkings and ComicCraft’s Jimmy Betancourt

$2.99/color

DC Comics

“The Talons Strike”

Or, “How to Break a Bat in 39 Short Steps”

How do you break a Bat? Ask a dozen rogues and you’ll get a dozen responses. Some of them involving fish with lipstick. Attempts at physically breaking the Bat — jackknifing the guy’s spine over a sturdy knee — have only resulted in more pain for the would-be breaker in the long run. Jean-Paul Valley in the short term.

So, go for the mind, most would say. We’re only talking about a virtually peerless intellect and the fiercest resolve known to crime busting. How hard could it be?

Turns out all you need to break the Bat is a decent foot in the door. Generations of effort and resources certainly help, but specifically it’s just patience and real estate. Establish lairs in the Bat’s city. Prey on superstition just as the Bat himself does. Nest in the thirteenth floors of his ancestral properties. Alter his own mythology before it was even his.

Some would deem this tactic unfair. How could a foe possibly expect to best our hero by asserting itself as omnipresent? That’s the stuff of retcon isn’t it? It’s cheating. If it’s not cheating on the newly presented age-old villain’s part (being that they’re fictional), shouldn’t the creator of that foe be held to task for playing fast and loose with established continuity? What an opportunist, that Scott Snyder. He’s writing between the lines!

Here’s the thing though. There’s nothing fast or loose about it. Snyder’s skill as a myth-builder is hypnotic. Watch the birdie.

The Court of Owls fits so perfectly in the nooks and crannies of Gotham lore, that they feel as if they’ve always been there, a latent threat. So when we learn that the lifeless Talon propped up (a smart, creepy choice by the way. He could just as easily been set horizontal on an operating table) in the Bat Cave is an ancestor of Dick Grayson, it feels less like a retcon and more like a long-slumbering revelation finally jolted to life. That’s partly Snyder’s care and attention to servicing these reveals, but also a testament to just how appropriate the concept is in the larger Batman story. Bruce has taken advantage of the criminal tendency toward superstition throughout his career. It’s his thesis. So to turn his own fears upon him, to chip away at the veneer of his steely resolve, is not just a smart move for a villain, but a poetic maneuver for a storyteller.

By this issue in the story, we’ve seen the Court’s efforts unfold in numerous ways. They were distant at first, a chilling presence even in their absence from the proceedings. Empty suits. Empty lairs. But they made Batman leery by forcing him to feel like a voyeur — an intruder — in his family’s own towers. They’ve attacked him with flash assaults, sending him tumbling out of skyscrapers, a swift kick to his internal compass in more ways than one. They captured him. They starved and drugged him. Then they watched as they nearly beat him to death. Bread and circus. This isn’t a jackknife over the knee. This isn’t even a dose of fear toxin. This is a systematic execution.

That double-chinned English scholar Ed Gibbon wrote six volumes on the dissolution of Rome. There’s no single culprit in the undoing of history’s grandest civilization, but instead a kind of lethal emergence. Numerous factors all conspiring independently to fell the holiest of unholy things. Barbarians, sure. But Gibbon cited cultural changes too. Psychological shifts. The soul of Rome was in flux and that engendered a kind of frailty in morale, a fatal sensibility that allowed everything to come tumbling down in a gradual slurry. The Court of Owls, we know, is obsessed with antiquity. For all we know, they, or some iteration of them, watched as Rome burned. They know how empires fall. That’s why they’ve orchestrated the most calculated and systematic approach to breaking the Bat.

"Fairbanks."

All this to say that Bruce is in trouble, in a way that’s rarely felt so thoroughly, believably dire. He’s been in peril countless, countless times. But when he finally weathers the Night of the Owls, it’s going to be a palpable victory. A little girl just brought him back from the brink with a pair of jumper cables to the chest. Alfred nearly blew Bruce’s head off with a shotgun and only stood down when his broken master, his hobbled son, spoke the name of his last matinee idol. “Fairbanks.” Then to see Batman physically cower behind his aged butler at the sight of the Talon, that changes the whole geometry of our understanding. Batman is fearless. Batman is unbreakable. Well, maybe not. Maybe that relationship with fear is so exceptionally fragile. The finest of lines.

The brutal slugfest of issue #6, a chapter that climaxes with Batman rallying and turning the tables on his would-be killer, gives way to a harrowing aftermath in #7. Batman is literally jolted back to reality after nearly freezing to death in Gotham’s waterway. He makes his return to the Cave a veritable wreck. He recuperates in the only fashion he knows, turning his keen, scientific mind against the forces that shattered his body. But even then he’s wracked with desperation, meeting Dick’s attempts at fellowship and good comfort with clinical detachment. There’s no good way of telling one of your oldest friends that their latest enemy is his late great grandfather. That the circus of his youth was a front for a hedonistic underground society right out of a Kubrick flick. Bruce’s condescension in this conversation result in a confrontation that’s been simmering to a boil for a good while now.

This may be a new DCU, but there’s still a reason Dick isn’t Robin anymore. And it has less to do with tailoring than Bruce might want to admit. Dick can fight alongside Batman as Nightwing, but they’ll never be partners again. Family, yes. But hero and ward? Certainly not. Dick knows Bruce too well at this point. He’s worn that mantle. He knows the man. And he knows the lies the man tells himself. This scene is crucial and it says everything we need to know about the power the Court has over our hero at this point. Bruce has succumb to superstition and it could well be his undoing.

Bruce’s battle with Talon was savage, but his altercation with Dick Grayson will hurt way more in the morning.

Or, scarily enough, maybe it won’t.

Snyder and Capullo haven’t so much changed the face of Gotham. No, they’ve altered it’s brain chemistry. Batman will eek out a kind of victory, but there’s very little promise for celebration. This is going to leave a mark.

Story: 5 / Art: 5 / Overall: 5

(Out of 5 Stars) 

 

Comments

  1. Nice one, Paul. It really does feel like this run is something important. Picking my copy up in a matter of hours *tickticktick*

  2. Oh man I really can’t wait to read this. Might buy it digital today already. Is that 2pm east coast time?

  3. I love your reviews, but i hate that i *can’t* read them till tonight…after i’ve read the book. =)

    Nice to see its another solid issue.

  4. Cannot wait.

    Excellent review, Paul.

  5. I think the fact that Alfred didn’t recognize him is exceptionally telling. This experience changed him significantly.

    And that reveal concerning Dick was very interesting. I’m glad he is being brought into this title.

    • Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

      It’s a really interesting idea, connecting Haly’s Circus to the Court. It’s risky making connections like that because it could well turn into a series of odd coincidences like LOST. But why shouldn’t the Court recruit from places like circuses? It just fits perfectly.

    • Agreed.

  6. Agh! When does the crossovers start!?

  7. Great review Paul.

    Who’s this Harper girl? Is it a character Snyder is resurrecting or someone completely new?

  8. The use of Gibbons’ writings of the dissolution of Rome was quite simply a brilliant allegorical choice. Bravo, Paul.

  9. I’m definitely reading this in library trades later this year.

    Maybe they’ll be out by this fall.

  10. Best book on the shelves just keeps rolling along…

  11. Dick’s tooth implant, while a nice moment, strains credulity A WEE BIT though, dontcha think. I mean, living with the most paranoid man alive and that never turns up on a scan? He’s never had dental work done, with all those smacks in the chops he’s taken?

    Then again, that’s exactly how I’d expect Batman to perform emergency dental surgery.

  12. Probably the most consequential Batman story line to come down in a long time. The central conceit of Batman is that Gotham is his. He knows its secrets. That is no longer true. If something like the Court of Owls has hidden so long in Gotham, and even outwardly ignored Batman before this (a true insult if there ever was one) then what else has he missed?

    In many ways, the darkness of Gotham, for Bruce, is a reflection of the darkness in his soul. If something as dark and powerful as the Court of Owls can hide from Batman, what is hiding in his soul? It calls into question all of Bruce’s assumptions about himself and his mission. That is something we have not seen since Bane broke his back.

    • Excellent, BulgarianBullwhip, – well said!
      In addition, it seems the B-man has hid his dental skills from us up to this point – how many other things has he been hiding?
      Seriously? one sideways punch to the exact tooth – and only that tooth comes out? …and which tooth was it? C’mon, at least show us the gap in Dick’s set of choppers.

    • Eh, that is by no means the central conceit of Batman, in my opinion. You could maybe say that it’s an underlying assumption of the series but it’s hardly why the series exists.

  13. Yeah definitely thinking about dropping this book.
    haha, just thought that would sound weird and it does.
    It’s Spring and i am in love with Scott and Greg.

  14. One hit and he gets that one tooth out. Batman is Chuck Norris!

  15. I love this issue although I like a lot more the sixth one after all is not every day *SPOILERS ISSUE 6* you see THE GODDAMN BATMAN beat up like that and scared he barely made it out and it just made it more thrilling for me. Issue 7 was more slow pace and just as electrifying. Scott Snyder is a genius.