Ending is hard. This is true for all mediums, but especially so in superhero comics, where there is a constant demand for character arcs, reveals and satisfying conclusions.
Yet, there can never be so much progress that the story truly ends. Batman can never really clean up Gotham, or else the story would be over. Bruce Wayne would have to come to terms with the fact that he should have been in therapy instead of running on rooftops.
Wednesday, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo did their best to stick the landing for their run on Batman after 51 issues. They are the only creative team to still be working on the same book since the company-wide relaunch in August of 2011“The New 52,” and their book has remained one of DC Comics’ most popular series.
Possible spoilers for the final issue and the team’s run to follow. If you haven’t read the series, give it a shot, it has been consistently entertaining for over fifty issues.
Over the course of their run, Snyder and Capullo have definitely added their piece to the legacy of Batman. In their first two story arcs, a new enemy group was revealed.
The Court of Owls was introduced as a secret society of old money families that had existed since Gotham’s founding and worked beneath the city, pulling strings towards their own agenda. It’s no small feat to create enduring villains. The Court of Owls works because it turns Batman’s city against him. In most cases he has the upper hand when it comes to Gotham. However, the Owls’ presence shows that the city’s foundation may be as rotten as the men Batman chases each night.
The third volume focused on an extended conflict with the most classic of Batman rogues, the Joker. Every time Joker appears in a story, part of the intrigue is finding out what he will be like, this time. For Snyder and Capullo, the Joker looked different than he ever had before. At the beginning of the New 52 Joker’s face had been removed, and he wore it as a mask. During the story arc, he repeated old crimes from Batman and his earlier encounters. One of the most interesting aspects of this story was Joker’s relationship with Batman.
Batman’s rogues are each are all foils to him, they are perversions of aspects of his character. Two-Face shows what justice without mercy looks like the Riddler takes Batman’s genius and detective skills and uses them for petty games to prove his superiority. Joker has always shown the madness of Batman, he shows Bruce Wayne what he could be without his code. During this arc, Joker explicitly says all of this to him. The two are shown to have almost lover-like tendencies. The finale is haunting and pushes their dynamic to the limits.
The following three volumes went back to the days before Bruce Wayne was officially Batman. Zero Year was a beautifully drawn story arc, it shows the days after Bruce has traveled the world to train but before he has donned the cape and cowl, and it succeeds in making the Riddler out to be a real threat in a way that he had not been portrayed for quite awhile. Zero Year is a long complex story told over the course of fifteen issues, and it is absolutely a fun read, especially now that it is available to pick up the whole thing in trade paperbacks.
After Zero Year, the Batman book came back to the present and concluded the Joker storyline. If Joker treated Batman like a lover in the first arc, he came back as a lover spurned. When the Joker appeared with a fully healed face, the question became how he was always able to return seemingly uninjured. Joker started to taunt Batman, saying that he was actually immortal and possibly an evil deity. Batman uses his skills as the world’s greatest detective to get to the bottom of Joker’s history. However, the clown prince of crime has always avoided being pinned down to a single backstory, so the conclusion here is equal parts ambiguous and satisfying.
The final arc put Police Commissioner Gordon in the Bat suit. His version of the suit was a giant mech suit loaded with gadgets. Having someone other the Bruce Wayne take over Batman duties is a staple of many creator’s runs. Snyder and Capullo also gave Gordon Batman an interesting new villain to butt heads with in Mr. Bloom. Mr. Bloom was an unsettling Thin Man-esque character, who gave out drugs that imbued citizens with powers, only to horribly deform them and power him later on. Gordon as Batman was fun, but it felt like a countdown till Bruce Wayne took over the role again. That’s partially the point of a change, we see how difficult it is to be Batman, and how no one else can really fill the shoes. Bruce Wayne did return, but Gordon ended his time as Batman with self-sacrifice, and the arc is worth checking out.
For the finale of their run, Snyder and Capullo decided to show the readers a rare night in Gotham City, one without crime. Early in the issue, there is a city-wide blackout. Batman goes out expecting to find a supervillain or criminal group is responsible for the power outage. He travels the city to check out the usual suspects. He finds many of his rogues in lock-up at Arkham Asylum, we see members of the Court of Owls laying in wait. Several enemies allude to plans in the works, but that night Batman finds that all is well.
In a medium like comics, that so adamantly resists change, endings are nearly impossible. Anything that is said in one issue can be reversed or ruined in the next. In a couple months, another creative team will take over the book and Batman and Gotham will again be thrown into terrible situations. Snyder and Capullo closed out their time in Gotham by showing that, even if just for one night, Batman had succeeded.