Friday, June 29, 2012

Batman Volume 1, The Court Of Owls, Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo

“THE NEW 52” — DC's ill-considered reboot of its most-recognized brands — has caught public attention chiefly for its ineptitude. If you're old enough to remember the New Coke fiasco, try imagining how that campaign would have fared if, in response to the precipitous plunge in sales, Coca-Cola had responded not by returning the “classic” brew to the shelves, but by rolling out yet another radically altered, unrecognizable recipe and calling it “New, New Coke.” So long as the beholder is not emotionally invested in the given brand, it all makes for an entertaining show.

The only DC brand that's ever mattered to me is Gotham's Dark Knight, whose character has endured any number of batty (hee!) sea-changes over the years. In his case, DC manages to at least toe the line. Writer Scott Snyder holds to Grant Morrison's mostly-reverent approach to storyline, giving readers a nameless, faceless formidable foe that appears to have the upper hand on the anally over-competent Batman. This collection (Volume 1, The Court Of Owls) is a first act, which requires the Batman be wounded and potentially down for the count, with readers wondering how this could possibly reach a pleasing resolution. It works, albeit on the same emotional level as watching one's favourite team lose the first three games in a play-off series, and no deeper.

Greg Capullo's artwork brings the edge that the material desperately needs. His primary stylistic impulse is to strike a balance between Frank Miller and Todd McFarlane.

Again, “reverential” is the word that comes to mind, and since the execution is done with such brio it's an entirely laudable approach.

But midway into Batman's direst crisis, the style slips into something more akin to Mort Drucker, portraying our hero in carricaturish proportions that render him as something comically pitiable.

Batman rouses and rescues himself, of course, but the visual effect is surprisingly intimate an insight into Bruce Wayne's humiliated point-of-view, certainly, but also a subtle acknowledgement of the reader's complicit participation in the hero's degradation.

So, yes, full marks from me, too. Here's hoping the other 51 can hitch up their tights and pull in a few more readers, because it would be a shame to see the entire DC edifice collapse on top of their sole compelling storyline.

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