BATMAN #4
Author: John Bierly
December 24, 2011
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SYNOPSIS: Shocking discoveries lead Batman deeper into the mystery of the Court of Owls and its secret and bloody ties to both Gotham City and the Wayne family. But an even deadlier threat awaits Batman: a trap set hundreds of years ago, far beneath his city. The war for Gotham's soul begins here!

'Tis the season for giving, and Bat-Fans, we've been given a LOT this year. Christopher Nolan expertly guided the conclusion to his legendary Batman film trilogy through a massive international shoot, culminating in a teaser that sent us into berserk fits of conjecture and a trailer that shows us so much but still tells us nothing (about the plot, at least; the movie itself looks to be a sprawling masterpiece of breadth, depth, style, and scope, with no potential outcome off limits).

On the comic book side of things, Batman's history changed very little (for better or for worse) with DC's launch of the New 52, and the powers-that-be were wise enough to put rising star Scott Snyder on the flagship BATMAN title. We're going to be talking about this writer and his stories for a long, long time, and he's barely even scratched the surface of where he's taking Bruce Wayne.

Issue #4 picks up with Batman Bat-Manning his way out of #3's explosive cliffhanger as only a cowled-up Bruce Wayne can; the world's on fire around him and he's solving mysteries in his head while dodging flaming debris with everything else. Snyder writes in a way that creates context in the moment, enhancing the action with expanded urgency without sacrificing the first iota of momentum.

Back at the Bat Cave, Bruce and Dick engage in a character-driven examination of the clues at hand, all centered on Bruce's nonchalant autopsy of the dusty remains of his great-great grandfather, Alan Wayne. (After the epic story Snyder gave Dick in THE BLACK MIRROR , it's good to see him still coming up with great material for him in these pages. And make sure you've got THE BLACK MIRROR on your Christmas list, OK?)

And then Snyder embarks on a story path that terrified me in what I thought was going to be a reckless retroactive retelling of the Wayne murders -- until he turns it all around with a narrative twist that shows us why the same man who could dust off his ancestor's skull could do what Bruce does here as a child. (The answer is simple. This man is driven because he's BRUCE WAYNE, and he's always been this way, and always will be.) It's just absolutely amazing.

This issue does reach its end way too abruptly (as all of these 20-pagers unfortunately do), but what precedes the creepy finale is a towering inferno of character expansion while adding new layers to the myths behind the mystery at hand. The Court of Owls nursery rhyme does seem awfully detailed and a little forced to be a nursery rhyme, but it works with what Snyder's building to.

Gotham has as many secrets as its citizens and, if The Talon has his way, Alan won't have been the only Wayne who died the hard way to keep those secrets safe.

Greg Capullo's art does all the right things at all the right times, giving us dreamy, moody flashbacks, detailed emotion in the faces during character moments, brawny action during the big escape at the beginning, and a stylized take on the final page that cleverly frames the danger for next issue. Jonathan Glapion's inks particularly sing in the Bruce/Dick scene, highlighting Dick's vigor and Bruce's dedication to cracking the case. Colors by FCO are varied and true.

We're in excellent hands here, friends. 2012 will be one of the biggest years of all time for those of us who love The Batman, and we're lucky to count Scott Snyder among our number. I wish all of you and your families and friends a lovely and happy Holiday Season! - John Bierly

GRADE: A

John Bierly still can't believe he
gets to write for BOF.
Check out JOHNBIERLY.COM to read about the other things he writes about.

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