REVIEW: BATMAN #50
AUTHOR: John Bierly (Follow @JOHNBIERLY)
DATE: March 31, 2016

SYNOPSIS: Batman has returned to Gotham City! In this extra-sized conclusion to Snyder and Capullo’s epic story “Superheavy,” Bruce Wayne returns to the cape and cowl to battle Mr. Bloom alongside Jim Gordon for the fate of the city they both love.

As Jett predicted immediately upon the announcement of SUPERHEAVY and the Jim Gordon Batman, Bruce Wayne returns as The Dark Knight just in time for the release of BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE. Just as this storyline began with meta-commentary that went well beyond on-the-nose, the opening page of BATMAN #50 finds Jim Gordon letting us know that we're about to get what we've been waiting for, something we've never seen before, something we deserve, "and then some," as Bruce Wayne suits up to save his city yet again.

As Gotham's finest find themselves inside the must-be-billions of dollars' worth of fully operational prototypes and variants of Jim's Mecha-Gordon-Zilla suit, Mr. Bloom looms above Gotham's streets, seeding its citizens with the city's latest in a seemingly infinite line of viral outbreaks.

And when Bruce arrives on the scene, it's a moment true to Gordon's promise. One of the things "we've never seen before" is Batman's new costume, mightily rendered with Greg Capullo's brawny visual flair and finished to perfection by Danny Miki's inks and FCO Plascencia's colors. Because of the Dionesium that brought Bruce back to life, he's now "the fastest and strongest Batman since, well, ever." And he's going to need to be.

As Batman dives into the ever crazier fray, Gordon has to find a way around Batman's efforts to keep his brutally wounded friend from further harm. But we all know Jim Gordon better than that, which adds a super-heavy layer of dread to the proceedings as Gordon utters his own version of "not yet" to the oft-asked Batman question of "Have I given my city everything?" The stuff with Gordon's efforts to disarm Bloom's "Strange Star" is the best part of the big finale, and it feels particularly welcome after the last few issues have sidelined Gordon in his own storyline.

What doesn't work as well is the resolution of the Duke Thomas/Daryl Gutierrez subplot; Snyder does find a way to make their detours integral to the story, but that doesn't mean they feel integral. (And speaking of Duke, Snyder also invents a new variation on how a young hero can lose his parents that's pretty horrific.) I'd gladly have traded some of the Duke Thomas/Daryl Gutierrez pages for a better resolution for Julie Madison; then again, Julie's story wouldn't have added anything to the main story, so perhaps it was the right decision to confine her to the epilogue. I could go either way on that one.

The final battle does get a little outlandish for my tastes (as SuperHeavy goes SuperHeaviest), but the big Jim Gordon finale does a nice job of bringing it all home. I like the big speech Gordon gives, but I'd have liked it just as much if he'd said nothing more than those final two words. And as the issue moves into an epilogue that greets us with a jaw-dropping page by epilogue artist Yanick Paquette and colorist Nathan Fairbairn, the beautifully written words seem almost hollow as everything falls conveniently back into the same groove it had been in before SUPERHEAVY began. (And the editors should have caught the differences between the new Bat-belt between artists, but alas.)

Was SUPERHEAVY ultimately worth it? I appreciated it, and I loved the idea of Gordon as Batman. I just don't know that the book ever truly committed to it, especially since we're already back to Bruce Wayne as Batman. The relative brevity of the story makes it feel a little arbitrary; on the other hand, I'm glad it didn't drag out yet another "someone else picks up the Bat-Mantle" story for terribly long. I think I'd have liked a little more Gordon. Not more issues, just more of him within the ones we got.

What I do know is that we certainly got a lot of amazing art out of Greg Capullo's art team along the way, and I'll miss him terribly as Batman moves forward. And even though this isn't my favorite Scott Snyder story, I love that fact that he's always trying to push his writing, the character, and the audience into new challenges by exploring new aspects of what it means to be Batman. When I declared Snyder the future of Batman in my review of his landmark "Black Mirror" run on DETECTIVE, I was right.

And I still am. - 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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