Graphic Novel Reviews: Batman 020

The Story

Clayface throws Bruce into a trash compactor, where he is keeping Lucius Fox. The two break out of the compactor with a familiar looking prototype suit. Batman sets a trap for Clayface, who has been going on a rampage. But he is overpowered by the villain, who touches him and reveals that Bruce Wayne is Batman. But once Clayface is captured, Batman reveals that he had a thin membrane with Bruce Wayne’s DNA over his mouth. Clayface taunts Batman about how Wayne ignored his son, to which Batman reacts violently. Back in the Bat Cave Batman tells Alfred that he won’t lose himself like he did when Jason died, but he isn’t ready to let Damian go just yet. Alfred joins him in watching the footage from the cowl.

The Review
I’ve been putting this review off for the past few days. Not because it’s bad and I’m trying to find a way to word my disappointment in a way that won’t get me kicked out of Batman fandom. But because it’s good. Really, really good. And I can’t think of anything interesting to say!

Sure I could say, “This is a good issue, you should go read it.” But that smells too much of the old mentality that critics aren’t in themselves creative. That they can only give basic opinions about the material they consume. I for one think that the growth in online critics is entirely thanks to their ability to make criticism entertainment in itself.

Generally this works best with negative criticism. But I think that too much negative criticism, while entertaining, is damaging not only to criticism as a discipline, but to the critic themselves. I’ve seen some pretty high profile (on the internet at least) critics lose it. Seemingly overwhelmed by the constant barrage of negativity with which they make their living.

So, somehow there needs to be a way to make positive criticism entertaining. The problem arises when I think of how to do this. I suppose a joke here and there is in order, but it’s a lot easier to make a joke about something bad. Making a joke about something good gets a little more complicated. So somehow I need to figure out how to combine the need for entertaining reviews, with the necessity for more positive reviews in general. I wish I could say that I figured out how to do this over the past few days. But unfortunately I cannot. Instead consider this as a mission statement of sorts. I will somehow figure out how to write positive reviews that are at the same time entertaining.

Whether I succeed with this review I cannot say just yet, but I will at least try to make it interesting.

The finale to this two part story is even more enjoyable knowing that it’s the last current Batman story we’ll be getting from this creative team for a while. After this they move on to retelling a six month long story from when Bruce was still a young Batman. One of the main reasons I’ve been enjoying Snyder and Capullo’s run was that compared to other books they were writing new stories, rather than dwelling on the past, or getting inspiration from what’s come before. And by inspiration I mean, straight up writing the same story but with different trappings. As seen in the Teen Titans book.

There’s this obsession in modern comics with regaining what was past. And far too often this comes in the form of retelling origin stories, or telling new stories inspired by previous events. Take for example the Teen Titans. Currently they are fighting Trygon. Fair enough, he’s a major enemy of the Titans. The problem is that this is a retreading at best. I haven’t read the original story myself, but I think fans of the Teen Titans will agree that the original was a much better story than this “retelling”. In order to move forward we actually need to move forward. That’s what this issue does. It tells a new story, it takes a chance and reinvents Clayface in a way that doesn’t harken back to older stories.

It’s these kind of stories that we need. We need new, fresh ideas. We don’t need stories that retread old ground. I know the continuity pre-New 52 technically no longer exists in this version of the DCU, or at least parts of it don’t exist while parts do. Again, it’s a confusing mess. Still, even though we have a blank slate to retell the stories of these characters, there’s a certain point where we just need to move forward. Going back, even with good stories, just puts the entire universe in limbo. For the next few months Batman will be in stasis while the Zero Year resolves itself.

Still, I’m glad they gave us one more short story before moving on. The last page feels like the proper closure we needed in regards to Damian before we go back in time. Though it will make the Batman of the next few months of Batman and Robin feel like a completely different person to this one that came to terms with Damian’s death much faster. My hopes are high that it will be good, but I can’t help but feel I would have preferred more short stories like this one.

The Grade

5/5

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