Saturday, 16 August 2014

New Beginnings - Batman #34

by Matt Puddy

OK, I know, I know, Batman isn’t exactly a new character seeing as he has just celebrated his 75th birthday. It’s not a new writer seeing as it is still Scott Snyder driving this issue forward (with Gerry Duggan) and there are no new twists, villains or characters entering the fray. So why this issue?

Well to be honest this is a new beginning. Zero Year has (finally) finished and now Batman is back in present day Gotham, returning to the New 52 status quo. This is also bringing the main Batman book in line with the current weekly title, Batman Eternal. However, instead of jumping straight into a new arc. this issue is more stand alone, giving the reader a reprieve from the pace of recent issues and relentless schedules.

Issue #34 is a small story simply called The Meek. Rather than focussing on the big villains that Gotham and Arkham hold, Snyder and Duggan take notice of the little folk and the ones that hunt them. Even with all the hustle and bustle of the city life, Batman still manages to notice that a number of lost and homeless people are going missing. All of them patients of the same Doctor Thompkins. So, doing as Bruce always does, he has the urge to step in and protect the residents no matter who they are. What he finds though is a quiet killer, one who wants to murder and then disappear into obscurity again. A nameless face from the shadows who doesn’t want to be known.

This is a completely self-contained issue that Snyder has planned, and acts as a bridge in between arcs. As I mentioned before there are no huge plot twists or major characters, but that doesn’t mean that he hasn’t put a lot into it. Developing a story from nothing and following it through in just one issue, is not an easy feat but he pulls it off. He even manages to have Batman cracking a joke with one of the men from the Asylum, as well as putting a very nice twist on a punishment for him by locking him up in the Joker’s cell where everyone will see him.

What also does is that instead of leaving with a happy ending, there is a much more sinister feel to it with the immense realisation of the depths to which this has gone, and for how long is immense. That Batman is fallible - as this could have been caught quicker - and there is no way to know how far this actually went.

Artistically, Matteo Scalera (Black Science) is the main man on this issue, with Lee Loughridge working the colours. What I’ve liked is that the art has at no time given any sort of positive vibe to the story. It feels quiet, dialled down and in some cases totally bleak, which is how it should feel. Part of this is also down to there being a very big tonal shift on different pages. These again are muted and fit the scene with the exception of the blood red washes over the last pages.

This is not an issue that will drive any of the story for Batman forward, but then again it’s not meant to be. What it is though is a great jump on point for new readers or fans who are coming back to a Batman title after a break.

A good little issue which gets you ready for the next big thing.

Matt Puddy is looking forward to the Endgame.

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