Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Eduardo Risso
Publisher: D.C. Comics
As Batman struggles with the memories that are rising to the surface in the aftermath of last issue's murder of a young boy's parents, we see he turns his attention to the capture of the man who fired the bullets that made this child an orphan. To this end we see he takes to questioning the people that this killer would likely make contact with, and after a bit of persuasion Batman is able to make these people answer his questions, but he receives a rude surprise in the final pages of this issue.
It's not much of a mystery when one knows who committed the murder right from the word go, but after the rather anti-climactic finish to the yearlong "Hush" arc, I have to say I rather enjoy the rather straightforward nature of this arc. Now Brian Azzarello is also playing his arc a bit more down to earth than the aforementioned arc, which I for one greatly appreciate, as the one complaint that I've always had regarding Batman is that in the past the writers have made the character into an unstoppable crime-fighting machine who was able to think circles around his hapless opponents, and make even the most skilled hand to hand opponent look like a first year novice who's lucky to land a single punch, let alone last long enough the make Batman work up a sweat. This issue ends with a sequence where Batman gets his head handed to him, and I for one couldn't be happier, as if nothing else it's sure to annoy the fans who have embraced the idea that Batman can't be beaten. I don't want to read a comic where there's never any real danger that it's lead character might lose a fight, or make a mistake, because in my book that's a recipe for a dreadfully dull reading experience. Now this book is not likely to appeal to the fans who come looking for battles with costumed baddies, but for fans of hard-boiled crime fiction, Brian Azzarello's work should be exactly what the doctor ordered. Plus, the insertion of a character who is able to hand Batman his head, ups the excitement level considerably.
As for the art, it's clear why Eduardo Risso has been such a success over on "100 Bullets", as his art does a wonderful job conveying the darker elements of this story, and delivering the more unpleasant aspects of the material with a particular relish. I mean you have to love an artist who is able to make a bloody steak look downright ominous, and the panel where Killer Croc is picking his shattered teeth out of his lip is downright unsettling. I also enjoy the attention to the little details like the dents that line the vest that Batman wears under his costume, or the way that Batman's shadow is used to announce his arrival outside the garage. The art also presents a Batman who is quite imposing, as the scene where he lifts the one thug off the ground before slamming him to the ground does a great job selling the sheer physical presence of the character.
A comic that will leave you feeling like you've taken a tour of the lowest levels of the DCU, as this has to be closest Batman's ever come to getting himself a Vertigo title. The villains that Batman runs up against in this arc are truly despicable creatures, and Batman's method of interacting with them isn't much better, as his obsession with Killer Croc's teeth is quite disturbing. Now the parallels that Brian Azzarello looks to be drawing between the murders that we ended with last issue, and the event in Batman's past that shattered his childhood are a bit too obvious, and I hope the dream sequences that hammer home this point are over and done with, but I do like the intensity level that has been established, as Batman is downright spooky in this arc, as he uses the spinning gears of a car engine to put the fear of the Bat into an uncooperative thug. I also love fact that Brian Azzarello has shown he's ready and willing to put Batman through the meat grinder, as the issue ends with the character taking a right good beating at the hands & feet on an unseen attacker.
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