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Batman #623

Posted: Sunday, February 1, 2004
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Eduardo Risso

Publisher: D.C. Comics

The Plot:
After having a face to face meeting with Fatman and Little Boy, the newest players in the Gotham criminal community, we see Batman starts to get the sense that he might've been wrong in his assumption that Angel Lupo was responsible for the murders in the alley. However his efforts to locate Angel have got Gotham's criminal element in an uproar, and Batman finds himself force to battle against this tidal wave of hostility in order to save Angel.

The Good:
This arc continues to deliver a nice film noir vibe as Batman is still coming across as an unstoppable force of nature as he carves a path through Gotham City's criminal community in his bid to discover the location of Angel Lupo. I also enjoyed the opening page encounter that Batman has with the new players in Gotham, as it's a refreshing change of pace to see this meeting didn't turn into a brawl, that Brian Azzarello would use to show readers how capable his new creations are in a fight. In fact the simple fact that Batman is shown to be in awe of Little Boy's speed, and the sheer intimidation factor of Fatman's size did more than enough to leave me eagerly anticipating their next encounter. Now the mystery of who murdered Angel's sister does look to be getting a little too convoluted, and I can't say I'm overly found of clues to the mystery being presented in the character's dreams. However, I do like the idea that a mystery plot is allowed to have twists and turns that actively baffled Batman, as one of my biggest problems with the character of Batman is that fan expectation has resulted in mysteries where the character is able to solve them using the logic that he's the world's greatest detective, so naturally he has the solution to the mystery only moments after he's presented with the mystery. It's just nice to get a mystery where Batman is allowed to kick himself for not always having followed the right path.

Eduardo Risso brings a very solid visual feel to this book as while there are moments when the writing goes a bit over-the-top in its bid to deliver a serious-minded mood, the art does a fantastic job of selling the darker moments. From the sense of danger established during the meeting Batman has with Fatman and Little Boy, to the sense of frustration that is conveyed on the final page as Batman realizes he has got it all wrong, the art does a wonderful job telling this story. There's also some clever touches in this issue like using the Fatman's fish cleaning to punctuate the sense of menace that these characters project. The art does a nice job of detailing the sequence where we see Batman is busy putting the fear of the bat into the Gotham criminal community, with my favorite scene being his encounter with the thief in the museum. I also rather enjoyed the visual design of the cover, as it's a fun visual play off the historical significance of the name Fatman and Little Boy.

The Bad:
The line that writers walk when they adopt the hard boiled detective approach is that there will be moments when the internal narration by their lead character comes across as trying too hard to reinforce the notion that their character is someone you wouldn't want to mess with, and the writers have to recognize this point and pull it back. However the exchange where Batman talks about how his gloves will be soaked with blood by night's end, I found myself having difficulty accepting this as anything by a laughable attempt at making Batman sound like he meant business. Now most of this dialogue works quite well, and I prefer the idea that the writing isn't disguising the notion that Batman is a deeply troubled individual. However, there are moments in this issue where the writing feels like it's having difficulty pulling itself back, and as such there are moments when its attempts at being serious-minded end up feeling a bit goofy. I also have to express some real concern that the book looks to have lost sight of its central plot, as the murder of Angel's sister looks to have taken center stage, when I had been under the impression that the driving concern of this arc was bringing Angel to justice for gunning down the parents of that young boy in the opening issue. However perhaps the focus that Angel wouldn't be capable of killing his sister is suppose to be the big clue that he wasn't the one who gunned down those two in the alley.

Fish Heads. Fish Heads. Eat Them Up. Yum:
This issue gives us our first good look at Fatman and Little Boy, and I have to say they make for an interesting pair, who I can easily see giving Batman a rough go, as their meeting in this issue, does a nice job of impressing Batman and us readers with the physical abilities, but also the idea that they were willing to discuss the matter with Batman instead of trying to beat his head in (e.g. Killer Croc's standardized response), manages to present the idea that the two are quite intelligent. The mystery also takes an unexpected, and somewhat convoluted twist as we learn Angel might not be the ruthless killer that we had been lead to believe, and this in turn means that all of Batman's efforts up to this point of the story have been misplaced. Now while this twist makes things interesting, it also makes the situation a little difficult to accept, as the idea that Angel Lupo just happened to be running down the alley, and an attempt on his life struck down two innocent bystanders feels a bit contrived. Than again, I'll give Brian Azzarello every opportunity to make this plot twist work.



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