“Broken City: Part Four”
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Eduardo Risso, coloured by Patricia Mulvihill
Publisher: DC Comics
Continuing his search for Angel Lupo, Batman runs into newcomers to the Gotham underworld in the shape of Fatman and Little Boy. After again running into Detective Allen and Killer Croc, Batman starts to realise that this case is more complex than he originally thought...
Reading previous instalments of "Broken City", you could be forgiven for occasionally getting the feeling of having missed an issue somewhere. The story thus far has had a slightly non-sequacious feel to it, many of the characters drifting in and out and not seeming to have enough of an impact to justify their presence. Happily, the elements are coming together somewhat this issue, and if the tale has thus far failed to live up to the promise of its excellent first issue it at least provides a solid enough detective story.
An effective opening sequence introduces some interesting new villains into the mix: Fatman and Little Boy, who push Batman in a new direction in his hunt for Angel Lupo. After some mis-steps in the artwork of previous issues, their distinct design shows off Risso's talents to the full, as he displays a masterful control of light and shadow as well as a knack for implying quick, precise movements between otherwise static panels. As the issue progresses, some gratuitously violent questioning leads Bats to a surprising discovery that questions his assumptions about Angel Lupo's guilt, setting in motion a series of grisly nightmares. This sequence gives us another important look at Bruce Wayne's inner trauma (in a throwback to the standout opening of last issue), rendering his dreams in stark black, white and red. The use of this device to expose Batman's psyche may seem overused in the batbooks, but is relentlessly effective when executed as compellingly as this.
As this episode comes to a close, some threads from earlier issues are drawn together and the twist in Angel Lupo's tale looks to take this story in a new direction - providing an exciting set-up for next issue. It is a pleasant surprise to see the standards of this arc improving again, with the writing in particular keeping away from the noir cliches that threatened to bog the story down in previous issues and giving Batman more logical detective skills to go with his angry and relentless drive against crime in Gotham City. Judgement will rest on how the arc plays out, but things are certainly starting to look more promising for Azzarello and Risso's Broken City arc.
Although there is still the feeling that this story will read better when collected in a trade, it is pleasing to see the writing and art fulfilling the promise of its first issue. Though not flawless, Broken City is finally starting to come together into a strong detective story that relates closely enough to Bruce Wayne's personal demons to make it an effective and suitable story for the Batman.
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