Writer: Brian Azzarello
Art: Eduardo Risso
Colors: Patrica Mulvihill
Letters: Clem Robins
Publisher: D.C. Comics
As the issue opens with Batman getting an explanation for why Angel's sister was killed from the person who ordered her death we see Batman becomes increasingly convinced that he's made a mistake when it comes to setting the Gotham Underworld loose upon Angel. We then see Batman's hunt for Angel results in a second encounter with the pair Fatman and Little Boy, and he's able to use his vast experience to take both of them out before Angel arrives for his meeting with these two killers.
This issue does a solid job of showing how Batman is able to take stock of his situation and his opponents, even while in the midst of getting beaten to a bloody pulp, as there's a great little moment where Batman finally comes up with an attack that proves to be very effective against the insanely fast Little Boy. In fact in my time as a comic book reader I have to say I've been waiting for a moment like this where a character's dangling loops, straps, and the biggest offender, the flowing cape are used to provide a handhold for an attack. Now I'm not asking artists to drop all their clever visual design elements or the flood of accessories that they are saddling the characters with, but it is nice to see a story acknowledge that in the midst of combat having elements on one's costume that the person you're fighting can grab a hold of, can act as a disadvantage. There's also a wonderfully dark little moment where Batman stands down Angel Lupo who has a gun out, ready to shoot him down and Batman able to send Angel running like a scared little girl simply by playing the role of the spooky creature of the night. Killer Croc also gets a nice little moment where he's allowed to come across as a fairly dangerous creature, and one has to openly wonder why Killer Croc seems to be so interested in the whereabouts of Angel Lupo, except perhaps he wants to get his hands on the criminal who has subjected him to the attentions of Batman not once by twice during this arc.
There are moments in the issue where I find the art looks simplistic, and a bit too dependent on the heavy dark areas to gloss over the lack of detail on the page. On the other hand though the art does manage to nicely convey the darker elements of the story, as there's a great little moment in the opening pages where we see Batman deals with a trio that are beating on a homeless man while at the same time he's dealing with an equally disturbing revelation that a character is making. The big battle of this issue that Batman has with Fatman and Little Boy is also well presented, as the sense of speed behind Little Boy's attacks is nicely represented by the idea that we see the impact of the attacks rather that the attacks themselves. There's also some good work on the little details, as I loved the visual of Fatman licking Batman's blood from his face as his partner is laying into him. The look of terror on Angel Lupo as he enters the warehouse to find Batman within is also quite impressive, as is the shot of the blood soaked Batman as he rises off Fatman, and advances toward Angel. The cover image to this issue is also worth a mention as it's a great visual summation of the story.
There are several moments during this issue where Batman's running commentary feels a bit goofy, as while I understand the appeal of making the character into an ominous figure, Brian Azzarello does go overboard in his bid to achieve this feeling. I mean even the Punisher's War Journals displayed more restraint than Batman's internal monologue, and frankly that narrative device never quite managed to convince me that it had any real purpose in the book other than to convince readers that the Punisher was as tough as they come. I guess what I'm trying to say here is that Batman's internal dialogue feels a little too manufactured, as it's making a continual bid to convince readers that Batman is one cool cat, whose internal thoughts are steered entirely toward selling us on the character's tough as nails approach to each and every situation. I mean even when he's admonishing himself in the opening pages for having set events in motion that shouldn't have been unleashed, the narration seems to be hell-bent on presenting the character as a spooky monster than a human being who is beating themselves up over a mistake. I also have to ask why Batman is acting like he's set in motion such a disastrous situation, as Angel Lupo doesn't exactly come across as innocent, and as such he doesn't exactly make for a sympathetic victim that Batman has to save. This issue also needs to stop being so mysterious about certain aspects of its plot, as there are moments where it feels like the only reason the mystery exists is because the plot continually insists that there is one.
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The battle between Batman and the duo of Fatman and Little Boy is well done, as the fight manages to sell the idea that Batman is in tough, but that he's also pretty good when it comes to spotting and exploiting a weakness that he finds in his opponents. I'll also give this book credit for managing to introduce a plot twist that I honestly didn't see coming as we learn who had Angel's sister killed, and their motive for doing so is wonderfully twisted. However, the book does take the character of Batman a little too serious, so what had started out as a homage to the film noir experience becomes borderline campy, as Batman ends up sounding like a pretender who is trying too hard to be tough rather than the genuine article. If Brian Azzarello had toned it down or better yet had crafted a story that played off Batman's serious-minded attitude than I'd honestly believe I'd be singing this book's praises, but as it stands I find some of the scenes to be unintentionally comical. Frankly, the writing seems so caught up in projecting a serious mood that it forgot to include a plot that could support the weight of such a high level of internal angst.
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