“Broken City: Part Four”
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Eduardo Risso
Publisher: DC Comics
Having tracked down Margo last issue, Batman attempts to get to the bottom of the Angel Lupo case. A further encounter with the Penguin leads to a clash with Fat Man and Little Boy who prove a more solid threat to Bruce than at first appeared. Meanwhile, Angel himself shows up as the mystery draws to a close...
Five issues into "Broken City" the twists and turns of this story are piling up. Here, we get some fun set-pieces and a fair amount of exposition as Batman delves further into the Angel Lupo case. As with the best mysteries, some questions are answered whilst others are posed: but unfortunately many readers will still be scratching their heads attempting to make sense of what has gone before. The advancement of the story feels logical - indeed, more satisfying than much of the story development to date - but there still remains a challenge in making the reader care about what is now going on. Too many diversions for their own sake have led to a dilution of a strong core mystery, which is a shame as there are many elements here to enjoy.
Visually, the issue excels and is possibly the strongest example of Risso's work on the arc so far. Arresting images of Batman's bloodied face and Angel Lupo's constant silhouette add a real sense of darkness to the tone of the story, ably abetted by the sombre, reserved colouring which again serves its purpose well. These elements combine to bring a dark, gritty sense of atmosphere to Azzarello's imagination of the Gotham city underworld. If the constant borrowing of Sin City tics (the rain effects, the use of black and silhouette, and the strong angular figures) is still as noticeable as ever, Risso combines them with enough four-colour superheroics to make it feel at home in Batman's world. An action-heavy issue, some superbly executed sequences include Bats' casual handling of a group of street thugs and a tense encounter with Fat Man and Little Boy which convincingly mixes the swiftness of his attacker with the overwhelming suffocation of his captor.
Current issues of Batman have proved entertaining and frustrating in various measures: the product feels like a quality one - the artwork is above average, and issue-to-issue the writing holds up well. However, the story still falters as a whole: Wayne's voice-over admits that "all the pieces I'd been trying to fit together weren't even part of the same puzzle", a pointer that Azzarello may still have a killer last issue up his sleeve that will surprise us and make the preceding five issues fit together as more than entertaining parts of a disappointing whole.
Much depends on how the final part of this arc plays out. There are strong elements at work in this issue and they go some way to make sense of the story so far, but the jury is still out. A fair comic in its own right, the baggage of Broken City drags enjoyment levels down to the extent that only a stellar final issue will render the preceding five satisfying. It is open to debate whether this is the way that comics should be enjoyed.
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