“Broken City: Part Six”
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Eduardo Risso, coloured by Patricia Mulvihill
Publisher: DC Comics
Angel Lupo's killer is revealed and the police close in on Fat Man and little boy. However, there may be more to the murders than meets the eye as Batman is invited to drop in on an old friend in Arkham Asylum...
And so Azzarello and Risso's Batman arc comes to an end. This final issue had a lot riding on it, the success of the story and the cohesion of the arc as a whole being so dependent on how the denouement plays out. Unfortunately, this instalment is as much of a mess as the previous five had suggested, with the reveal of Angel Lupo's killer and the capture of Fat Man and Little Boy being dealt with in an almost nonchalant, offhand manner, before giving way to a final "twist" which comes out of nowhere.
The Joker's appearance gives Risso a chance to turn his hand to yet another classic Batman adversary. Here, the Joker is portrayed as a lucid and coherent foe, his malevolent mischievous, Leprechaun-like nature being brought out as much through the artwork as the script. A nice nod to Alan Moore's "Killing Joke" appears in one panel (note the concentric rings made by the rain) and the portrayal of Batman's trawl through the sewers is as gritty and dark as is necessary, capturing the otherworldly nature of the character - despite his humanity - effectively. Mulvhill's colouring is again top-notch.
The writing of this issue is not bad per se: in fact, there is a nice extended sequence towards the end which retells the story of the murder of Bruce Wayne's parents in a far more personal, understated and affectingly human manner than many other writers have managed. If everyone must have a crack at Batman's origin, then Azzarello has provided thought-provoking and original work here. A shame, then, that the main plot has yo-yo-ed so much over the last half a year that many readers will struggle to remember why Batman ever visited Angel Lupo's killer before; they may wonder why Batman's relationship with Detective Allen has come to nothing; and they may well question whether the Joker could really have been as connected with the events of the last six issues as he implies. The final twist is as bewilderingly disappointing as the realisation that Batman's efforts and his relentless interest in Angel Lupo have all come to nothing.
It is certainly the case that this arc has suffered for its extended complications and red herrings. If the story had been spread out over a longer period - or had exercised more discipline and cut away some of the less important diversions - the end result may have been far more satisfying. Instead, we are left with a potential frustratingly unfulfilled: an undeniably talented creative team who promised an involving thriller but failed to deliver. We do not get the impression that Azzarello and Risso have been lovingly crafting a tightly-plotted thriller: rather that they were making it up as they went along.
An uneven story arc comes to an end, and after 6 issues of red herrings and a whistle-stop tour of Batman's rogues gallery, we are left with a confusing mess of ideas rather than the taut streamlined noir mystery that this creative team promised. A wasted opportunity.
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