If Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns proved Batman was capable of standing his own against Superman, then Mark Waid’s Tower of Babel arc in JLA showed how much further he could take it.
Scott Snyder’s Endgame, the current Batman story arc beginning this issue, takes it one giant step further with the Dark Knight being ambushed by the members of the Justice League. There’s no warning, no planning, and no explanation until the very last page which will have readers anxiously waiting out an entire month to get their hands on the next issue to see what comes next.
Bruce Wayne has been seeing terrible visions of his own death as a result of the a Cassandra strain of Crane’s fear toxin which removes the brain’s natural reaction to dying in a dream by waking up. After a conversation with Alfred and Julia Pennyworth about Batman’s new highrise headquarters, Gotham City, and removing the remaining vestiges of the Owls, a visitor arrives.
The surprise isn’t the fact the visitor is Wonder Woman, or that she comes crashing through the window. It’s what she does when she tackles the injured Wayne, slams him headfirst into the floor, then flies him away over the park where he escapes. Wonder Woman seems incredibly focused on killing Wayne, prompting him to call for plan “Fenrir.”
Fenrir involves a “Justice Buster” suit that incapacitates Wonder Woman, Flash, and Aquaman in that order through varying but very effective methods. When the big bad Blue makes his appearance, the true threat behind the Justice League of Batkillers is revealed, and to say it’s bad news would be equivalent to losing an arm and calling it a flesh wound.
Batman #35 is designed for maximum impact, and Snyder’s story bounces forward, backwards, and even slows to a crawl without losing steam. Once Wonder Woman enters the picture, the issue kicks it into top gear, becoming a showcase for Batman to prove he doesn’t need to crawl back to his mansion to lick his wounds, devise a plan, before coming back to finish the mission ninja style. Within minutes and after a brutal shellacking, Wayne’s suited up, the locale is covered in a foggy gas, and he’s ready to take down some of the most powerful beings on the planet as an army of one. Snyder’s script covers the bases with great surprises that don’t stretch logic. The methods Batman uses to dispatch the Justice League don’t feel farfetched — rather, they seem pretty appropriate for their intended targets.
The dialogue also suits its speakers with a little bit of bending that makes you wonder whether they’re possessed or going insane. Diana Prince’s formal warrior speak sets the tone for Wayne’s very bad day after he’s challenged, and Arthur Curry sounds like he’s about to slap Wayne with a gauntlet before heading into a jousting match. As for Superman, Clark Kent’s condescension drips with creepiness, especially when he tells us who we should really be afraid of.
The script alone would make for an awesome prose story, but the visual team won’t take a backseat. Greg Capullo’s pencils look like they’re trying to outdo themselves with page after page of dramatic tension and grand designs. The Justice Buster suit looks very much like a bat — a robotic and menacing one at that — and one the Hulk would need a Bat Buster suit to outdo. The expressions convey the story Snyder’s writing, and Capullo doesn’t neglect the visual qualities of the characters — from Wonder Woman’s confident stances to Superman’s relaxed and powerful hovering posture.
Danny Miki’s inks on tops of the pencils are precise like incisions, and there’s clear separation between clean and dirty surfaces with a level of detail that doesn’t come with a rushed hand. The polish and detail are incredible and worthy of the Batman legacy.
When it comes to colors, FCO Plascencia excels. Even a quick glance over the various panels brings your eyes to the bright and recognizable costumes that highlight each page. There’s a lot of grays to work with due to the fog, but Plascencia doesn’t let it overpower the visual story. The lighting is beautiful, and the palette has a great aesthetic that’s easy on the eyes.
The Batman title in its New 52 phase has produced plenty of great moments that have kept fans coming back month after month. It’s been a consistent top-10 seller and for good reason. The creative team has hit a stride that continues producing quality issues that set the bar for what superhero comics should be. Some may argue it’s the title itself that sells the comic, but I’d be the first to stand up for the names in the credit section.
What comic wouldn’t sell with Snyder, Capullo, Miki, and Plascencia on the cover?
Batman #35 (2011)
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Words: Scott Snyder
Pencils: Greg Capullo
Inks: Danny Miki
Colors: FCO Plascencia
Letters: Steve Wands
Next Issue: Batman #36 Review