Continued from the cliffhanger banger post that was Part 1: Gotham Is: Snyder and Capullo. Here’s the next part of the collected trade paperback, easily digestible story of one of the best Batman sagas around.
Essential read (barely): Batman Vol. 6: Graveyard Shift. This is the only main collected volume I’d consider semi-optional. Most of the issues here are drawn by Capullo and nearly all are written by Snyder if memory serves. These are the single issues that came in between major story arcs like Court of Owls and Zero Year. There is some groundwork here for story beats and characters that come into play later, so sifting through this volume does enhance and enrich the overall run. Having said that, omitting this volume won’t cause major confusion with what comes later. I peg it as “essential” only because it is part of the main Snyder/Capullo run, but if you had to leave one volume out, this would be it. There’s still plenty of good stuff to be found here, and it delivers that nice little insider knowledge to references that emerge toward the end of the run.
*Optional read: Batman Eternal. This diversion features a who’s who of Batman villains as Bats tackles one hell of a convoluted mystery to see who’s behind it all. The story, written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion, and drawn by a slew of artists, was sort of a cash grab. An issue came out once a week (most comics are monthly, with extremely popular titles sometimes published biweekly) for about a year, hence the revolving door of artists. The story isn’t terrible, and it’s also in Snyder continuity, so completionists will want to check it out. On the whole it doesn’t add much to Snyder’s run besides fleshing out the universe.
Essential read: Batman Vol. 7: Endgame. Picking up threads from Vol. 3: Death of the Family, Joker returns—his face intact once more, his plan monstrous. Upping the ante in unimaginable ways, this confrontation between Bats and Jokes sees a through-line to the end. What Batman means to Joker, what Joker means to Batman, and how far they’ll go to combat one another—all is revealed. The ultimate question is, given the eternal struggle between these two, can one exist without the other? And on the heels of that, what would that existence mean for each of them? The end is bittersweet, tragic yet hopeful, transitioning into a completely new era for Batman.
Essential read: Batman Vol. 8: Superheavy. Thus begins Snyder’s most controversial story arc. In many ways, the previous volume puts a period on everything Batman. You could stop reading Snyder’s run and take away something about tragedy, sacrifice, and hope. And that’d be fine. But there’s more to Batman, and Snyder has a few more things to say before the end. With Bruce Wayne out of commission, we get a new Batman under completely new circumstances. And it’s completely original. This arc challenges the notion that Bruce Wayne is Batman. And that’s something hard to stomach, while at the same time something liberating. Something new. And, before you know it, you’re rooting for this new Batman and his unique set of challenges, leaning into the idea that Batman is perhaps more than one man.
*Optional read: Batman and Robin Eternal. Another weekly series, and essentially a sequel to Batman Eternal. This story is a little more focused than its predecessor, alternating between past and present. Batman (Bruce) and Robin are forced to reconcile old wounds as a mysterious organization from their early years resurfaces. Intriguing and compelling in its own right, although the rotating door of pencilers is again distracting at times (as is the case in most weekly series).
Essential read: Batman Vol. 9: Bloom. The rise of an all new arch-nemesis, Bloom, for the new Batman proves to be more than he can handle. The back and forth between these two constantly raises the temperature, and with nothing less than the fate of Gotham at stake, the new Batman’s role as the Batman comes under fire. He answers the call, so to speak, but his success is another matter. Help comes, the source of which is unexpected… or expected, depending on how closely the reader’s been paying attention. That ultimately doesn’t matter, because the triumph of Batman, no matter who’s wearing the cowl, is defined by the meaning of hope and perseverance. Taking down Bloom is pure exhilaration, and just might bring a tear to your eye.
Essential read: Batman Vol. 10: Epilogue. The end, my friend. Snyder and Capullo wrap up their mainline run. This isn’t the their last take on Batman, the character, but it is a sweet and emotional conclusion to their story. This isn’t the most robust of volumes, but it’s a satisfying testimonial to what Batman is, and has become. As an added bonus, this volume contains the first issue of Batman: Rebirth, which starts the next run on Batman by writer Tom King. Snyder passes the torch nicely, and controversial as King’s run may be (I personally love it for the risks it takes despite its flaws) it signifies a brand new era for the character.
Snyder, and to some extent Capullo, continue shaping the DC Universe and spinning Batman yarns. If you’re in for the long haul, here’s what comes next.
1. All Star Batman—Snyder takes Batman out of his element and tells several different stories with some of the best artists around, tackling several long form story arcs. Great stuff.
2. Batman and Signal—Batman takes on a new sidekick, Duke Thomas, a young boy who’s parents were mutated with Joker toxin. However, there’s more to Duke than meets the eye, and his true nature is exceptional. By no means a bad story, Batman and Signal isn’t Snyder’s best. It’s compelling enough for its short length. Decent stuff.
3. Metal Saga: A) Dark Days: The Road to Metal, B) Dark Knights: Metal, C) Dark Knights Metal: Dark Knights Rising, D) Dark Knights Metal: The Resistance. Thus begins a twisted tale involving the entire Justice League and ancient Bat-Demon hell bent on manipulating reality using Bruce Wayne as a conduit. Crazy, insane, off the wall. Epic stuff.
4. The Batman Who Laughs—the breakaway villain from the Dark Knights: Metal saga comes to Gotham. Artist Jock takes a malevolent and surreal approach toward depicting the cat/mouse confrontation between Bruce and a version of Bruce infected with Joker toxin from a twisted alternate reality. Epic stuff.
5. Justice League: No Justice—Snyder’s prelude to Justice League. This short collection essentially moves pieces around the chessboard and presents ideas for the DC multiverse that Snyder builds on for the next year or two. Intriguing if a little hollow, but integral to understand infinite what comes next.
6. Scott Snyder’s Justice League—This is where it’s all been heading. Snyder takes the biggest heroes in DC (and a few unsung, and a few villains) and crafts a story of Gods, humans, and their places in the multiverse. Epic stuff.
7. Dark Knights: Death Metal Saga—Consisting of the core series and several spinoff series, this is a sequel to both Dark Knights: Metal and Snyder’s Justice League. The final confrontation ends here. With less focus on Batman and more on Wonder Woman, the series changes things up and ultimately establishes a new form of reality and continuity for the entire DC entertainment amalgamation going forth. Epic stuff indeed.
8. Last Knight on Earth—Snyder and Capullo’s “final” Batman story. In the future, a force of evil has manipulated everything, destroyed everything, and remade much of earth. Bruce Wayne wakes as Batman with no memory of what’s happened. Everything is not as it initially seems, including Bruce. Unlikely allies and villains (I mean unlikely) come together in a terrifying, beautiful story about the nature of Bruce and the Bat.
For the Love of Bat
Batman is more than Pow! Bam! or underwear over the pants. There’s a reason he’s the most popular “super” hero of all time. A reason he has so many film and tv incarnations. Everyone wants to take a swing at telling stories about the man behind the bat. He’s not quite an antihero, though he’s close. He has, more than his counterparts, become the best reflection of the human psyche. Through his own flaws, exceptionalism, and his multifaceted, fully realized (for the most part) villains, Batman shows us the best version of ourselves in the worst of conditions, time and time again. He’s not a Knight in shining armor, not a Knight in rusted armor. He’s the Dark Knight.
Until next time, be good.
You take the thing that is the worst thing that could have happened to you, the worst challenge in your life, and you turn it into fuel. You don’t give up. And that’s what Gotham is about.Scott Snyder