In “Batman” #43, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo continue their anything-goes arc with the third chapter of “Superheavy.” Snyder reveals to readers exactly how Bruce Wayne is up and about after the events of “Endgame,” which is not so much of a reveal as it is a confirmation and a defining of the aspects of that plot element. Capullo balances the plot with both horror- and superhero-style sequences, including a shootout between a cigarette smoking Batman and the Devil Pigs in front of a tank full of sharks with surgically implanted horns.
James Gordon has had a few months and several appearances to settle into readers’ minds as the new Batman. While most of the stories surrounding this arc have discussed the giant Bat-bunny suit, Snyder removes that element and still finds way to make this installment weird and entertaining. Through Alfred, the writer reveals Bruce’s fate and his current mental state in an amazing exchange with Clark Kent, who is convinced Bruce must retake the mantle of Batman. Alfred’s role as father figure gives him the courage to stand up to the world’s most powerful man and show him that not only is he wrong, Bruce wasn’t the only calculating and cunning inhabitant of Wayne Manor. Clark represents the voice of readers who cannot accept change, that Bruce must forever be in darkness, must forever be the Bat, because that is who he is and he cannot grow from that role. Alfred represents the desires of creators and storytellers, to allow a character to mature and evolve beyond decisions made in their headstrong youth.
Capullo and inker Danny Miki shine brightest during the showdown between Batman and the Devil Pigs in a dark warehouse. The art team renders the scene with gritty shadows that break into small thin lines, which adds depth to the mounting tension. The fight explodes across a gorgeous, silent two-page spread involving a Batarang gun, shark maulings and trap doors. The final scene, which involves the Penguin and Mr. Bloom (who may perhaps be “Zero Year” Doctor Death in disguise), is a good cliffhanger. Capullo’s horror background and love of heavy metal imagery mean the series will always have a striking visual tone when the action is big, but his early years on superhero books mean that the moments in the light — like Alfred and Clark’s conversation or the imaginings of Batmen to come — are just as interesting in a different way. Throughout both, FCO Plascencia bolsters the art with well-placed highlights in the dark and bright open palettes in the light. This is a team that understands how to operate across the entire storytelling spectrum and continue to perform at peak levels.
There are other realms of story to tell with the concept of Batman, some of which Snyder teases with the seeds of future tales he’s previously told. Even as Gordon confronts Bruce at the opening of the issue, the debate of what Batman is and can be is overtly discussed with Gordon, who concedes that Batman “needs to be something more” than just a middleman. It’s also a commentary on delivering the type of story needed for the creative team’s iconic run on the book. After 40 issues of story, they needed to be something more than just the middlemen continuing to deliver the same plots with the same villains over and over again. Batman represents something more than that; he is a symbol, and symbols need to grow and change along with the stories that incorporate those symbols. “Batman” #43 is another stop on what is becoming a wickedly fun and unpredictable journey for the wielder of that symbol.