For the last several years, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have used each page of the character’s title to finish this statement. They guided Batman and his alter ego Bruce Wayne through dark, Shakespearean melodrama. They catapulted the book to the top of the charts with deep characterization of not just the Waynes, but the city of Gotham itself.
Snyder dragged Batman down to dark places, forcing the vigilante to consider his relationship with his home, his colleagues and his family, while including big action pieces, tragic reveals and jaw-dropping shocks that somehow escalated with every new arc.
Capullo’s art always delivered. Always. There wasn’t a single panel that wasn’t poured over with utmost care. Those that follow him on Twitter can see the journey he undertook from word to finished page. His designs were terrifying, but caring, loving and brave. Rare, if at all, was the panel that looked rushed or an angle that appeared ill-conceived.
In “Batman” #51, Snyder and Capullo end their stewardship of DC’s flagship character not with a bang, but with a quiet night and a simple problem. The issue gives the creative team reason to stop in on nearly every element of their run as well as some they never got to explore. It teases out many possibilities for Bruce’s future and — though there aren’t any mass chemical attacks or lives on the line — the issue is no less gripping because of what the issue represents: the end of an era.
Through the structure of the “Gotham Is” column, Snyder guides us on a fly-by tour of the series as Batman tries to find the source of a citywide blackout. The relationship between Batman and Gotham is one that the writer touched upon many times, but here it crystallizes: Batman views Gotham the way a parent does a child — the way Alfred views Bruce. He loves it deeply, confusingly so, all the more when it lashes out at him, because he knows its potential. He wants to be there when it’s sick, when it’s hurt, when it needs help and when it needs saving. Even when Alfred informs him that the blackout was an Honest to Zod natural occurrence, he still stands beside it, watching, just in case.
To Bruce, that is love. What he could not do for his parents that night in the alley, he does for alleys across the city. He steps up for his child when it needs protection. Love is predicated on protection to him.
As we whip around Gotham, Capullo finds moments that pop, action poses that belie the lack of action here. I love his new Batman design, especially the purple tint under the cape. I’ll miss his renditions of the rogues, who we get one last time in an almost-standoff at Arkham. I’ll miss his Joker, a gangly terror with the mind of a twisted genius, seen one more time on his park bench. I’ll miss his awesome Batmobile, the labyrinth lair of the Court of Owls and that final splash of Batman, lit by a new day’s sun, overlooking the past and promise of his child, the city that gave him life, the city that gives him meaning.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the color FCO Plascencia delivered over the years, which really accentuate this final image in particular, or the inks from veteran Danny Miki, who knows just when to weigh down the panel and when to thin it out, or Steve Wands’ letters, which have kept Snyder’s verbose scripts readable and flowing.
The creative team has said they will be working together again soon. While the pleasure center of my brain wants them to do more Batman, the logic center knows they don’t need to. This is about as perfect an ending for their time on the character as could be. The night was dark and full of terrors, but — here at the end — they offer us the quiet clean light of a new day climbing above the horizon.
Snyder and Capullo’s run has impacted both Batman and the world at large, but they also had an impact on me. They made Batman larger than life, while still street-level and accessible, and came up with some of the most brilliant twists ever drawn up for the hero. In addition to creating iconic images and innovative designs that captured imaginations, they really, truly gave readers a predicate to the subject “Batman is” with every page. To me, Batman will always be this creative team.