"Batman" #42 opens with a metaphysical exchange between two action figures representing the "new" and "old" Batmen. Perhaps poking critics back, writer Scott Snyder, artist Greg Capullo, inker Danny Miki, colorist FCO Plascencia and letterer Steve Wands present a fine bit of foreshadowing but mostly just deliver a one-sided argument in favor of the new Batman.
As he does, Snyder takes things a little deeper, using that initial page as both a tease and an outline for the story in "Batman" #42. The conversation in two of Wands' word balloons focuses on the "man" aspect of Batman and his possessions, pointing out that Jim Gordon's Batman doesn't even have a Batmobile. Other points in various conversations throughout this comic reflect on what it means to be Batman, what Batman needs to be to be meaningful and how Gordon is trying to measure up. Snyder's spotlight on Gordon sends all of those concepts through a prism, and this comic provides readers with slivers of opinion, just enough for everyone to craft their own assessment.
Snyder doesn't keep the issue elevated on a philosophical level, however, as Gordon quickly leaps into battle, facing Gee Gee Heung, a thug Gordon is familiar with from his days carrying a badge. Heung exhibits new powers in this comic, and the mystery of those abilities points to the enigmatic Mister Bloom. The writer wraps developments around the action in the story proper, updating readers on the alleged Bruce Wayne sighting from the end of the previous issue, giving Gordon some more depth and adding a little bit of humor in Batman and Commissioner Sawyer's relationship, which makes for a nice bit of juxtaposition, given Gordon's history.
The art in "Batman" #42 is exceptional, even for a comic that has been so consistently strong visually. The anchor of the visuals is Capullo, but Plascencia really shakes things up in this issue. As he did for the "Zero Year" story, he uses a completely different palette here. Everything is bright and very much comic book-based, but the Batman in action scene holds onto a full-page color bleed in the Pantone 458 C range, an uncommon and edgy border color, given the rich, golden tone. The rest of the story is filled with bright colors, leaving the shading and most of the lighting to the apt combination of Capullo and Miki.
Maybe it's the colors, maybe it's Gordon as Batman and Sawyer as commissioner, but Capullo's art feels edgier in "Batman" #42. His lines seem more finely detailed, with more pronounced hatching and crosshatching to blend shadows from Miki's inks into the light of Plascencia's colors. Capulllo still packs the panels with detail as though each frame were its own standalone story. This becomes more remarkable as the fight in the Narrows has a number of narrow panels, both vertical and horizontal. Snyder knows how to get the most out of his collaborator on the art side of the book, and it certainly seems that Capullo brings just as much to the finished product.
Before it concludes, "Batman" #42 introduces the Bat-truck. Yes. Truck. This comic also explores some of Gordon's training, including batarang practice as he adjusts to life as an action hero and vigilante protector, a switch from his days toting badge and gun in service to the Gotham City Police Department.
With an underlying mystery, the development of a character and the exploration of Gotham City, "Batman" #42 is still a fun book that affords Snyder and Capullo a chance to play. Additionally, the creative team continues to investigate the inspiration of Batman, just from a totally different, inspired perspective.