Batman #50

Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo prove that it doesn't require a relaunch to reinvigorate a character with the finale to their ten-part "Superheavy" arc, which returns the mantle of the Bat to its rightful owner. In "Batman" #50, they deliver the penultimate issue of their five-year run on the title, and the return of Bruce Wayne isn't simply a matter of Snyder putting things back the way they were for his successor. Instead, Bruce Wayne's return is a reminder to readers that Batman isn't just a hero that protects Gotham's people, but one that inspires them. This conclusion isn't so much a sendoff as it is an affirmation, and it's an incredibly powerful one that establishes exactly what the Batman was meant to be while wrapping up the run in the most tremendous and intense manner possible.

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To deliver such a strong finale in the wake of other impressive arcs such as "Zero Year," "Death of the Family" and "Endgame" speaks well not only to the entirety of Snyder and Capullo's run, but also their ability to save what is arguably the best for last: defining and strengthening the very nature of the character. "Superheavy" not only featured Jim Gordon taking on the role of Batman, but it also groomed Bruce for his eventual return to the role, a development Snyder never tried to keep a secret. While Gordon took on Bloom, Bruce's steady re-ascent to his once and future role created increasing tension over several issues, tension that's finally released in the conclusion and done so with superb pacing and timing from Capullo and series colorist FCO Plascencia.

The return of the original Dark Knight fittingly takes place atop the iconic Bat-Signal, with its logo powerfully and symbolically cloaking Batman in shadow against the signal's light. Capullo and Plascencia beautifully capture the moment, which gives way to one of Snyder's best-ever lines. A turn of the page reveals an even more applause-worthy, fist-pumping moment as Batman stands fully revealed, in a dynamically composed splash that highlights a decidedly classic Batman costume with new touches that suggests a new era even as it pays tribute to the character's legacy. Capullo's costume design is brilliantly faithful to tradition, yet its tweaks point to the future; there's no mistaking that this is the Batman everyone knows, but the updates point the way forward.

Recognizing that fans have gone nearly a year without the Batman they've always known, Capullo throws in some nods to tradition on the very first page, courtesy a cameo of various Batman costumes throughout the years. Bruce opening up the door to the Bat-closet is overlaid with narration that provides a broad recap of the pending shift in status quo, and it's cleverly structured to sum up the thoughts of both Batmen. Snyder carefully integrates both characters into the story and ensures that Gordon doesn't simply step aside now that the mantle has gone back to its original owner; this provides a satisfying and sound reason for these two longtime allies to fight together in a manner they never have before. They don't fight literally side-by-side; instead, Snyder gives each of them a mission, and their teamwork convincingly elevates their longstanding bond.

Capullo proves again that bigger can indeed be better and delivers compellingly creepy and larger-than-life visuals throughout the issue. The ever-growing cosmic portal that threatens to destroy Gotham, Bloom's towering figure and a new, mechanized danger all add to the seemingly insurmountable threat against Gotham. Capullo provides no shortage of disturbing images to convey Bloom's murderous destruction of Gotham, while inker Danny Miki adds creepy details.

Artist Yanick Paquette and colorist Nathan Fairbairn come aboard for the story's epilogue, providing an atypically brighter and calmer Gotham in the days and weeks following Bloom's rampage. Here, Snyder sets up a new, yet comfortably familiar, status quo between Batman and Gordon; Gordon has now walked a mile in Batman's boots, and Batman himself reaffirms his role in light of Gordon's. The brighter setting -- once the antithesis of Batman's nature -- now seems to be part of it, as Snyder clarifies and expands Batman's role as hero. Snyder's narration seems to speak to readers directly, as his explanation furthers Batman's role to not just drive evil back into the shadows, but to also inspire others to do good and be heroes themselves.

"Batman" #50 is an excellent farewell of sorts to the character, and another remarkable example of the chemistry between Snyder and Capullo. The uplifting and inspirational message at the issue's core brings their run to a near-close and ends the arc on the highest note possible, shining a bright light on the Dark Knight without betraying the dark nature of the character.

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