James Tynion IV is no stranger to Batman. He collaborated a great deal with Scott Snyder on "Batman" (both as co-author and, occasionally, fill-in writer) and worked on the two weekly "Eternal" series as well as numerous other Bat-Family books. With Tynion poised to take over "Detective Comics" next month, though, a lot more eyes are on this issue, which pairs him up with artists Riley Rossmo and Brian Level. Quite frankly, "Batman" #52 bodes well for the future of the Dark Knight.
Tynion's script mixes Batman's pre-vigilante life with the present day; he introduces the idea of young Bruce Wayne in therapy, where he is instructed to create a list of things to do in order to move past the death of his parents. In these flashbacks, Bruce creates the list and goes through increasingly dangerous and difficult training exercises in order to check off some of those items. In the present, some of those items continue to appear as Batman goes up against Crypsis, a minor thief capable of short-range teleportation and camouflage. As Batman fights Crypsis to try and stop the theft of a bank security box, the story flips between past and present to see the creation of the hero Batman has become.
On some level, the plot is a tiny bit predictable, but it almost doesn't matter because of the emotional strength in Tynion's script. It's easy to present a Batman who is 100% grim and broken, but that's not what we get here. Tynion offers us a glimpse of hope, that Batman can continue to be driven but also be a little bit at peace with the loss of his parents. It's a fine line to walk, but Tynion makes it work; this is a hero who will never lose sight of everything he's trying to accomplish, but he's also able to recognize the good he's doing. Batman may never be 100% content, but he's not forever shattered, either.
Rossmo's art (with additional inks from Level) looks really good here. Rossmo's angular style works well as applied to "Batman," with its lanky characters that look like they can fold themselves up into the night. At the same time, Batman has a real heft to his body; the Batman that ambushes Crypsis in the bank vault looks genuinely dangerous and strong. Rossmo, Level and colorists Ivan Plascencia and Jordan Boyd even manage to give us a brightly lit security box vault with a shadowy Batman; it sounds impossible, but it works. Gotham also comes to life under this art team, with traditional rainy skies and tall, shadowy skyscrapers, but it never transforms itself into a parody. The buildings are crammed together in the way so many cities are, and readers will get the sense that this Gotham is full of people just by its architecture.
"Batman" #52 is an apt conclusion to this series. Tynion, Rossmo, Level, Plascencia and Boyd deliver a good mix of emotional and plot beats here; this is a Batman who will forever be driven, but without being consumed by gloom. I'm eager to see what Tynion does next over on "Detective Comics," and hopefully the art team will stop in for a visit as well. This was a pleasant surprise for what could have just as easily been a fill-in story, and I hope that quality continues into next month and beyond.