Monday, May 9, 2016

Batman #48 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

I tried to be excited about this issue, given that Snyder is clearly building to the grand finale, but its extreme pathos so bogs down the story that I was just waiting for it to finish.

We have two different stories happening concurrently in this issue.  First and foremost, we have the conversation between Bruce and the Joker on the park bench.  It could've been great, but Snyder is so heavy-handed in hinting that the Joker may already remember his past that it becomes eyeroll-inducing.  In theory, the Joker is making a pitch for Bruce to use his position in society to save their spot by the lake so that it doesn't become infested by bugs that kill the fish, like it was in the past.  He urges Bruce to stay focused on small problems (like the bugs) now that he's a private citizen and not "huge, city-wide threats" like he did when he ran Wayne Enterprises.  However, Snyder strongly hints here that the Joker isn't really talking about the fish.  The Joker mentions that he, too, was injured in the Joker's attack on Gotham, but I'm pretty sure that Bruce didn't mention that he was injured during that attack.  (Are we supposed to believe that the Joker knows about it because the media covered Bruce being attacked?)  He also pulls a gun on Bruce to show how the lake gave him hope, preventing him from committing suicide (hence why he wants to save it).  But, it seems more like he's invoking Bruce's parents' murder.  The Joker is reminding him that he has a chance this time to put it behind him, since the gun doesn't provoke the same reaction that it did before he lost his memory.  These hints come together to imply that the Joker doesn't want to become the Joker again and he knows that he will have to do so if Bruce becomes Batman again.  But, then again, maybe he isn't.  Snyder is too clever by half in walking the line between the story and the meta-story, so I'm not really even sure what I'm supposed to think.  For example, we're not told why the Joker wouldn't want to be the Joker again, making it hard to understand his plea here.

The good news is that the second story is a lot easier to follow.  Bloom is rampaging through Gotham, having grown to a great height.  He reveals that he's hidden 1,000 seeds throughout the city to help citizens get the power that they need to fight the government.  He implies in his overly long speech that he was once a civil servant destined to be buried in a potter's field, so it sounds like his origin is going to be something along the lines of a forensic scientist that experienced an accident that gave him his powers.  (I'm going with "forensic scientist" since it had to be someone with the knowledge to make the seeds and the connection to Gordon that Bloom has mentioned on several occasions.)  However, it turns out the seeds really function as bombs, as we learn when one of the kids at Bruce's day-care injects one into her bloodstream and explodes.  Why Bloom is using the seeds to detonate people isn't clear, but I assume that we'll get there at some point.  At any rate, the death of the girl makes Bruce face reality, and he knocks down Alfred's door demanding to see his cave.

On the plus side, Snyder and Capullo do an excellent job of showing Bloom as a serious threat to Gotham.  He not only towers over the city as he marches through it, but it's not hard to draw a line to 1,000 other Blooms doing the same thing and the havoc that it would cause.  As such, it makes it easy to understand why Bruce decides that he has to face his past.  After all, he and Julie wouldn't have much of a future if Gotham is destroyed.  Earlier in the issue, when the Joker appealed for his help at the lake, Bruce shrugged his shoulders, wondering if anyone could really do anything that mattered.  It makes sense that seeing the little girl detonate herself would shake him from this position, making him realize that it's worth trying to make the world a better place.

On the negative side, this fairly solid story-telling position is undermined by just an incredible amount of monologuing.  Between the Joker and Bloom, this issue is essentially two extended monologues.  (In fact, Bloom is so Joker-esque, as a chaos agent, that you could essentially consider it one character speaking throughout the issue.)  Both speeches are needlessly repetitive, and I'm with Jim Gordon when he basically asks Bloom to kill him so that he doesn't have to listen to Bloom anymore.  It's probably not the reaction Snyder wanted, but there it is.

** (two of five stars)

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