A light week (at least for reading comics) this week. In between my work, school, internship and some family business I managed to read 12 comics this week. Most of them recentish and three of them from this week. I tried a kid friendly book which amazed me, a biographical comic which disappointed me to no end and a major event epilogue which I didn’t give a toss about.
Book of the Week 28: Batman. Gates of Gotham #2
In this five issue mini-series by Scott Snyder and Kyle Higgens, Gotham is faced with a threat from the past. Which is great for readers interested in both the history, geography and architecture of comic books oldest fictional city. In the first issue three bombs went off at the three most important bridges of Gotham. Consequently the whole Gotham-based Bat family works together to find out who is targeting Gotham and why. After a little research Tim Drake aka Red Robin finds out the connection between the bridges: in the eighteenth century they were all built by the same engineers in commission of three men, the ancestors of Bruce Wayne, Oswald Cobblepot and Thomas Elliot. For those in the know of course, these are the civilian identities of Batman and his enemies the Penguin and Hush. This issue continues the Bat team’s investigation as Damian and Cassandra Cain stake out the Penguin’s hideout and Dick Greyson (the local Batman when Bruce isn’t around) goes after Hush. But as it turns out their mysterious adversaries are one step ahead of them and weren’t nearly done blowing stuff up.
Just like the first issue, the story keeps switching between the current story of the Bat family trying to find the bridge bomber and flashbacks to the eighteenth century. Last issue’s flashbacks showed the commissioning and building of the bridges, while this one goes into the origin of the new adversary who turns out to be not one but two bad guys, namely The Gates of Gotham. This has to be one of the most inventive origins I have read in a long while and the way it’s told through the flashbacks also shows signs of true craftsmanship.
One of the strengths of this book is the way Snyder handles the relationships between the various heroes and heroines that revolve around Bruce Wayne. While relationships are a vital part of the current storyline he is writing in Detective Comics, Gates of Gotham provides the author with a vehicle to work with a bigger ensemble of very diverse characters. And he really pulls it off well. Each of the characters has a unique personality and Snyder leaves enough room in the story for dialogues that showcase some of the characters’ emotions. Especially the intense banter between Damian and Cassandra is effective and shows Damian’s insecurities when faced with someone who (just as he) could have one day led the league of assassins, but now finds herself working for the other side.
However it is not just the writing that made this book my pick of the week, that Kyle Higgins sure can draw. I’m not sure if I have seen his work before, but he really is pulling it all out on this series. His artistry is most easily evident at the breaks between the flashbacks and the current story where sepia toned scenes of a brightly optimistic Gotham make way for the harsh, dark grit of a modern day Gotham crime scene. Both in the present and in the flashbacks Higgens uses a lot of dots for a cool retro yet edgy effect, while both on the covers and in the flashbacks he gently shows some Art Deco inspirations. It really is gorgeous to look at.
This book left me with one minor irk: On the third story page the second panel seems to be missing a name. It is just blanked out. The caption box in the same panel explains which name it is, but I was wondering if this blanking out was done accidently or on purpose. In the last case I really don’t understand why they’d do that. But you know what? We’ve got Twitter, why not ask the creator himself?
Art: 8,5 Writing: 8 Overall: 8,3
08/29/11 Update: Last week I learned about DM’s in twitter. I was pleasantly surprised to find a reply from Scott Snyder, stating that it was indeed a typo. I understand that we’re all human and prone to make mistakes. However, I’d say that big publishers like Marvel and DC have enough editorial staff looking at these things that such errors should be caught before publication… Here’s to hoping it will be corrected in the collected edition.