Saturday, January 21, 2012

Paul's Picks! - January 18th, 2012

Well, it's that time again folks: Wednesday! And you know what Wednesday is?... Well, of course you do, you're reading a blog about comics, so you obviously know it's New Comics Day, a.k.a. Paul's favorite weekly holiday! And in celebration of this weekly, well, celebration, Paul is here to give you his favorite book of the week.

Batman #5 by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

"YOU THINK YOU CAN FOOL ME? YOU THINK SO? You can't. Because I know all the tricks. (Heck), I invented them." - Batman.

Here at Ancillary Characters, we have always been a firm believer in what Grant Morrison has done with the Batman universe. As a matter of fact, at any given moment we may refer back to that incredible run on Batman and Robin leading up to the Return of Bruce Wayne. With that being said, if you've followed us at all regarding the New 52, you must know that Mr. Scott Snyder has swooped in and begun something in the world of Batman that demands recognition in the light of its Epicness. When I read that starting issue in the new Batman series, I immediately realized that Snyder had a unique view into the mind of Bruce Wayne. His narrative concerning what "Gotham is" began for us what would ultimately be one of the most testing challenges that Bruce would ever face.

In issue #5, Snyder takes us to the depth of that challenge in a way that no one else could. Everything about this issue reflects the confusion and hysteria that Batman is urgently fighting against in an effort to overcome his own fears and arise as the true avatar of fear and justice in Gotham. He has been captured by the Court of Owls (who's existence he has consistently tried to deny), and placed within some kind of maze underneath the tunnels of Gotham. The Batman is often seen as untouchable by his readers, as he always finds a way to come out on top. No matter how sticky the situation, we fans rarely find ourselves truly concerned for the hero, since even when he seems to be outmatched, he is almost always still calmly in control of the situation.

So what makes this story so different from the rest? You see, the true conflict is not taking place on the physical plain with Bruce trying to find his way back. This issue is so steeped in the psychological that the reader cannot always trust what they're seeing. From the first issue, there is one thing that the Bat has made very clear to the reader: Gotham is his city, and he owns the night. That is iconic Batman, the Dark Knight who owns the dark and knows every creeping thing within the confines of his city. Scott Snyder has put that to the challenge with his Court of Owls, as Bruce must come to terms with the fact that he may not have as much control as he thought. In issue #5, it would seem that the court holds all the cards.

For the sake of saying to much and spoiling everything, I'm going to step away from the narrative and tell you all, I am in LOVE with this story! I have not been this excited about any series since the final arc in Morrison's run on Batman and Robin. As a long-time fan of the Bat, I've seen him in some particularly trying situations, including the "Day Evil Won," but I don't think I've ever been more concerned for Bruce Wayne than I was in this issue. To be clear, I don't doubt that Batman will find a way to overcome whatever obstacles he faces before the end, but as I'm reading these pages, Scott Snyder has found a way to convince me that I know nothing at all about the Batman. I've come to question myself as strongly as the Court is pressing the Bat to question himself. I've already stated on here that I am totally sold on Greg Capullo's depiction of the Bat. With issue #5, he really gets a chance to flex his muscles, by creating this twisted world we're seeing through Bruce's eyes. There are plenty of artists in the industry who can draw a cool Batman, but it takes a real talent to make a world that's as eerie and suspenseful as this issue needed to be; and Greg knocked it clear out of the park.

It's January 2012 and already DC has given me a clear runner for the best single issue of the year. And in a few short months, the Court of the Owls will be spreading into a crossover event throughout the Bat books: it's like Christmas is coming way early. In a time when some books are rising and others falling (see the New 52 Second Wave), Scott Snyder has created something that is nothing if not epic. Don't be surprised over the coming months when, on the third week of the month, Batman gets the Pick. To put it lightly, I'm all in.

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