By: Scott Snyder (writer), Greg Capullo (pencils), Jonathan Glapion (inks), FCO (colors), Richard Starkings (letters), Katie Kubert (assistant editor), Harvey Richards (associate editor) & Mike Marts (editor)

Four Things: 

1. This is a real tour de force artistically. – Man, it’s hard to even know where to start gushing about the art in this issue.  Every page has something that could be analyzed and called our for being special, but a few things really stood out.  One is that Capullo shows us some really crazy perspectives in this issue.  You know how in a basic art class they teach you to pick a point on the horizon and have everything shrinking towards that point?  Well, Capullo turns that on it’s ear by having all kinds of dominant perspective lines that (a) would never meet up if you continued them into infinity OR (b) are curved.  And, this is fitting given the drug-induced fever dream aspect of the comic, but whereas you see some artists just kinda randomly slinging objects around on the page, Capullo has a very defined plan for his warped perspectives.  Nice!  The second item that really got me was the energy and brutality of the fight between Batman and Talon.  You really feel like these are two big, strong guys beating the snot out of each other.  The sheer vitality of the characters even helped me overlook a few places where I couldn’t tell how the action flowed from panel-to-panel.  The third is how F-ing creepy owls are.  Who knew?  Those talon-hands!  Gah!  It wouldn’t surprise me if people read this and started setting owls on fire just to be safe.

2. Let’s heap some praise on inker Glapion and colorist FCO too. – It’s hard to not screw up pencils like Capullo’s.  The combination of (i) high levels of detail and (ii) intense energy is kinda a no-win situation for an inker/colorist.  There are a lot of lesser inkers who would have this issue come out looking stiff, but Glapion makes it work. Seriously, if you follow artists on Twitter you often see awesome pencils getting posted only to see the final art screwed up by the inker and colorist.  I’m not enough of an artist to know how they’re doing this, but I tend to think it comes down to Glapion’s control over the thickness of all these fine lines he has to draw (love inkers who don’t retreat to the pens just because the line is fine) and FCO being willing to go with the flow.  This is not art that needs all kinds of stupid highlights.  FCO just picks colors and shades that will work and stays within himself.

3. Love the fever dream aspect of this issue. – I love that this issue starts to shift the drug-induced hallucinations onto the reader.  It makes sense, we’ve kinda been stuck in the maze with Batman for the last few months, and we should be confused about what we’re seeing sometimes.  Are those just people with owl masks or are some of them bizarre owl-hybrids?  What’s cool is that the creators could take that in either direction and I’d be fine with it.

4. Guaranteed quality? – The only problem this title is going to have is that I expect an “A” comic every time now.  It’s like listening to loud music or putting salt on your food. Eventually you get used to it and need MORE to have the same effect.  It’s something that has happened with Snyder’s American Vampire where a “B+” quality issue feels like a letdown.  Fortunately for these guys, there are LOTS of comics on the shelves to remind us of what mediocrity looks like.  These comics are also very difficult to grade as a reviewer because they almost define their own standard.  When you gave the last one an “A”, but you think this one is better, what do you do then?  A+?  And can you give that grade with the knowledge that they might do even better next month?  Talk about a good problem to have!

Conclusion: Batman is almost defining it’s own grading scale for me.  I actually think this is better than Batman #5 because it lacks gimmicks and succeeds purely on its comic brilliance.  This is the best superhero comics I’m reading right now.

Grade: A

-Dean Stell