Well, TT. That has become one of my favorite sound effects from the Batman comics, and remarkably easy to make, by the way. Just put your tongue behind your upper teeth and make a moderate-to-heavy sigh. It certainly sums up my reaction to Scott Snyder’s Batman 46. This is not a bad comic, not at all. In fact, in terms of pacing, dialogue, and other technical accomplishments it is quite good. Snyder rarely suffers from severe defects in terms of execution. Similarly, Greg Capullo delivers art that is up to the high standards we have come to expect.
However, when it comes to theme, one cannot help but feel exasperation with Snyder. It is not really angry frustration, but more the fond irritation you might have for a very bright but particularly stubborn and somewhat tiresome friend. Snyder does love to ride his hobby horses, and he has ridden some of them so hard they are breaking apart. Gotham is an evil sentient city that responds to heroes by bringing forth villains designed to embody their fears and weaknesses, their dark reflections, as it were. Yes, Scott, we know. You’ve been telling us that ever since Black Mirror. The story of Batman is a tragedy, the story of a man who foregoes all hope of a happy ending to engage in perpetual battle with said evil city. Yes, Scott, we know. You spelled that one out at the end of your last arc. Duke Thomas has a special fate in store, one likely involving bright colors and the letter “R.” Yes, Scott, we know. There is an entire other title at DC largely dedicated to that fact.
Still, for all the threadbare themes running to obvious ends, one cannot but admire Snyder’s skill in weaving them together. The issue begins with an eerie scene of Mr. Bloom confronting and mocking Jim Gordon and the great and good, meaning of course the rich and smug, of Gotham. Geri Powers decides to rehire the former capeless crusader, in the process revealing her plan to franchise the RoboHero idea to other cities, her vision to convince ordinary people that they can take control of justice for themselves, the very idea that Bloom mocks in his Black Mirror way.
Duke, meanwhile, breaks into the iceberg lounge, looking to raid the Penguin’s intelligence files on all things dark and sinister in Gotham for clues to his parent’s fate. In this his story is beginning to bear more than a little resemblance to the New 52 origin of Tim Drake, a comparison his skill with gadgetry and mild geekiness does little to dispel. Still, despite the faint echoes of a not terribly popular storyline, Duke’s wit, cleverness, and sheer chutzpah cannot help but impress.
The brief storyline in which a naked Bruce Wayne proposes to Julie Madison, on the other hand, does not impress. The scenes of domestic bliss are all too obviously meant to increase the pathos of Bruce’s inevitable return to Batman. As for the beefcake, leave it to Grayson.
A tired story, well told. That certainly beats a tired story badly told. But Scott Snyder is better than this. He has an original theme in him, somewhere. He needs to find it.