Reviewing comic books is an irretrievably personal enterprise, just as reading them.  Despite all of the objective facts and standards that can be brought to bear on a story, ultimately every person’s emotional response is unique, and all one can do is own one’s feelings with honesty.  So, I will have to begin this review by stating that I found this particular issue, Batman #49,  to embody many of my responses to the entire SUPERHEAVY arc that Scott Snyder has been pursuing for some nine issues now.  It is interesting, philosophically rich, well-written, flawlessly integrated with the accompanying visual art, and it left me utterly cold.

Probably that is because Snyder’s vision of Batman’s tragic entanglement with the evil, possibly sentient city of Gotham, is too perfectly realized.  It is a portrait in beautiful blues and reds, as clear as sadness and as moving as a glacier.  But the perfection cannot be denied.  In this issue, Bruce, in the face of Mr. Bloom’s depredations, demands to be taken to the Bat Cave.  There, he discovers that Batman had been conducting experiments aimed at cloning himself so that there would always be a Batman in Gotham.  Yes, Snyder has pointed the way to the future envisioned in Detective Comics #27.  Unfortunately, whenever he attempted to download his stored memories, it killed the clones.  Bruce realizes that Batman just didn’t push the experiment far enough.  The process has to be carried through death and into resurrection.  Think of it as a metaphor for all of comics, if you want.

Bruce choosing to sacrifice himself so that Batman can return should come as no surprise to anyone.  Bruce was always destined to take up the cowl again, if only for the sake of DC’s profit margin.  Nor should it come as a surprise that Alfred opposes this decision.  Snyder does bring a moment of high tragedy in Julie Madison’s decision to sacrifice her lover to save all of Gotham, but given the inevitability of it all even that felt rather hollow.  The only truly energetic parts of the book were visions of alternate worlds, and other Batmen, interspersed throughout the panels.  It was as if Snyder was taking a cue from Grant Morrison, and hinting that Batman and Gotham are eternal constants throughout the universes and timelines.

Grade

B+

Conclusion

We have been told that Snyder is leaving BATMAN with the upcoming REBIRTH. It is time. There are two kinds of death. The more common is the death of entropy, of decay and creeping dissolution. But there is also the death of stasis, of frozen perfection and splendid themes carved in gleaming ice. Snyder is not a creature of chaos. But his cold and unmoving perfection is a death, all the same.