Batman issue 44 released this past Wednesday (9/9th) and while it was the comic book to pick up, I was a little nervous. While I’m a fan of the work Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have done on the series, I normally don’t find myself reading too much of Batman outside of titles he shares with Superman (Batman/Superman by Greg Pak). Issue 44, while written by Scott Snyder, it does not feature series mainstay Greg Capullo. For a reader such as myself, this is normally a warning sign that the content within the issue will normally not be as captivating as the previous issues. Perhaps it’s just me, but one-off issues that feature different teams don’t normally keep hold of my interests. For example, earlier this year I dropped Detective Comics once Francis Manapul left the project. With all this said, I finally got around to sitting down with Batman 44 and it is just as thrilling and entertaining as the issues that have come before.
Batman issue 44 is remarkable for the main reason that it features the popular artist Jock. His pairing with Scott Snyder should come as no surprise since they’ve been working on the popular Image Comics title Wytches. They have charisma as natural as gravity and the entire story feels like an extra sized comic that more than services the ongoing canon, mythology, and iconography of The Dark Knight. Issue 44 takes place post Zero-Year and finds the Batman investigating a death in the marshes of Gotham City. It should be understood by now that any story that begins with a body being found in the marsh is normally indicative of something worth reading. Scott Snyder’s script also makes an interestingly creative change in that the entire issue is told outside of Batman’s p.o.v. He’s there and we get a fulfilling Batman story, just not one being told by him or anyone particularly close to him. (Or so we think.) What Batman issue 44 turns out to be is a tale that borders more on the golden age of story telling with a penchant for a classic approach that feels very Eisner-like.
Scott Snyder’s Batman 44 makes for a fun breather after the much-anticipated issue 43, which we reviewed here. His story, being set in the time post Zero-Year, allows for him to create the time in Gotham City when all the “super-villains” started popping up. While Batman and Gordon contemplate who may have killed and left the body of “a kid left for the crows”, we catch a glimpse at Batman’s notes. Mr. Freeze, Killer Croc, Clayface, Poison Ivy, and Penguin are all on his list; we learn the list is just Jock’s artistic representation of Batman going through the files in his mind (Think: Mind Palace from Season Three of the BBC series Sherlock.) While Batman eventually crosses paths with the Penguin, we as the reader realize that Batman issue 44 is far more centered around heavier things. The way Scott Snyder manages to create this undercurrent that happens almost before we could realize it should be given high regards. Issue 44 is co-written by Brian Azzarello. Issue 44’s success might have something to do with the pairing of both writers. Brian Azzarello is no stranger to the world of Batman and will soon see his and Mr. Frank Miller’s sequel to The Dark Knight Strikes Back hit shelves.
One of the most talked about aspects of Batman issue 44 is that the story by Scott Snyder and Brian Azzarello deals with the plight of the forgotten and cast aside members of society, those that fell through the cracks. As Batman investigates the murder of the young, 15-year-old Peter Duggio, we learn that he’s still very much out of sync with his city despite his need to protect it. I’ve always enjoyed the stories of Batman set in the year one era and Batman issue 44 fits perfectly into that. (Correction: Zero Year era.) There’s an emotionally resonant scene in Scott Snyder and Brian Azzarello’s script that finds Batman realizing the errors he made that allowed the opportunity to exist for Peter Duggio to fall through the cracks. In this particular moment Jock imagines the Batman landing in front of some misguided youths. They begin to run, but Batman stops them and says “Wait. Talk to me.”
Batman issue 44 is a must read comic and is easily What’cha Reading’s pick for the week. This could very well have been a throwaway issue, but it is far from it. The quality of writing and artwork of this particular issue truly comes together in a great, cohesive way. We also have a brief moment with Mr. Bloom, the new villain introduced in the last issue, and he is creepy! His appearance is brief, but vital to the ongoing story which is another win for Scott Snyder, Brian Azzarello, and Jock.
Batman issue 44 is available now and gets five stars!