Batman #5

Somewhere over the past few years, Damian Wayne evolved into one of the best characters in the history of Batman. Whilst not even Morrison could keep the character safe from the initial wave of disdain he received from fans angry that Batman had procreated, over time Damian developed from annoying brat into annoying brat who earned our respect. It was probably the moment when he was hurled off a building and offered only a miffed *tt* as his final words which did it for us, but everyone has their own moment of admiration for the character. He’s easily the best Robin, although that may be partly because Tim Drake is fairly terrible and Jason Todd is deathly dull.

Batman #5 is framed by a sequence showing the Bat Signal overheating and blowing up. The middle of the comic details Batman’s descent into his own private hell, driven mad by his own feelings of inadequacy and discomfort. The framing sequence is the better of the two.

Batman going mad has been done before, of course – half the concept of Bruce Wayne is that other characters try to rob him of his sanity, health, and ability – and Snyder’s exploration of a dehydrated, exhausted Bruce Wayne doesn’t add much new to the character. It is massively realistic in the way it slowly twists the knife through Bruce’s head, though, and the climax is brutal and chilling. He’s helped by versatile art from Greg Capullo that maintains a calm composure even as the main character completely loses his – and there’s also a clever gimmick in the storytelling which adds a lot of fun to the comic. It might be lost a little when it shows up in the trade paperback, but it’s an absolute blast to read here.

The star of this issue is actually the colourist – we’re assuming that ‘FCD’ are a collective studio, but the work they put into this issue really shines. The colours are a little muted, but deliberately so. While Batman is in the shadows there is a dusk which falls over the pages. But whenever a light is shone upon him, the reader feels the glare from the bulb. It’s an astonishing piece of work, and adds a dense layer over Capullo’s already masterful pencils. Batman has gone crazy before, but this feels like a different way for it to occur. It may give us twists on things we’ve seen before – Bruce sees his dead parents, they vanish – but Snyder throws in several surprises in the background. One of them appears to concern Commissioner Gordon’s loyalties to Gotham, while another casts a slight shadow over Alfred. Two of Batman’s most loyal and trusted friends, made sinister.

But the framing sequence is the best part of the issue, especially the final page. Damian Wayne, as we told you at the start, has grown over the years. His first line of dialogue reflects the initial glimpse at the character we were given during ‘Batman and Son’. The second line shows the more fragile and complex character who emerged during ‘Batman and Robin’. And his appearance adds electricity to this title.

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