Superheavy review: “he feels like Batman again”

Batman’s Superheavy arc deals with a world without Bruce Wayne. Again.

batman1Spoilers ahead.

After the events of last year’s Endgame, in which The Joker and Batman had their final fight before getting crushed by an exploding cave, Bruce Wayne died. Without a Batman, the corporation that bought up Wayne Enterprises, Powers International, set out to make their own. One that works within the law, not with it and one that they control.

Scott Snyder’s story is nothing new. It was only a few years ago that Wayne went missing for a while and Nightwing stepped into the black cowl. The difference here though, is who is stepping into the role, as Jim Gordon is chosen to be the first new Batman.

Yes, that’s right. Old, moustachioed and a completely ludicrous choice, when I first heard about it, I laughed. I saw the giant Robocop-esque suit and the thin, gangly looking Batsuit that he wore. They shaved his moustache and gave him a new hairdo. Jim Gordon seemed to be completely revamped and a new character altogether on the outside, but once steeped into the first issue, everything was put at ease.

Batman: Superheavy strip

One of Gordon’s many pep talks

Scott Snyder isn’t stupid, it turns out. In fact, as Gordon monologues and struggles with getting his head around being Batman, it works as commentary on the whole situation. Almost every fear that he knew readers would have, he deals with in quick succession. Robocop references. The constant addition of “Bat” to every noun he could possibly give to a gadget for Gordon. Everything that a business would do with a “Bat Brand” is treated with levity from other characters and honest bemusement from Gordon.

While Snyder eventually brings an amnesiac Bruce Wayne back into the fold, it never takes precedence. Even when Alfred tearfully gives into Bruce’s demands to kill what he is now, to resurrect who he was, it’s confined to an issue. The focus is on Batman and for now, Gordon is the Bat.

And it was excellent.

Over the course of ten issues, Gordon and the new Bat-team fend off a new threat to Gotham. A new villain, Mr. Bloom is developing a “seed” that alters humans into monstrosities with powers, and along the way, a more sinister plot develops – as is the case.

Superheavy’s plot advances thick and fast, with little time for flashbacks as to how Gordon got into the job. In doing so, we get right back into the thick of it. Snyder doesn’t want to bore you with every excruciating detail, he wants to show you what this Gordon Batman can do. What happens when Batman has police smarts, instead of, y’know, Batman smarts?

While solving the next mystery in the case usually boils down to a last minute deduction that occasionally had me rereading particular panels to just follow the pace, as with the rest of Snyder’s Batman run, it’s not there to treat you like an idiot. It’s telling a detective story, where our detective is dead and the new one has a big blue robot suit. Also he’s constantly having a small dilemma as to whether he’s doing it right.

There’s no wasted time here. Everything is set up and executed in quick succession. It’s great when you know there’s a plan. A true plan. An end to a character is always in sight when they’re introduced.

Gordon’s Batman is one that knows he can’t work alone and he doesn’t try to. When first in major trouble, his team send in his big robot and from then on, he uses it like an all obedient partner. Snyder doesn’t turn Batman into a cop and Jim even tries to go against the rules set in place (he feels he’s just a “middleman”). He’s brighter than Bruce, but also very much still Jim Gordon. He doesn’t mess about and isn’t actually afraid to very brutally put someone down. I mean, the giant blue robot suit.

But Snyder very cleverly doesn’t ever change what Jim Gordon is. He’s a guy that wants to do some actual, real good in Gotham. While it doesn’t read anything like previous comics focusing on Gordon or Gotham City Police, Snyder writes this Batman with an air of humanity about him. He gets nervous when a large crowd is there to see him speak and nicknaming his robot pal “Rookie” shows a Batman that isn’t all scowls and darkness.

Though Gordon adds humanity, it lacks a good emotional thump. That’s Bruce’s job, as he slowly discovers that he was Batman. Kicking down the door to a sobbing Alfred, demanding to be taken to his cave and losing all memories of this life’s love, Bruce Wayne’s story brings it thick and too fast. Maybe that’s because we’re spending time with our Batman, but Wayne’s discovery of his past life is a proper jump to the ending. It’s a conversation, with a man who appears to be The Joker, that almost made me want Wayne to stay away.

Snyder and Greg Capullo’s misdirection in the scenes with them almost feel like The Joker’s playing a trick. Part of me wished it were a trick and they’d be at each other’s throats again, but another part was glad that it seemed they’d both reformed.

Though, on his return. Well. I’m going to enjoy a revitalised Batman. He’s joking, confident and… heroic. He feels like Batman again, not a broken husk of a man in a cape.

Batman: Superheavy strip

Don’t you love a good one-liner? Bats has loads

While the story contains huge implications for the future and takes into account the last story as a whole, I love the fact that this feels self-encapsulated. Sort of like Superior Spider-Man, you can pick it up and get the whole picture in very few issues.

Though it’ll continue onwards in Batman #51, I revelled in the sense of fictional solidarity for this Batman. We’ll probably never see him again, but that’s fine. There’s plenty other comics with him in (the Detective Comics that feature further character building, adventures), but this little pocket of a year, where Jim Gordon was a Batman and came to terms with what Batman is, is something I’m glad happened by the end.

It was a crazy stunt to pull, but in typical Batman fashion, it worked out just perfectly.