DC’s New 52 era had its ups and downs. But if there was one unqualified success from the reboot, it was flagship title Batman.
The Caped Crusader has been DC’s crucial figure for decades. But during The New 52, Batman enjoyed one of its best runs ever. The writer/artist team of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo stayed in place for most of the New 52 years, in the process earning the kind of fan devotion one associates with iconic collaborations like “Claremont/Byrne” or “Wolfman/Pérez.” Other creators may have filled in or collaborated on an issue or two, but it was the vision of Snyder and Capullo that made this chapter in the Batman mythos so compelling.
New 52 Batman opened with the brilliant “Court of Owls” saga, adding one of the most distinctive threats to the Dark Knight canon in years. Crucial nemesis Joker dominated two memorable arcs, “Death of the Family” and “Endgame,” that pushed Batman and his allies in startling new directions while digging into the villain’s dark soul. The ambitious “Zero Year” brought a fresh perspective to the construction of the Batman legend, while infusing new vitality into the oft-misused Riddler. The valedictory “Superheavy” explored the importance of both Batman and Bruce Wayne, while mining the concept of “Gotham City as a character itself” more effectively than just about any other story in recent memory.
Snyder proved to be a brilliant choice of writer to shepherd Batman in a DC era defined by risk taking and invention. Snyder introduced a lot of new elements, new allies and foes, that will be important to the franchise for many years to come. But the success of the book rested on Snyder’s nuanced understanding of his lead character and the crucial relationships that surround him. Snyder frequently dug beyond the surface allure of “orphaned crime victim fights back” to tease out the complicated psychology of both Batman and Bruce Wayne.
Many writers have become enamored of the “Bruce is the mask, Batman is the real person” construct over the years. Snyder didn’t fall into that trap. Indeed, in his hands, Bruce was as important a part of the concept as Batman. Snyder very effectively demonstrated how the two personae were different aspects of the same man. But he also provided a lot of compelling drama mined from the sacrifices demanded of Bruce Wayne’s life in order for Batman to exist. It was a carefully embroidered, rewarding characterization, with a lot of depth and compassion. That strong character work both drove and anchored the imaginative plots that surrounded it.
Capullo, who’d been out of the comics world for some time before he came aboard Batman, instantly made a strong impression with his dynamic, expressive visuals. Working with inkers Jonathan Glapion and Danny Miki and colorist FCO Plascencia, Capullo crafted a take on the Dark Knight that became instantly iconic. His angular line work, smart page construction and facility for bigscreen action gave the book a strong identity. The art team cohered so seamlessly, it was fairly astonishing. Capullo, his inkers and Plascencia proved to be an extremely sympathetic combination, turning out modern, sleek imagery that still echoed the best of the franchise’s history. Old characters achieved new vibrancy without sacrificing their traditional appeal. New additions wove into the world of Batman in ways that were compelling and logical. The work was, in a word, stunning.
The Batman team stuck around for almost the entirety of the New 52 run, giving the book a consistency that many other titles of the period lacked. By the end of the collaboration, fans were left with one of the best extended Batman tales in the hero’s long history. If The New 52 is remembered for nothing else, this volume of Batman will be a worthy legacy.