After devoting the past year or so to the widely acclaimed “Zero Year” it’s time for Batman to return to the present day. This issue of BATMAN runs parallel to the events taking place in one of the other Batman series, “Batman: Eternal.” The team of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo came to an end with “Zero Year” but Snyder is sticking around on the Batman series alongside Gerry Duggan and Matteo Scalera. #34 is one of the two standalone issues from this creative team so expectations for this issue were not exactly high. It does its job as a filler issue but upon further inspection, #34 actually exceeds expectations and is a surprisingly suspenseful tale about the horrors of human nature. A simple tale about a serial killer floating around in Gotham City that quietly scares you with its all too realistic feeling.
One of the biggest goals for this issue was to try to bring us back to a more experienced and modern Batman. After watching a rookie Batman for the past year thanks to “Zero Year” I think we were all a little more than ready to get back to a more crisp Dark Knight. Duggan wrote this issue’s script after it was plotted by Snyder and I must say, the difference in voices of Snyder’s Batman and Duggan’s Batman is clear. Don’t get me wrong I love me some Snyder- Batman but Duggan’s Dark Knight seems more conversationalist in a way, making jokes with a correctional officer at Arkham or having a witty banter with Harvey Bullock. It’s a welcome shift of tone in my opinion.
The serial killer in this issue is extremely scary to me because instead of a flashy, colorful costume and henchmen to do his bidding, he is an everyday guy who just gets his jollies killing people. A person who unfortunately could exist in the real world, that’s the type of story that gets me. An example of when the anonymous can become just as terrifying as the loud, brazen bad guys of the universe. Ask yourself what do you think is worse, a bad guy who will kidnap you, tie you up as a hostage and put you on every television demanding a ransom. Or the guy who will just stop his car a little in front of you as you’re walking on the sidewalk, quietly exit his car, stroll over to you and knock you out with a hammer and then proceed to dump your body in a cemetery without ever speaking a word. I say the latter.
This story had a very “Batman:Black and White” feel to it, a gritty Gotham where the unknown keep Batman unnerved. I liked this issue probably a little bit more than I should have but I digress.
As I said before, I’m really digging the overall tone to Batman that Gerry Duggan brings. A more or less at ease Batman with the horrors of his city is a drastic difference from the fresh and upcoming pup we watched fight The Riddler in “Zero Year.” I love the sort of dry humor that Batman very rarely speaks, it’s always welcome.
I also very much enjoyed the sudden appearance of Dr. Leslie Tompkins in this issue, she’s a character that doesn’t get too much attention in the Batman universe. She remains though one of the only good forces that try to help people in the broken city of Gotham. The image of her crying in Batman’s arms over the deaths of her patients is something that definitely struck a cord with me.
This isn’t so much a big turn off to me but I wasn’t totally on board with artist Matteo Scalera’s drawing. His drawings were a little too rough around the edges to me and his body shape for Batman really didn’t do him justice in my opinion. His torso really seemed to flatten around his waist and making him look like he had no curves or muscles. Also I thought along with the round around the edges part, Scalera had too much shadowing in his panels, (I almost feel weird for saying there is “too much shadows” in a Batman story), it detracted me a little bit.
But I will give credit though, a couple of the panels in this issue were really well done, especially the final page.
Batman #34 is a great standalone issue that brings us back to the present day and gives us a Batman we are very familiar with. It is definitely not a pointless filler issue but instead an issue that can really make our skin crawl. I recommend it if you enjoy watching Batman deal with the unheralded scum of Gotham City, instead of his more colorful villains.