By James Tynion IV, Riley Rossmo, Brian Level, Ivan Plascencia, Jordan Boyd, and Steve Wands.
With the DC Rebirth event only weeks away, it is a wonder why DC would put out a Batman #52 after Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo wrapped up their famously successful 51-issue run with the caped crusader. This issue features a whole new creative team and they have rather large bat shoes to fill. Batman #52 is a self-contained story that could sync up with really any Batman continuity; the creative team does not try to reinvent the character or add anything salacious detail to his origin story, but still delivers a decent story. We follow Bruce Wayne throughout different aspects of his childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood as he finds different ways to cope not only with the loss of his parents, but also the unwavering support of Alfred. The book does tie all the different life events together with a single thread that helps to give this story a purpose and give the readers a new perspective on Batman.
The story is pretty solid because it has a great underlying narrative that brings together different life events that Bruce goes through that provide a different aspect to the character’s motivation to become Batman. DC was smart to put Batman veteran writer James Tynion IV on this issue; the man knows how to write a good Batman story. We get to see Alfred providing constant dedication and support for Bruce, even during his angst-ridden stages of grief. Bruce is also shown growing up, learning to cope with the loss of his parent, while also learning to be a super awesome ninja. All the while, there is a single motivating factor that is motivating Bruce on his journey to become Batman. That single thread is weaved into every panel expertly by Tynion and that is what makes this issue palpable.
The creative team took some chances in this issue that definitely set it apart from the rest of the run, but may not land so well with some fans. Batman #52 has pencils and inks from Riley Rossimo, with additional inks from Brian Level, colors by Ivan Plascencia and Jordan Boyd, and letters by Steve Wands. The colors throughout this issue really made this issue feel like a Batman book, there were lots of grey tones with white highlighting in the flashbacks, and great use of gradient coloring in the present time to provide accents to lightning and have the grey and black figure of Batman stand out. The book has great layouts for the action sequences, and great use of detail throughout that it still felt like a Batman book. There were some consistency issues to be found within the body proportions, they were off on some and exaggerated and standard with others. They could have been intentional, like with the villain Crypsis, or just a product of inconsistent character design. The villain featured in the issue is the aforementioned Crypsis, who was drawn and designed to look more robot than man, but the main point of contention in character design may be around Batman’s suit. It is different from what we saw in the last 51 issues, with the bat symbol being outlined in yellow on the chest, and there was a purple accent added to the cape. The purple could be attributed to either the redesign or it could have been an accent color from the colorist, but either way it did help to define this character for this story and set him apart, whether that is for the best is up for debate.
DC did not have to put out this issue, there was nothing to gain from adding an extra issue to the back-end of a largely celebrated and awarded run that already had their culminating issues. However, the issue did deliver a new take on Batman that was interesting and offered a new perspective, but was completely unnecessary. If you are like me, you most likely forgot about this issue and were surprised to see it in your pull list or on the shelves. Maybe you had a sense of excitement and you thought Snyder and Capullo put out another swan song issue for us, but alas it was not. The story is nice, but completely not needed to be honest. It felt out of place and in a way, disrespectful to the legacy of Capullo and Snyder to sneak this issue at the tail end of a great run just to grab sales. This issue would have served better as an addition to an oversized Batman #50, but alone it feels and reads desperate.