Last week saw the release of Batman Rebirth, and with it the end of writer Scott Snyder’s run on Batman during the New 52 era of DC Comics. Snyder wrote Batman for all of The New 52 and was a dependable bright spot in the midst of the otherwise misguided and tonally confused relaunch.
Snyder used the clean slate he was given to simultaneously burrow deep into the core of what made the characters work and genuinely challenge the status quo. The result is one of the best runs the character ever had. Here’s a look at the 10 Best Batman Moments Of The New 52.
10. The Talon Attacks
Batman has the best rogue’s galleries in comic book history, which makes creating new villains a challenge for writers. How can you create a new adversary for Batman when you already have a whole crop that challenge and reflect the character perfectly?
While Snyder’s first issue was mostly throat clearing, his second issue marked a bold beginning with the introduction of the Talon. With a bold design by Greg Capullo that blended the motif of an executioner’s hood with the animalistic trappings of an owl, a mysterious origin and great exit, The Talon was the first clue that Snyder would spend his run putting Batman up against situations he truly was not prepared for.
9. The Labyrinth Of The Owls
One of the best things about Snyder is his background in horror. His approach from the early issues was to write Batman not as a superhero comic but a horror story with a superhero trapped inside. This instinct served him well. We’d hardly be the first to surmise that it’s hard to write a Batman story that feels like it genuine stakes to it. Given that as he is one of the most popular characters in fiction, he’s pretty much a perpetual motion machine for generating money, so he’s not going anywhere.
But the horror edge, which really came to fruition in issue five, makes things feel a little different for the Caped Crusader. With the labyrinth of the Owls, Scott Snyder wrote the darndest thing, a scenario that it seemed like Batman wouldn’t be able to get himself out of. Again, equal credit must be given to Greg Capullo, whose devilishly tricky layouts heighten the feelings of claustrophobia and surrealism to almost unbearable levels. It’s one of the most intense sequences ever captured in a superhero book.
8. The Joker’s Return
If “The Court Of The Owls” showed what Snyder could accomplish by adding a soupcon of horror to the Batman universe, the opening of much hyped “Death Of The Family” arc, which proffered the much-anticipated return of The Joker, shows what happens when he lets his inner horror writer off the chain.
Reintroducing the most iconic villain in comics history is a tall order. Doing it in a way that doesn’t feel like the same old schtick is something else entirely. In a way, the opening issue of “Death” takes the opposite approach of “Court,” instead of reaching for new imagery “Death” embraces the old iconography, inverting and subverting tried and true Joker imagery and narrative beats, keeping you guessing all the way until the final splash page that- well let’s just say it hits like a hammer.
7. Court Of The Batking
Just because Snyder loves The Joker doesn’t mean he lacks appreciation for the rest of Batman’s villains. “Death Of The Family” reaches its fever pitch in a run through Arkham which gives Snyder a chance to shine a light on just about every villain in Batman’s rogues gallery, until the reveal of The Joker’s selected court. A core of four villains who are held up as the true reflections of Batman.
You can love “Death Of The Family” or hate it, but its scenes like this that make you wish that Snyder could just write Batman forever. Combining a keen understanding of what makes these characters work with a total glee in taking them places they haven’t been before.
6. Year Zero Blimp Fight
One of the best things about Snyder’s run was how unabashedly big and “comic book-y” it was. Though it was often dark, it wasn’t dark in the “small and gritty” sense but a grand operatic one. When the time came for Snyder to take a crack at Batman’s origins he went the exact opposite direction that most did. Eschewing the street level grime of Year One and the dour mythologizing of Batman Begins and instead reaching for a story of epic and outlandish scope whose pervading color scheme was green and purple and which featured Batman using a miniature zeppelin to fight a monster made out of bones on an airship.
5. The Riddler?
Snyder’s innate storytelling confidence comes in useful when dealing with a character like The Riddler, who modern comic writers have trouble making work. The best that most can do is turn him into a low rent Jigsaw clone, ala the Arkham games.
But in Snyder’s hands a character who most regard as an anachronism not only works but seems like the only logical choice. Who else would have the hubris to sow the city-ending chaos that drives the plot of Zero Year but a man who thinks he has all the answers? Once again, Snyder’s understanding of where the characters have been gives him inspiration for new places the characters can go.
4. The Final Parade
Snyder took his second crack at The Joker with “Endgame.” A storyline that can kind of be summed up as “‘Death Of The Family’… but more.” Liked the ambiguity of The Joker’s origins in “Death”? Well let’s play around with the idea of him being a literal demon. Like the sense of stakes that threatening the core Batman cast created in “Death”? Let’s make it all of Gotham this time. Thought the horror elements in “Death” gave the proceedings a gothic flavor? Well look out because things are about to go 28 Days Later out there.
“Endgame” worked because Snyder was once again able to create a sense of stakes where it felt like there shouldn’t be any. Batman and The Joker are going to keep fighting as long as people are willing to pay to see them do so, and that’s been over seventy years at this point, but Snyder treated “Endgame” like it was the last Batman/Joker story and, as a result, with Gotham in ruins and the citizens joining the Joker in a victory parade through the city, it felt like a story with genuine consequences.
3. Gordon Assumes The Mantel
And for a while, the story did have consequences. Lots of people have assumed the mantel of Batman over the years, some better than others, but having Jim Gordon, the symbol of law and order in the DC Universe, take up the role of the ultimate fictional vigilante was a bit of a masterstroke.
Once again combining an understanding of what makes the character work with a willingness to push them into new territory. Snyder emphasized Gordon’s ordinariness, and thus threw into contrast the lengths that someone would have to push themselves to literally become Batman. It becomes a burden that is, in Snyder’s terms, super heavy. Not bad for a story about a beat cop in a Mecha Bat Suit.
2. Talk On A Park Bench
Strip away the operatics, the outlandishness, and the horrific flourishes and Snyder can still make a compelling story about two characters sitting on a park bench talking about life. That those two characters are Batman and the Joker, and Snyder is playing coy about how much either knows about the other, adds a certain amount of dramatic tension, true. But the point stands.
Snyder knows how to use spectacle but he wasn’t reliant on it. He knew characters can push each other just as hard with a simple conversation as they can with a duel to the death. Perhaps new writer Tom King will bring a new twist to the Rebirth saga, but only time will tell…
1. Death And Rebirth
Of course, Snyder ended his run with Bruce retaking the mantel of Batman and literally sacrificing his life in order to do so. Snyder spent most of his run trying to define what made Batman Batman. Creating a cult who knew Gotham as well as he did, bringing his most famous adversary back for two cracks at him, diving into his origins, passing the mantel onto another character.
His run can almost be read as a fifty issue essay on what makes the character work. In the end Snyder’s answer is ambiguous, and the character, like his popularity, simply endures. Hopefully, Snyder will bring the same level of inventiveness to the next series he takes on.
Bonus Entry: Batman In Metron’s Chair:
Even though it’s not part of Snyder’s run you’ve got to love Batman borrowing the chair of a god to find out the secret identity of his biggest enemy. Just a friendly reminder that, no matter who is writing him, Batman is a boss.
Can you think of any other Batman moments that should be on this list? Let us know in the comments!