ON COMICS: BATMAN, VOL. 1

Batman, Volthume 1 (Scott Snyder/Greg Capullo)
DC Comics, 2013

The Dark Knight Returns had ended great, but it was a long, weird book and I still wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to become a comic book guy. I wasn’t ready to invest in the books if they were all gonna’ be as weird as Miller’s work.

But I couldn’t get away from The New 52. As historic as DKR was, it was still an old book and it kept sounding as if the new Snyder/Capullo was something worth checking out.

And it was. Batman, Vol. 1 put to rest any fears I had about the weirdness or clarity of comic books. I loved it. As soon as I finished it, I immediately read it again. In fact, it’s the comic I probably re-read the most. Some of that’s nostalgia, but mostly it’s pure appreciation. This book in particular impacted in two major ways – first, it gave me the “comic experience.” For all of the brilliance of Miller’s DKR, it wasn’t a traditional book. He seemed to eschew lots of comic book cliches, but I hadn’t read comics…I didn’t know those cliches. Batman, Vol. 1 taught me how comic books work. The second impact came much later, and was much slower, because as I read more books, I began to see that Synder/Capullo had also done a lot of groundbreaking work, too. It gave me the comic book experience, but I eventually realized it also changed the game.

THE EXPERIENCE – Discovering What Makes All Comics Great
This book was my introduction to the pillars of the comic reading experience. I can’t ignore how much fun it was to see all this stuff for the first time.

Splash Pages – I had no idea what a powerful storytelling device this was. In the pages of Batman, Vol. 1, the splash pages were like scene cuts in an action movie – jarring, unexpected, and beautifully crafted. They took me by surprise (and still do.)

Panel Formatting – As I was reading about comics and listening to podcasts, I kept hearing about creativity in panel placement. This book opened my mind to an additional storytelling mechanism in how and where these boxes were placed. I couldn’t believe how much narrative was being packed into the book.

Overlap – This book kicked off The New 52 storyline, but I could already see places in the book were connected to other books.  As other characters started showing up and referring to their own storylines, I realized, “Oh, they’re all connected.” I know shared-universe stresses some people, but to a new reader, I thought that was way cool.

Continuity – At the end of the book, I was stunned. Yes, it ended, but it wasn’t tidy. Because I didn’t read single issues, I had no appreciation for the face these stories just keep going. Volumes are great to read, but you can easily miss the fact that comics are a powerful, steady output of art.

THE JOURNEY – Wanting More
But this book also took a new path. Some of these became clearer as I read more comics, but it’s obvious that this book set so many brilliant things in motion.

Obsession – People talk about how “dark” the Batman character has become, but I think Synder/Capullo did something great in bending the tone. Of course, the book is dark (especially the underground sequence) but Vol. 1 seem to focus more on obsession than darkness. Seeing Bruce ignore food and sleep and even the people he loved was taken to the next level by this book.

Conspiracy – Batman has always had bad guys, but this book did something so much larger. The bad guys weren’t just greedy rogues come to town; there was a plan. This far reaching, historical conspiracy of evil is the theme of Snyder’s run. (And even when the Owls are finished, the next villains are just as connected to their own massive, world-changing agendas.)

Nuance – Capullo’s detail was fantastic. He could have easily made Batman the centerpiece and phoned in the backdrops, but he didn’t. The level of specificity and nuance in this work is something I’ve yet to experience in any other comic in my collection.

Fandom – I started the book curious. I ended up a fanboy. I knew the second I completed it that I would A) re-read immediately and B) Follow this story for as long as Snyder wrote it. I don’t know if I would have stuck with comics if not for this book. I’m glad this one made such an impact.


Your turn: what comics changed the game for you?

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