Probably the highest praise I can think of to give Superheavy, the recent Batman story arc that concluded with last week’s Batman #50, is that it is a piece that could only have been made here and now by the current stewards of the Dark Knight.
In the wake of a major assault on Gotham by the Joker, Jim Gordon, of “stop pointing that gun at my family” fame, is left to take to the mantle of the Bat. The ten issues that follow showcase a team (writer Scott Snyder, artist Greg Capullo, inker Danny Miki and colorist FCO Plascencia with guest artists Jock and Yanick Paquette) not just at the height of their technical abilities, but at the height of their creativity as well. Superheavy is full of vibrant monsters, lavish prose, precise architecture and seamless dialogue.
But it’s not just the specific, well-oiled creative team that make Superheavy a Batman story that could never have been told before, it’s the story itself, a reaction to the lapsed relationship between low-income, minority communities and the powers put in place to protect them. Not a new problem, to be sure, but one that in the last few years has found its way to the forefront of the American dialogue.
In reacting to the specific societal concerns of the day Superheavy puts forth a thesis on Batman that we wouldn’t have seen even five years ago when Snyder and Capullo first started their run on Batman.
Superheavy dives head first into the idea that Batman is “more than just a man,” by stripping the Bat of the man and leaving Gotham City to decide what the symbol left behind means for themselves. Ultimately, even in a climate where law enforcement disproportionately fails specific communities time and time again, the symbol Gotham arrives at isn’t frightening, confrontational or vengeful. The Batman born here and now is an avatar of hope, aspiration and community. In 2016 The Bat isn’t a soldier in a one-man war on crime, it’s a beacon for others to follow. A validation of the hope that the world around us is not only worthy of improvement, but that it individually we have the power to be agents of that improvement.
It’s not a Bat we could’ve gotten in 1966 or 1989 or 2008. It’s not a Bat we could have gotten in 2011. Snyder, Capullo and company have not only told another in a string of excellent Batman stories, they’ve told one that could only have been told by them and couldn’t have been told until now.