After wrapping up Superheavy, their final story arc on Batman, writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo (with inker Danny Miki and colorist FCO Plascencia) put a period at the end of their sprawling, five-year bat-sentence with one of the single greatest individual issues of their entire run.
Batman #51, entitled “Gotham Is,” is at once a poignant, standalone Batman chapter and a deeply impactful series finale. If you just picked up Batman #51 on a whim because that psycho in Dawn of Justice seemed neat you’re in for a satisfying read. It’s an excellent standalone Batman story that provides equally tragic and uplifting insight into the character. But it’s as the finale to a five-year saga that Batman #51 really soars.
“Gotham Is” calls back to 2011’s Batman #1, using a Gotham newspaper column featured in the first issue as a framing device. I’ve read that first issue and the subsequent Court of Owls story arc so many times in so many formats that by the end of the first page the last issue felt like a sort of homecoming. From there, a story about a mysterious power outage in Gotham weaves throughout the city touching on not only the characters and locations from throughout Snyder and Capullo’s run on the series, but also the various feats of literary and artistic strength that have elevated the run since 2011. Snyder uses character narration to directly, affectingly address the reader and Capullo’s detailed, architectural prowess is on full display in his depictions of everything from Gotham’s skyscrapers to its street lights.
Throughout Snyder and Capullo’s time on Batman the book has always felt like something more than any other comic that ends up in a neat, alphabetized stack on my coffee table every Wednesday. Month after month each issue felt like an event. For me, there are movies and then there are Christopher Nolan movies. There’s television and then there’s Hannibal (or at least there was). There are comics and then there is Snyder and Capullo’s Batman.
Batman #51 reaffirmed those feelings. Circling back through the characters, locales and events of the previous 50 issues it’s a finale that makes the entire saga Snyder and Capullo have told on Batman feel like a narrative free of the storied history of the character. From Court of Owls to Superheavy they’ve told a tale that, beyond being great Batman, is just great storytelling. Without ever having previously heard of Batman you could go from #1 to number #51 and you’d be taken on a complete, self-contained journey with compelling characters, engaging twists and turns, and a truly satisfying conclusion.
The greatest strength of Batman #51, and Snyder and Capullo’s entire tenure on the book, is that it stands alone on its own merits as a story that greatly contributes to the 75 year old Batman canon but in no way depends upon it. It’s the kind of issue and the kind of run that make me wish I’d never heard of Batman so I could see him for the first time through this specific, glorious prism.
Since I started this blog in February 2012 Snyder & Capullo’s Batman has consistently my favorite thing to write about. Check out some of my previous posts on their legendary time with the Dark Knight: