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Comic Review: Batman #33 gives the Dark Knight a glorious birthday present

Batman #33 Gordon Bat Signal
Batman #33 is so much more than a Riddler romp.

The purple-and-green puzzler may be the final baddie of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s brilliant Zero Year arc, but he’s really just the spark that lets the true stars – Bruce, Alfred, and most importantly, Gotham City – shine through.

And so it’s fitting that Snyder gives us the ultimate Batman-Riddler showdown right off the top, delivering on the disco ball death trap we left off with at the end of Batman #32. Snyder writes some strong riddles (and/or borrows them), but he and Capullo take the scene beyond a simple Q&A. You can feel Batman’s impatience as he tries to beat Riddler and get the city on line before military jets destroy it. Above ground, Jim Gordon and Lucius Fox confront the jet problem more directly, doing their best to divert the incoming fighters by creating a certain “signal” to keep them at bay.

But back to Bats. He wins, of course – this is comics – but Snyder’s got more to say than “Batman wins.” Batman has to shock himself to restart a heart monitor attached to the city power grid, and that fixes everything. But Snyder and Capullo slip some odd hospital scenes in between that shock sequence, and those seemingly insignificant flashes become what the story is really all about.

That does it for the traditional Bat-tale. The bad guy has been defeated, order is restored, and we can all go home, right?

Not quite, and that’s why this comic is great. Snyder saves a good chunk of the comic to reflect and bring all his character storylines to a close in a series of deft, heartrending scenes that could only work with Greg Capullo working the pencil.

First, Bruce buys Jim Gordon a new coat, delivering on one of the subtle symbols Snyder established just a few issues into Zero Year.

Then, Snyder pulls the rug out from under us, revealing that Bruce tried to use electroshock therapy to “reboot” his personality and become someone else. We see flashes of the scene all through the Riddler fight, but they don’t make sense until the end, when Bruce reveals it to Alfred.

But that deft turn doesn’t just mean something for Bruce, because Alfred – clinging to his paternal feelings for Bruce – has one of Bruce’s old girlfriends waiting in the wings. It’d almost be adorable if it wasn’t so sad, and Capullo makes it all the sadder. He draws a happy yet heartbreaking montage of Bruce’s life from this point forward – candlelight dinners, marriage, kids, a happy visit to the movies – only to yank it away. Because Bruce is set on his path now, and the last few pages of this comic are about Alfred coming to terms with that. He’s kissing that happy life for his pseudo-son goodbye, and learning to accept what must be.

“I’m so sorry, miss,” he tells the girl. “But I’m afraid he’s been spoken for.”

And Capullo ends it with a full-page shot of Batman swinging out into the city.

9.5 out of 10

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Comic Review: Grayson #1 feels like Mission: Impossible 3

Grayson #1
From the perfect haircut to the face-changing to the spygames, Dick Grayson’s new world in Grayson #1 feels like somewhere Tom Cruise would be right at home.

This comic is all about espionage and double-blinds and undercover plots, with a big twist of pseudo-science thrown in. The art is good, the character rings true and there’s enough here to warrant sticking on board, though Grayson doesn’t quite leap out of the book and grab you as an issue #1 (though there’s plenty of leaping going on).

Mikel Janin handles art duties with some clean pencils, but there are a few points where you have to stop and re-read sections because he loses you in the visual logic – especially in the jumping scenes.

The comic opens with a train heist which DC readers will already know from seeing it printed in the backs of other comics all through June. Dick sneaks onto a train somewhere in Russia while wearing a blonde wig. After a run-in with a very Bond-esque femme fatale and some help from an equally Bond-esque female spy (more on her later), Dick kidnaps a fat Russian man and escapes the train using some form of chemical to make the man cooperate with him.

Dick is working for Spyral – apparently as a double-agent – helping the mysterious organization capture people to reclaim a bunch of powerful body implants that grant superpowers. His boss is swirly-faced Mister Minos, and he’s aided by a certain Helena Bertinelli, the alias of Earth-2’s Huntress. This Helena is blacker and less costumed than her alternate universe equivalent, as Nightwing readers saw at the end of that series’ last issue.

That’s not to say it’ll stay like that forever, though.

Writer Tim Seeley brings out Dick’s sense of fun in the writing and also creates a few sparks between him and Helena, but the most engaging part of the story comes in the middle, when Dick is holed up at a nuclear silo with his abductee.

As soon as Dick gets there he’s attacked by Midnighter, a cowled hero in black armour and a dark coat. Midnighter had a brief New 52 existence in Stormwatch, but that didn’t last long and had few readers. Instead, it appears the character will get some work in this title as a good guy-foe while Dick works undercover.

Grayson #1 is admirable if only because it takes DC’s most-developed character and develops him even more. It’s easy to tell DC has a lot plotted out for this character in the future, and while this first issue doesn’t wow, it does suggest plenty of layers that we’ll get to see peeled back in issues to come.

Oh, and the gun on the cover? Dick never uses one. We’ll see if that keeps up.

7.5 out of 10