Scott Snyder – bringing Batman back

The man himself: Scott Snyder.

Scott Snyder.

After having read Batman comics for the last 25 years, I have to say that up until now, Scott Snyder is the most consistent comic writer I’ve read. In the past, the great Batman writers (Loeb, Miller, Moench, Wagner) have made fleeting appearances in graphic novels, one-shots and have had limited runs in the comics themselves. Now however, we finally have a writer who is at least as good as the aforementioned luminaries as the chief writer of Batman: The New 52. According to the man himself, he’s here to stay and that’s the best news any Batman fan could ask for as the balance of his Batman stories have so far been perfect, with equal helpings of the Dark Knight as a detective and Batman the brawler, not to mention Bruce Wayne as a believable businessman and patriarch.

My first glimpse of Snyder was in an interview on Batman: Year One Animated where he said that he saw Batman’s rogues gallery as individual elements of Batman’s psyche. Each villain represents a personal demon, one in which Bruce knows he must overcome, thus explaining his drive and doggedness when it comes to defeating his nemeses; he must constantly prove to himself that he’s not like them, that he’s better – he can keep the madness the he’s so familiar with at bay. Comics legend Denny O’Neill was visibly surprised and interested in that comment as was I. It showed that the young Snyder had an intriguingly fresh take on the character that demanded attention.

The Black Mirror: Here Snyder deftly shows us how Grayson's Batman differs from Bruce.

The Black Mirror: Here Snyder deftly shows us how Grayson’s Batman differs from Bruce.

His initial run in Detective Comics #871-#881 was the closing chapter before The New 52 reboot and it gave all of us a taste of the kind of hero we would be encountering in the future. In these 10 comics we experienced Snyder’s writing style and his love for the Batman universe. I was particularly impressed at ow he took the mantle from Christopher Nolan and carried his investigation of Gotham City as a living, breathing entity, with its own personality into new territories.

The Black Mirror starts with Grayson wondering if he still knew Gotham, whether the city had changed, whther there was a darkness that he didn’t know any more. There are many incidences of these kinds of questions in all of the opening issues but Dick, like Bruce, still believes that Gotham can house goodness as well as evil; thus further defining the role of Batman, just as in Nolan’s trilogy. This not only gives the universe more depth but it also adds another layer to Batman’s role within the universe: that of the healer, the believer.

A scene from Scott's Gordon story: Skeleton Cases - pencils by Francesco Francavilla

A scene from Scott’s Gordon story: Skeleton Cases – pencils by Francesco Francavilla

What was even more pleasing, in fact probably the most pleasing thing I’ve read in Batman since Miller’s incredible Batman: Year One, was the amount of attention shown to Jim Gordon. In Skeleton Cases and Skeleton Key we learn about Gordon’s estranged and seemingly psychotic child, James. In issue #874 we don’t even Batman once and the issue is all the more stronger for it – Gordon takes centre stage. It was a brave move by both Snyder and DC but one that was a master stroke. Frank Miller’s landmark Year One planted Gordon firmly in our hearts and Snyder being of our generation (he’s a year younger than me), obviously wanted to show his appreciation and did so by creating an emotional Gordon-family thriller that keeps you guessing throughout.

As we discussed in our Court of Owls review, Snyder creates his own piece of Gotham history and adds an interesting element to Dick Grayson’s back-story. Here Snyder creates a new villain, brings back Alfred’s past, adds to Grayson’s and makes Batman synonymous with the city – an amazing undertaking. In Snyder’s new universe Batman is no longer Gotham’s son, he is Gotham City. We could say that this narrative shift perhaps now makes Gotham a part of his rogues gallery, part of him: he must rid the city of it’s darkness in order to heal himself.

One thing that stuck out whilst reading The Court of Owls crossovers was the considerable rise on quality when the timeline demanded I picked Snyder-penned Batman comic, rather than a Red Robin or a Nightwing. All due respect to the other writers, but the difference was dramatic.

So now we have Death of the Family, the return of the Joker. The title alone is Snyder yet again showing he understands and appreciates the history of the character and is recalling the dark images surrounding Jason Todd’s brutal death (cleverly reminisced in The Black Mirror it has to be said).

Greg Capullo's enticing and poised picture is gracing the cover of Batman #17.

Greg Capullo’s enticing and poised picture is gracing the cover of Batman #17.

I have a golden rule that I don’t read an arc until its finished and I now rue that rule. I really want to start reading but I know I’ll be left hanging and the wait will be too much. The hype surrounding the series has been enormous, the comics are selling for three times the price of their original value. The premise is wickedly simple: The Joker thinks that Batman is more fun when he’s on his own, and perhaps has become weaker by relying on his cronies, so he plans to kill them all so it’s just him and Batman again; the good old days. Big promises have been made as to the fate of certain characters while the question of whether The Joker knows Bruce is Bats lingers.

After years of wandering through the wilderness, Snyder has put Batman back on track. The days of Batmite and time travel are hopefully buried forever. Scott Snyder’s considered and respectful renaissance of the greatest super hero of all time has been laden with fresh twists but remains firmly rooted in the elements that made, and continue to make, the character enigmatic.

In 2012, Scott Snyder has won various Stan Lee Awards and the Eagle Award for Best Writer, these complement his Eisner and Harvey Awards for American Vampire. As a reader of of Batman comics for all of my adult life, I hope Snyder continues to maintain the superb quality of writing beyond the current Joker run. His passion for his craft resonates from the pages and if you haven’t read one of his Batman stories yet, hopefully this article has convinced you to give them a try. You wont regret it.


2 responses to “Scott Snyder – bringing Batman back

  1. This is a great summary of Snyder’s work so far. I am agree about waiting for a story arc to finish. I read single issues, and it’s hard waiting for the next issue after a cliffhanger.

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