Batman #12 Comic Review (Mania.com)

By:Mania Staff
Review Date: Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Source: Mania.com

There are a lot of good things happening outside of the actual book in Batman #12. For instance- Becky Cloonan has become the first female artist to draw an issue of Batman. After wondering why it took so long in the first place- take a gander at her panels. She delivers some very good work that fits the story at hand quite well. If I had a critique, it would be that there are a few too many talking heads, and it would have been cool to visually represent what the characters are talking about, particularly when it comes to Gotham’s power grid, but that’s just a nit pick. The other feather in this issue’s cap is its socially conscious story. It not only deals with an openly gay character, but addresses the subject of bullying. It’s a little on the nose, but not overtly preachy. It’s actually nice to see Batman help someone truly in need, and then see that person attempt to reciprocate, which is a big part of this issue’s story. There’s only so many times you can see a superhero help a woman having her purse stolen in a dark alley.  The added weight is much appreciated.

Another significant piece of this issue is our full introduction to Harper Row- a character that briefly popped up during the Court of Owls storyline. Here we get to know her in a tale that shows her side of the events, and why she decided to help the Bat. She’s interesting, to be sure, her commitment to keeping Gotham’s power grid alive and humming is a unique one. She has a very down to earth quality, shown in the way she is unfazed by getting the chance to rub elbows with Gotham’s elite at a Wayne Enterprises gala event. She stuffs a few desserts in her bag, banters with Alfred, and makes an early exit; she’s more interested in getting back to her brother and her reality, but it’s when she returns home that reality truly sets in.  Harper Row will most assuredly be showing up in the Bat books for here on out, so that alone should be reason enough to give this book a read.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot in this issue that just doesn’t completely work. Harper’s brother, Cullen, is the one being bullied, but he’s a fairly one note character. It would have been nice to give him a bit more depth since he is the crux of what drives Harper. The issue also presents us with the conceit that a seven-word phrase changed Harper’s life. There are quite a few uttered throughout the book, but each passing one ends up being just another phrase. When we finally hit on the true seven words, they come across as a bit of a let down. They’re not a mantra I see sticking, like Spider-Man’s eternal coda, instead they’re actually pretty clumsy. 

I don’t want to take anything away from Becky Cloonan’s debut, but a second artist (Andy Clarke) takes over for the last few pages, and it’s downright jarring. Not only are the two artist’s styles wildly different, but the switch happens smack in the middle of the climax. It’s poor planning on someone’s part, and it almost ruins (with no fault to the actual art) what is an otherwise good read. GRADE: B-

- Joel Rickenbach, Mania's Comicscape Columnist and Critic
 
You'll have to forgive me; I'm still coming down off of my Court of Owls high. I absolutely love the direction that Scott Snyder took this most recent of Batman arcs, and whoever decided to make him one half of a dynamic duo with Greg Capullo deserves a comics commendation. Hell, this run of Batman has almost single handedly brought me back into the fold of individual comic book buying masses (along with Comixology and Joel's revival of Comicscape).  So for me to say that Becky Cloonan slides into the Batman mix expertly, like a league of shadows ninja, is an excellent compliment. Cloonan doesn't just make inroads for female comic book artists (she's the first woman to draw an official Bats book), she kicks the god damned door in and takes no prisoners.

As the first book in the next arc, we're treated to a mostly dark knight free issue. Instead, our focus is locked on Harper Row, a Gotham City electrician who some will recognize from issue #7 (she zapped Batman back to life with a home made defibrillator). In that brief appearance, it's established that they've met before. Are you ready for that origin story? Here it is, in all it's gritty, real world grounded, slice of life action. Harper and her brother Cullen definitely don't have it easy in the Narrows, which is certainly underscored in the scenes at Wayne manor. This is a flashback tale that transpires alongside issue #1 of this run. It's clear that we're seeing the foundation of important events, being laid before our eyes.

There are a number of standout moments in this issue, but you should purchase it on the weight of Harper's interactions with Alfred alone. I laughed at the conversation, but the expressions displayed on Harper's face made me snort loud enough to elicit a raised eyebrow for my wife. Greg Capullo is back next month for Batman #0, which I'm stoked for. At the same time, I can't wait to see what comes next from Becky Cloonan. GRADE B

- Chuck Francisco, Mania's Shock-O-Rama Columnist and Critic

Follow Mania on Facebook and Twitter. If work has you blocked out, download our app on iTunes for your iPhone and iPad. 



Mania Grade: B-
Issue #: 12
Written By: Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV
Art By: Becky Cloonan, Andy Clarke, Sandu Florea
Price: $3.99
Publisher: DC Comics
Series: