With all the other DC reboots starting to get shaky around issue #5, it was a big relief to have Batman #5 come out firing on all pistons. Once again Scott Snyder’s writing sets the bar for the bat titles a little higher than before with an entire issue dedicated to the Caped Crusader’s drug induced nervous breakdown. These are the make or break moments that continue to solidify Scott Snyder’s talent in my mind. Only a gifted storyteller can break a character like Batman down psychologically and have it resonate.
Batman has been captured. The Court Of Owls has dropped our hero in the middle of a giant maze, forcing him to exist with no food and with water that’s been laced with some kind of hallucinogenic. As Batman tries to find his way through the maze and find his captures, his mind begins to shatter. Snyder’s ability to write Batman is what’s key to this whole issue working. There’s a conflict that rages inside Batman’s mind, a battle between the focused, calculated detective and the emotional center he works so hard to keep at bay. What makes issue #5 so exciting is how Snyder frames this battle. It isn’t two parts of one psyche a la Two-Face – this is two separate psyches that always live together, one meshing with the other. As one becomes dominant, Batman loses control because one can’t exist without the other. Nailing that dynamic is essential to making Batman’s breakdown believable.
I also love how Snyder has no mercy for Batman. It’s clear he loves the character, but to do the story justice, Batman must endure true suffering. Physically, the dark knight can take anything, even if it’s killing him he can take it with a stoic sense of pride. When you start messing with Batman’s mind, the one thing he always counts on, you see a different side of the hero. Snyder is all about bringing out sides of a character that have yet to be fully explored. His run on Detective Comics featured the Gordon family, his Gates Of Gotham showed a new side of Gotham City and now Batman #5 is pulling the curtain back on Batman’s mind.
Dead children, his parents slowly decaying before him, constant hallucinations of threats that aren’t there, Snyder puts Batman through the ringer. Each page brings a new nightmare until the final splash page, featuring an act of violence that will stagger you. For the first time in many years, I’m truly curious how Batman will get out of this one. How will he defeat the Court Of Owls and what toll will it take on him psychologically? Batman’s been duped by his own city, fallen victim to his own sense of ego, all of which feeds into the breakdown he’s suffering. Snyder has written a beautifully layered story that will strike all Batman fans right in the chest. Want to know why Snyder is the best writer in comics right now? Batman #5 is all the proof you need.
Greg Capullo’s pencils, for the first time, really hit me as wonderful. I’ve always liked the work, but with Batman #5 Capullo and Snyder are in perfect harmony. Every panel depicting Batman’s slow descent into madness is a true representation of Snyder’s idea. It’s not just a visual representation of what Snyder wrote; the art also gets into the nooks and crannies of the ideas behind the writing. Batman’s face reflecting the insanity, his shredded costume, the various ways he sees himself, it’s all stunning work. If this level of kinsmanship continues, we could be looking at the best thing to happen to Batman since Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING: 9.5/10 (5 Story, 4.5 Art)