Fair warning, I may be getting into the Kids Today! zone with my critique here, because I really don’t like Batman in the 21st century as much as I liked him in the Bronze Age (or the Golden Age, or the 1950s).
BATMAN: Superheavy by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo (cover by Capullo, all rights reside with current holder) takes place after the Joker’s latest terrorist attack has apparently killed him and Batman. The company that has shown up to take over Wayne Enterprises recruits James Gordon to become the new Batman, arguing he’ll be even more effective by working within the system (I imagine this will end up proving Batman can’t work within the system). Bruce meanwhile turns up alive but amnesiac: he doesn’t remember his parents’ death, doesn’t remember being Batman, has no memory of his Bat-training. He’s happy doing charity work with his new love Julie Madison (borrowing the name of his golden-age fiancee).
Let the grumbling begin!
•Since the 1990s, the Joker’s routinely written as not a bizarre criminal harlequin but a force of pure evil, a chaos bringer, a mass murderer willing to kill every child in Gotham or just pile up corpses. It reads as if the Joker has to be a bigger killer than Timothy McVeigh (or the 9/11 plotters or whoever) to be interesting, when it just makes him generic.
•It’s very jarring (here we’re definitely dealing with my older-generation reaction, not quality) how high-tech Bats has become: at one point there’s a cell-phone app that lets people anywhere contact Bats for help. It’s logical to incorporate up-to-date tech but the sheer amount Batman packs now (Kevlar outfit, built-in tasers) feels very far removed from the Caped Crusader I know. For an extreme example, we learn here that Batman actually built some sort of cloning device so that he can replicate himself when he gets old. That doesn’t work any better than putting Bats in bad 1950s SF did, though I’m sure it will play a role as this storyline plays out.
•When Gordon points out he’s an out-of-condition cop in his forties, the executive recruiting him replies, ah, but you’re—a Marine! Um, so? He’s still out of condition and his USMC days must be at least 20 years behind him; wouldn’t his years as an actual police officer be more relevant? To me this feels less like a logical argument and more like the reflexive exaltation of the military I see so much of these days. Or maybe it’s the equivalent of “computers are magic” — just being a Marine veteran allows Snyder to hand-wave any questions about Gordon being good enough (of course he is! What part of Marine didn’t you understand?).
•Back in the 20th century, legacy heroes were a neat idea. When Wally West took over as Flash, it was meant to be permanent, ditto Kyle Rainer’s Green Lantern, Connor Hawke’s Green Arrow, etc (with exceptions: I don’t think anyone ever thought Azrael would replace Bruce Wayne as Batman for good). Now, though, everyone knows they’re just a gimmick or a change of pace: The Falcon replaced Steve Rogers as Captain America (not that long after the Winter Soldier did it) but look, here Steve is back again! Doc Ock becomes Spider-Man, Peter Parker is utterly destroyed and will never return—oops, surprise! Same here. While having Gordon step in temporarily could be a neat idea (though the execution in this TPB is talky and tedious), the emphasis on how Bruce cannot ever, ever, ever be Batman again makes this less interesting rather than more. We know it’s bull. They know it’s bull. Why pretend?