You know what they say about all good things, right? Technically, the finale to Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s run on “Batman” was the conclusion to the “Superheavy” arc in vol. 9. This one just collects their final issue together, some assorted odds and ends relating to the “New 52” era of the title, and the “Batman: Rebirth” issue which serves as the transition to Tom King’s run. So if you’re thinking that “Epilogue” is a major cash-grab on DC’s part towards everyone who wants the entirety of the Snyder/Capullo run collected on their bookshelf, I really couldn’t blame you. At least while the creators’ final issue is quite spectacular, the rest of the stories here are also (mostly) decent enough as well.
Things get started on the right note with the best of the other issues collected here, the tie-in to the “Future’s End” weekly series which showcased a dystopian DC Universe five years from now. In Batman’s case, he’s a nearly broken shell of himself who is only sustained through cybernetic implants and is trying to find a way to preserve his legacy before his body fails him completely. This leads him to attempt a very entertaining heist on Lexcorp headquarters which has Batman trying to navigate and evade some of the most complex and lethal security on the planet.
Snyder co-plotted this issue with Ray Fawkes, who also wrote the script. Art is from Aco, who tells the story well enough, even though the action in his panels gets overly crowded towards the end. Fawkes gives us a very resourceful Batman who is up to the challenge of facing off against Lex Luthor’s security measures while also showing that the intervening years have hardened his resolve into ways that are not altogether mentally healthy. He also has good fun with writing the dialogue for Luthor’s security hologram, resulting in lines like, “Resourceful, brilliant, and tragically misguided. I’m going to guess that you’re Batman. Am I right?” It’s also worth noting that even if the events of this issue represent an alternate future that never came to be, Batman’s plan will be quite familiar to anyone who has read the previous volume (specifically, the Sean Murphy-illustrated bonus story).
Next up is the fourth “Batman Annual” from frequent Snyder collaborator (and current “Detective Comics” writer) James Tynion IV, and artist Roge Antonio who does his darndest to channel Rafael Albuquerque in his art. It takes place during the “Superheavy” arc and has the amnesiac Bruce Wane dealing with Wayne Manor being returned to him. Previously, it had been seized by the city after Wayne lost his fortune and company during “Batman Eternal” and turned into a new wing of Arkham Asylum. With that bit of knowledge in hand, it probably won’t surprise anyone to learn that some of the Asylum’s inmates decided to stick around because they have some unfinished business with Mr. Wayne.
It’s a solid enough story where most of the tension is generated through the question of what these inmates want with Bruce. After all, it’s not like they knew that he was Batman before he lost his memory, right? The actual answer is kinda interesting even though it feels like Tynion is reaching to justify things as one of the villains gives his big speech at the end. Still, the story shows that even when he’s not Batman, Bruce Wayne is still someone who is not to be taken lightly regardless of the situation.
Then we come to “Gotham Is,” the main reason for this volume’s existence. I won’t say that this issue alone is worth the cover price (no single issue is worth $23) but it’s still pretty damn good. After some brief stock-taking with Alfred in the Bat-cave, Batman heads out into Gotham on patrol only for the city to be plunged into a blackout. What kind of threat is the city facing now? The search for an answer takes Batman on a whirlwind tour of familiar points from Snyder and Capullo’s run. From a potential breakout in Arkham, to the Court of Owls, to one guy whose gang Batman took down in issue #2 and who now writes the “Gotham Is” column, to a cameo by the Joker, a lot of ground is covered in swift and engaging fashion.
You could accuse the creators of smug navel-gazing with what they’re doing here, but the fact remains that their run on “Batman” has been a stunning creative and commercial success. Basically: They’ve earned the right to take a victory lap with this issue. There’s also a good sense of fun and uplift throughout this issue as we’re shown that things are not always as bad as they seem. Even in a city like Gotham. Even when Snyder and Capullo are clearly setting up future “Batman” stories that they might be leaving for other creators to follow up on their own. This is a story that fully acknowledges the darkness of Batman’s world and also finds ways to tweak it as well. It’s a perfect capstone to this particular run.
Jokes about me not envying who has to follow this are going to have to wait a moment because the issue that follows, “The List,” also comes from Tynion with art from Riley Rossmo. This issue likely exists because all of the series that survived from the launch of the “New 52” all wrapped up with their 52nd issue. Anyway, this issue treads through some “Batman Begins” territory as it flashes back to the time after Bruce’s parents were killed and how he tried to move on from that as a child, through making a list, and as a young man, through training. These flashbacks are interspersed between the story set in the present which has Batman matching wits with a thief named Cryptis who can phase through any object and has stolen something of great personal importance to Bruce Wayne.
Cryptis is a good gimmicky villain for this kind of one-off story and there’s some fun to be had from seeing how Batman takes him down. That said, perceptive readers will likely be able to guess what was stolen before the big reveal comes. The reason for that, in case it wasn’t obvious from the start of this issue, is because this is a very sentimental story. One where the “D’awwwwww” it inspires in me comes more from a cynical place than a heartfelt one. Though the story itself is put together well enough, and Rossmo’s loose, raggedy artwork is appealing in its own way, this issue never really shakes off the fact that it’s basically just a glorified fill-in whose real purpose was to make it so that this run of “Batman” had 52 whole issues to it.
Then we come to “Batman: Rebirth,” co-written by Snyder and incoming writer Tom King with art from Mikel Janin. I get that the idea behind such a collaboration is to have the issue come off as a passing of the torch between two writers and offer those skeptical of the new writer measuring up (like me) a chance to see what he brings to the table. Unfortunately, this issue is pretty underwhelming as a done-in-one story featuring Batman trying to foil a plan by the Calendar Man to poison Gotham while also formally integrating Duke Thomas into the supporting Bat-cast. Duke looks like a solid enough addition, though he’s more interesting in the way that Batman is training him to be a superhero on his own terms than the next Robin than as a character himself. As for the Calendar Man business, it’s rushed through too fast to really care about the threat he poses while the attempts to make Batman seem tough in the process come off as ridiculous more than anything else. The issue does offer some great dynamic and detailed art from Janin. What it doesn’t provide is a compelling reason to keep reading this series.
If you’ve been following the Snyder/Capullo run from the start, but were having doubts about picking up this volume, I’d say you should go for it. In addition to collecting their final issue, it has one good story from Fawkes, and a couple decent ones from Tynion. As for the “Rebirth” issue meant to herald King’s upcoming run, reading it may convince you to call it quits right here. After so many great volumes of “Batman” from Snyder and Capullo, it’s hard to blame anyone if they decided to call it quits here.