Stuart's Pick of the Week for 5.28: Batman #31
In many ways, issue 31 of Batman is the quiet before the storm. Snyder and team are gearing us up the finale of Zero Year. The opening of this issue shows that in a beautifully realized way. I've said it before, but I will say it again: Capullo and Plascencia are truly at the height of their creative powers here. I will say that I was not a big fan of the color palette of Zero Year in the beginning but now I cannot imagine a more artistic choice to have these vibrant, almost trippy colors to fill these pages. Gone are the blacks and grays and in are the oranges, blues and purples. And how about those Capullo landscapes! The previous issue was truly breathtaking as we see a decimated Gotham. So much detail to be taken in!
As the story opens, we see that Fox is thinking of how he can get to the Riddler and defeat him. He is joined by Gordon and Batman. They decide they are going to try and trace the signal the Riddler is using to broadcast himself to the people. The problem is that they will not have long, because the signal is only up for a few minutes and they need more than that to trace him. Batman tells them he will distract the Riddler and give them the time they need.
Flash back to young Bruce, we see a teacher who is giving him a math equation, a problem to solve, much like the Riddler has just done. The teacher calls on Bruce, but he is not ready or willing to answer.
The action cuts back to the Riddler mocking the citizens of Gotham whom have seen better days. We see a few panels of a bat insignia and gloves , we see shadows, and then out of the abyss comes Batman on his rugged motorcycle. Fantastic shot! The Riddler is a bit taken back that Batman is still alive but Nigma isn't impressed by what he sees. Bruce challenges him with a riddle and, naturally, the Riddler is over the moon excited. Batman basically tells his Riddle which is really a story that mocks Nigma, saying that the Riddler is just "screaming LOOK AT ME! Embarrassing himself in a cheap hat." The Riddler charges back trying to analyze who is behind the cowl. Done with Batman, he presses a button and sends Batman falling into an abyss. What lies beneath is probably not what you would expect. Lions! Two of them!
You Can't Help Them
We are sent back to young Bruce in the classroom. He is again challenged with a question from the professor. He still does not want to answer. The scene then turns surreal and we see a visual of all his classmates dying, with Bruce not being able to do anything about it.
Pretty unsettling stuff. We see present day Gotham folks also dying, with Bruce not doing anything about it. We watch as the Riddler does, seeing how Batman can get out of this one. He takes his knife, opens up a car's gas tank, swallows some gas, uses a lighter and burns one of the lions with light blue flames.
The lion charges into the car, and we think our hero is surely done for! But then he emerges. He is on top of the lion, yelling. Awesome. Just in time too, Gordon and Fox have been able to track the signal. The Riddler is not amused. Batman is in a car park and Riddler says "Everyone's attracted to me. Everyone falls for me, eventually even you, Batman. Whom am I? Gravity." And with that, the cars come crashing down. Gordon pulls Batman to safety, but this is only the beginning of the end. We cut back for the last time to young Bruce. The teacher arrives at his house and see that police have gathered around. There has been a fire in the yard. It was the answer to the solution he had asked young Bruce:
This was yet another fantastic issue from Snyder and his talented team. It isn't as action packed as previous stories, it isn't as thoughtful and introspective as many others have been, but seeing Batman fight a lion, seeing him reveal himself to the Riddler, seeing his relationship strengthen with Gordon at a time where he is only just now embracing him as someone he can trust, it was a very strong issue. I loved the flashback sequences both in their meaning and how visually they looked, showing that Bruce seemingly always has the answer, even when it looks like all is lost. He also has always had a flair for the dramatic! And he will always be there to save those in need.