"Batman" #4 opens with an explosion and closes with a cliffhanger. That's pretty much how adventure comics are supposed to work, right? Darn right.
At this point in the relaunched DC Universe, there is a wide array of Batman-family titles to choose from, but there is only one "Batman." Written by Scott Snyder, a man known for his realistic pacing and intense, gritty plots and stories filled with characters that are believable and honest. That holds true for this issue as we find Dick Grayson stopping by the Batcave to check in on Bruce Wayne following the Dark Knight's civilian identity's near-death experience in the aforementioned explosion. The visit leads to an eleven-page conversation that sheds light on the rationale behind Batman's calm confidence against the new foe Snyder has pitted him against.
That foe - - or rather society of foes - - is the Court of Owls. Immortalized in an old, Gotham City-centric nursery rhyme, the Court of Owls has seemingly congealed from thin air, making Batman's life a lot more challenging and a great deal more entertaining for us readers. We've caught glimpses of the Talon, the Owls' enforcer, as well as secret locations of Owls' hideouts in previous issues, but the mystery of the Court of Owls continues to grow.
On the art side of things, Greg Capullo does a great job, though the next-to-last page is a little murky. The scale is so exaggerated, the coloring so extremely shadowy, that the action is nearly lost. However, read in context with the final page, it all becomes clear with the sequence inviting deeper investigation and appreciation of what Capullo has created.
Capullo fills the story with fantastic imagery, providing wonderfully stylized drawings of the Dark Knight detective. His rounded-corner flashback panels are drenched in shadowy memories courtesy of inker Jonathan Glapion, adding an appropriate harshness to Bruce's recollections of his investigation of the Court of Owls. Capullo plays with the flashback sequence backdrops, adding a map of Gotham that is significantly obscured, but nonetheless obvious for what it is. At some point, I'm hoping we get to see that map in greater detail. It's a nice additional detail for the overall tale.
The story, to this point, has been a high-stakes collection of near misses, almost fatalities and compounded stress for the titular character, and it doesn't look like that will be changing anytime soon. Snyder is doing a very good job of expanding Batman's world without alienating long-term fans, finding new ground to overturn and, in doing so, has given Batman an unearthed mystery to solve. It's fun reading that combines the very best of the Batman mythos with the energetic brilliance of Capullo's artwork. At first glance, the duo seems like the odd couple of comics, but their collaboration shines. Batman is fun to read again, with a sense of adventure as Snyder and Capullo make this a run that should prove to be a memorable one.