In Review: Batman #50

A disappointing anniversary issue.

The covers: The Regular cover is by Mikel Janín and features Batman and Catwoman kissing, after their vows, surrounded by white roses that form the frame of this illustration. It’s romantic, they’re in their costumes, and I’m a happy camper with this frontpiece. The Variant cover by Arthur Adams and Alejandro Sanchez features Batman on an orange background leaping down at the reader. Oh, and he’s got a gazillion bats flying behind him. As much as I love the Regular cover, and I did grab it initially, I saw this cover by Adams and picked this up instead. The Jim Lee, Scott Williams & Alex Sinclair Variant features both characters in a downpour, their foreheads touching. Batman cradles her head and Catwoman has her hands on his shoulders. Nice, moody, very non-wedding, but cool. There is also a Lee & Williams Pencils Variant which is the exact same image, just without Sinclair’s contributions. I like it, but I prefer it colored. There’s even a Lee, Williams & Sinclair Gold Foil Variant, which is the same as the initial variant, but with the title in gold foil. It’s okay. Overall grades: Regular A, Adams Variant A+, Lee Variant A, Lee Pencils Variant B-, and Lee Gold Foil Variant A

To get descriptions of the other variant covers, of which I’ve learned of ninety-six (!!!) follow this link to my reviews of them for SciFiPulse at https://scifipulse.net/in-review-batman-50-cover-variants/

The story: This story is expanded to ridiculous lengths. It could have easily been a twenty paged comic, but the narration that’s accompanied by full-paged splashes doesn’t add much to the story or increase understanding of the characters. This is a fairly straightforward story from Tom King: Bruce and Selina decide to get married that night. They need a judge and two witnesses. These individuals are found, as are two baddies that are quickly taken down, and the preparations begin. The format of this story is neat when it doesn’t have the splashes, with the left side of the page being Selina’s point of view and the right being Bruce’s. This is clever and provides for a balanced story. The dialogue between Selina and her witness was predictable. The same could be said of Bruce speaking with Alfred, but due to the history of the characters it held considerably more weight, with Page 25 actually getting me to tear up. For that I have to applaud King for going for this moment. Page 24 is the turning point in the story, however, and it became really predictable after the final word on the page. The last panel of the issue had me groaning because of the villain that has dominance. I’ve never cared for this character. I know he’s loved by many, but this character was the initial reason I stopped reading Batman comics regularly decades ago. Ultimately, I was disappointed by the splash pages’ inclusions as story and the conclusion; these pages are half the book. I won’t be back to Batman books again because of this. Overall grade: D+

The art: Mikel Janín is responsible for eighteen of the thirty-eight pages; the other twenty are full-paged splashes by other artists: José Luis Garcia-Lopez & Trish Mulvihill, Becky Cloonan, Jason Fabok & Brad Anderson, Frank Miller & Alex Sinclair, Lee Bermejo, Neal Adams & Hi-Fi, Tony S. Daniel & Tomeu Morey, Amanda Conner & Paul Mounts, Rafael Albuquerque, Andy Kubert & Sinclair, Tim Sale & José Villarrubia, Paul Pope & Villarrubia (these last two artists and colorists do not do splashes, but normal pages with panels), Mitch Gerads, Clay Mann & Jordie Bellaire, Ty Templeton & Keiren Smith, Joëlle Jones & Bellaire, David Finch & Bellaire, Jim Lee & Scott Williams & Sinclair, Greg Capullo & FCO Plascencia, and Lee Weeks. I have enjoyed Janín’s art since I first encountered it on Justice League Dark and he always does a great job. His characters are incredibly lifelike and his settings are outstanding. He also knows how to compose a page. Take a look at Page 1, which has three really small panels inserted onto a larger one showing Batman and Catwoman dealing with Kite Man. It’s great! Pages 4 and 5 have two characters being contacted to appear at the couple’s wedding as witnesses. Each page has four equally sized horizontal panels with the each character facing into the center gutter, balancing the overall visuals. Both settings are extremely well detailed. 8 and 9 are also mirror images as the characters take down two villains that often run together. The action is good, the characters excellent, and the settings wonderful. In fact, the entire book is balanced this way, with the remainder of the book having the left page being from Catwoman’s point of view and the right from Batman’s. This is a neat reading experience as the reader gets to see how each approaches the wedding and reacts to it. The final page follows one of the witnesses and reveals the villains. I liked seeing them all, save the one that has dominance, but this is a writer’s choice, not an artistic one. Janín’s artwork is unquestionably good. With such a wide array of artists, one’s love of them will depend on how much one enjoys the artists. There are some I liked (Garcia-Lopez, Connor, Adams, Kubert, and Templeton) and others I did not. It’s a mixed bag. It seems as though these images were inserted into the story after the fact because most don’t really go along with the text. Overall grades: Janín A and Splash Pages C

The colors: Matching the realism of the artwork are the colors by June Chung. I appreciate that during the night exteriors Chung doesn’t blacken the visuals, but uses blues and violets to allow the artwork to remain clearly seen. Page 5 has an interior colored bloody red that intensifies the seriousness of the location. Wayne Manor’s interiors are brown because of all the woodwork and it looks amazing. I was looking intensely at these pages: first for the artwork and second for the the coloring that doesn’t drown in browns. It is impressive. The sunrise at the end of the book is in a neat light violet. The book ends with some sinister oranges to increase the tension. It looks good, but leaves me wondering why these characters can’t afford light bulbs. Overall grade: A

The letters: Clayton Cowles creates this issue’s dialogue, scene settings, sounds, narration, and transmissions. I don’t like thin dialogue, as it makes the speakers appear weak and that’s the case for this issue. It’s hard to believe that Batman is threatening with such a wispy dialogue font. There is no yelling in the book, however Cowles has one page where Alfred and Bruce are emphasizing certain words in their dialogue and they are tremendously bolded. The first time I read the dialogue on 25 I thought the characters were being sarcastic with one another. A different font that had been italicized would have kept this from happening. I do like that the narration used for the couple is in a very different font from the book’s dialogue and each character’s narration is slightly different from the other. Wow! It’s rare enough to find a letterer that uses a different font for dialogue and narration, but to use two different fonts for narration is outstanding. My hat is off to Cowles for that. Overall grade: B

The final line: The story is milked and expanded by unnecessary slash pages that interrupt this predictable tale. This issue confirms that I shouldn’t be reading Batman by King. Janín’s art is wonderful, but the splash pages are hit and miss. This was a disappointing story with good to average art. A disappointing anniversary issue. Overall grade: C+

To order a digital copy go to https://www.comixology.com/Batman-2016-50/digital-comic/688356?ref=c2VhcmNoL2luZGV4L2Rlc2t0b3Avc2xpZGVyTGlzdC9pdGVtU2xpZGVy

To see the covers visit my Instagram account: patrickhayesscifipulse

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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