Batman at 80 – Scott Snyder’s Top 5 Batman Stories

Back in February, DC Comics announced that Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo were to unite once more to tell the “final story” in their generation-defining run helming the Batman titles. The three-part Batman: Last Knight on Earth will be released on the DC Black Label imprint on 29 May, joining Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo’s gritty Batman: Damned and Sean Murphy’s sublime Batman: White Knight on the mature label.

It seems so long ago since Snyder and Capullo picked up the reins on Detective Comics during Grant Morrison’s mind-bending, game-changing run. Bruce Wayne was dead/missing in time, the first Robin (Dick Grayson) had adorned the cape and cowl, and Bruce’s recently introduced biological son Damian Wayne was the new Robin – and Dick’s rather overzealous sidekick.

Then Flashpoint happened, the New 52 came along, and the writer/artist duo moved onto the main Batman title. Their 52-issue run led the World’s Greatest Detective on some of his most-loved adventures in recent memory. Of course, that series just wouldn’t be the same without Capullo. Nevertheless, here are just five of our favourite Scott Snyder stories, whether collaborations with Capullo, Jock, Romita Jr et al. Starting with…

5. All Star Batman: My Own Worst Enemy

Who doesn’t like a good ol’ road trip story? In this post-Rebirth tale, illustrated by the legendary artist John Romita Jr, Batman must get Two-Face to a location outside of Gotham – but Harvey Dent – who was so savagely dismissed by Joker in Snyder’s own Death of the Family story (more on that later) – blackmails the entire general public into helping him escape. So, in short, Batman tethers himself to Dent, a bunch of assassins come after them and eventually some dark secrets come to light.

All Star Batman has some exceptionally gorgeous artwork in it, even by Romita Jr’s standards, with a multitude of incredibly creative panel-transitions, but it’s more than just a pretty book to look at. While the action and sightly-stronger than usual dialogue gives the series a uniqueness, there is also a lot of heart. Harvey Dent has often been imagined as a former ally of Bruce Wayne’s, if not Gotham City’s, to some degree. But as his menacing alter ego Two Face, he’s always been one of Batman’s most iconic villains. Snyder’s writing manages to create a new way to look at the dynamic and the relationship between the pair of them that isn’t just good guy/bad guy, as well as exploring the way Gotham’s public sees the Batman. If nothing else, My Own Worst Enemy is also a rip-roaring story that is a whole lot of fun.

READ MORE: Batman at 80 – From the movies to the comics

4. Death of the Family

Flashpoint came and went like a metaphorical hurricane through the DC Universe leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. Well, that’s how it felt at the time. Looking back, it’s probably more akin to a strong gust of wind that just blew away decades-old cobwebs. With it, Snyder made the jump from ‘Detective Comics’ to ‘Batman’ and wrought havoc on the Bat-family. First he turned a hidden part of Gotham’s history on the Dark Knight in the Court of Owls – which was given extra layers in the fabulous Gates of Gotham – and then Snyder unleashed Wayne’s greatest foe on the Bat-family after a rather gruesome cosmetic facelift (so to speak) in Tony S. Daniel’s Detective Comics.

The Death of the Family arc brought a terrifying version of the Joker into DC’s main Batman title. Wearing his own face as a mask after a surgical encounter with Pyg, the clown prince of crime took vengeance not directly on his arch-nemesis, but instead targeted each of Batman’s allies. Of course, the title is a reference to Jim Starlin’s iconic ‘A Death in the Family’ and the murder of Jason Todd by Joker’s hand (well, crowbar), but Snyder and Capullo cranked the destruction up to eleven as the whole of Batman’s closest allies were terrorised by his oldest enemy. It was a twisted tale that sewed seeds of mistrust among the Bat-family; consequently changing the group dynamic in future issues. We were also treated to some of Capullo’s best artwork in his entire run on the character.

READ MORE: Batman at the movies – 1966-97

3. Dark Nights: Metal

If ever a new reader needed a jumping on point to understand the make-up of characters and their long and complicated histories, then Snyder’s multiverse shattering six-issue epic crossover event is… not it – maybe try Snyder/Capullo’s ‘Zero Year’ instead. The interwoven web of narratives that is Dark Nights: Metal requires at least some knowledge of everything that has happened to Batman since he was “killed” in Grant Morrison’s ‘Final Crisis’. However, exquisite it is, nonetheless.

The Dark Multiverse is revealed to exist beneath the multiverse inhabited by evil versions of the DC heroes. Batman has been exposed to some unique metals over time (including a divine metal called ‘batmanium’) that now allow the big-bad dark god Barbatos to enter the multiverse. Bruce now faces a new enemy: the Batman Who Laughs, a fearsome, cenobite-esque, Bats-and-Joker-looking hybrid bondage-clad baddie, with his creepy pet Jokerised-Robin-gremlin-things, from the dark multiverse. But this epic event is more than simply a Batman vs Evil Batman story. The arc reaches into the furthest of corners of the DC Universe to combine the magic, science and downright bad-assery of a variety of characters from Justice League regulars to an egg shape-confined Plastic Man. One thing that Snyder has shown during his run is that Bruce’s allies make him stronger, not weaker, even in times where his actions seem to directly or indirectly drive a wedge between them. Dark Nights: Metal takes this step even further

READ MORE: Batman at the movies – 2005-17

2. The Black Mirror

Some of Snyder’s best stories didn’t even feature Bruce Wayne as the caped crusader. Towards the end of his run on Batman, it was Jim Gordon wearing the tight-fitting kevlar (and giant mecha-suit) to take on Mr Bloom, for instance. But Snyder’s pre-New 52 Detective Comics series followed Dick Grayson after he had laid down the Escrima sticks and reluctantly donned the cape and cowl, while Bruce was busy founding Batman Incorporated. So many great stories spawned out of Dick’s run as Gotham’s protector, from Grant Morrison’s Batman & Robin, to Paul Dini’s underrated Streets of Gotham. But Snyder’s 10-issue run stands out strongly.

Despite previously carrying the mantle post-Knightfall, this new version of Grayson presented an exciting prospect for DC. Whilst ultimately these stories mainly allowed readers the chance to consider how they had seen Bruce as Gotham’s protector mainly by his absence, Snyder grasped the nettle. Grayson was Batman. A different Batman, but still Batman. Where some might say Bruce is cynical others might say he’s just always prepared for the worst outcome. But Dick represents a metaphorical mirror to Bruce’s darkness – and Lord knows Snyder loves a metaphor. As such, whether he’s battling with Tiger Shark, trapped inside a deadly auction house, or gawping at an orca, Snyder’s ability to use Dick’s enthusiasm and aptitude for seeing the bigger picture proved that Batman could still be Batman, even with a smile on his face. All of this without even mentioning the exceptionally dark story of James Gordon’s son that handles another strained father/son relationship, albeit in an ever so slightly darker fashion.

READ MORE: Batman’s rogues gallery – a best of…

1. Court of Owls

Until a re-read of Snyder’s entire run on Batman earlier this month from beginning to end, The Black Mirror would definitely have topped this list and I would have proudly proclaimed it his masterpiece. As entertaining as the whole Dick-as-Batman arc was – indeed, Zero Year, Endgame and Superheavy could quite easily have placed on this list – it’s the first 11 issues of New 52 Batman that Snyder’s run will rightly be remembered for, long into the future.

The plot broadly follows Batman’s investigation into a hushed ancient secret society right underneath Gotham running the city under his nose. However, it also served as a story that reduced the Dark Knight down to his core, realigning some of his values and, in true Snyder-fashion, stripping him of his gadgets and forcing him to be a human being. Batman might be a symbol, but Bruce Wayne is but a man and in the end, that is what makes him special. It’s what Snyder sees too. For all that Batman is a legend and a myth, there are always bigger legends, grander myths. Unlike his faceless homogeneous enemy, what tethers him to those he’s sworn to protect is his own humanity. Throw in some topsy-turvy artwork as the shattered and broken Batman drinks (probably) drugged water while trapped in an underground maze and forced to confront his past (ahem, there’s those metaphors again), and you’ve got yourself one hell of a sophisticated comic book that improves on every re-read.

Special mentions to Batman: Eternal and especially Batman & Robin: Eternal, if only for Bluebird’s story and that panel with Spoiler and Orphan, written in collaboration with James Tynion IV, Scott Snyder, Tim Seeley, Steve Orlando, Genevieve Valentine, Jackson Lanzing, Collin Kelly, and Ed Brisson. Also, bonus extra special mention to Batman: Annual #1 in the New 52 series for one of Mr Freeze’s best storylines.

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