Two words you wouldn’t use to describe Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s run on Batman are “short” and “sweet”. At almost 50 issues, the series has been comprised almost entirely of long game changing stories, from “The Court of Owls” to “Zero Year” to “Endgame.” “Superheavy” is another long story, with Batman #46 being part six and only just past the midway point. However, it also points out that what this creative team does best is big stories. Even as a very clear middle chapter, Batman #46 manages to set up future events in exciting ways without ever slowing the considerable momentum of “Superheavy.”
Snyder’s plotting jumps between three central plotlines, but never leaves the feeling that any of them are simmering. Instead they are always boiling, if not already bubbling over and making a mess of the floor. Even the most quiet storyline focusing on the Batman-less Bruce Wayne, features quickly mounting stakes. That is certainly helped by Capullo and FCO Plascencia’s coloring, alluding to some visual connections that may simply be a red herring or something far darker.
The A-plot featuring Jim Gordon in the batsuit(s) is almost all action though. Snyder and Capullo pull him from the cliffhanger at the end of Batman #45 and only provide the briefest of reprieves before sticking him in an even worse spot. This out of the frying pan into the fire pacing is what makes the extended nature of “Superheavy” function so well though. Beneath the surface there is a slowly mounting mystery and at least one inevitable tragedy waiting to occur. It’s all fascinating stuff, but in order to make it read well over the course of months, something else has to keep readers engaged. In this case, it’s the chaos that Gotham City so readily provides.
Snyder and Capullo have always reveled in the diversity of characters and crime that lurk within the uncountable alleyways. It provides the ability to shift between skyscraper brawls to gangs of B-list gangsters to tense one-on-one showdowns. They fit all of these encounters into 22 pages without making any of it feel rushed. Batman and Mr. Bloom face off twice, but each time invoke a different dynamic and tone. Capullo and Plascencia draw forth what makes each action sequence most exciting as well. They capably shift between blockbuster action and horror, utilizing Capullo’s diverse character designs to keep each page interesting. Capullo is given an opportunity to show off a wide array of designs in a sequence that is too much fun to be spoiled. It’s clearly set up for things to come, but just getting to see what he has imagined is a delight and one that should build anticipation for future chapters.
The flaws to be found in Batman #46 lie in the details. A small revelation about Jules, Bruce Wayne’s girlfriend, is an eye roller, trying to connect dots that don’t add anything to the bigger picture. It oversells foreshadowing that was already capably constructed in the visual narrative. When Snyder manages to make his dialogue more subtle though, it hits high notes for the series. Careful attention should be paid to the final back-and-forth of the issue, as it manages to both invoke a striking mood and reveal some very interesting hints.
Batman #46 is a middle chapter, which is something many superhero comics struggle with. The task of moving 3-4 plots along, setting up future revelations and events, and continue to build tension and action is difficult to manage in a single comic that should be fun to read on its own as well. Yet Capullo and Snyder pull it off with aplomb. They understand how their story ought to function, which allows them to focus on the individual strengths of each scene. Action and romance alike are beautifully presented here, making the wait between each issue absolutely worth it.