DC Comics‘ Batman #12, by writer Scott Snyder and artist Becky Cloonan with backups by writer James Tynion IV and artist Andy Clarke, tells a moving story. Harper Row, first glimpsed in issue #1 and later issue #7, has a personal connection to the Bat.
First, it’s fairly obvious that criminal justice is what Batman stands for with the way he has devoted himself to the protection of Gotham City. Every once in awhile, Batman saves the damsel in distress or the little old lady crossing the street as an out of control car veers towards her. Rather than maintain the status quo of archetypal victims, Snyder actually casts a deeper gaze on some of those victims by exploring the life and troubles of Harper and Cullen Row.
The siblings live a tough life in The Narrows of Gotham with Harper working electrical for the city, but things are a bit tougher for Cullen who has been the recent target of gay bashing by neighborhood perps. Before this takes on the feel of one of those after school specials, let it be said that Snyder portrays a situation that is quite topical on many levels here.
He isn’t the first to talk about it, but shows some boldness by addressing the matter in a larger forum like Batman. Having said that, Snyder does a great job of combining criminal and social justice elements to give a more complex and deeper look at what a person might find in a city like Gotham.
Even though Gotham occupies a mythological status in fiction, Snyder has done a fantastic job making it a bit more like the big cities we know where people face issues that aren’t mythological. Sometimes writers in the comic book medium forget that honest human portrayals make good stories too, even if they’re fiction and involve a caped crime fighter.
Not only does Snyder write a great story that stands on its own without the examination of the social issues at hand, but he makes it better by handling it with a measure of sensitivity and deftness of touch to keep it from coming off preachy or insincere.
Becky Cloonan’s artwork is transformative for this issue as well. Greg Capullo handles the mythical, taut elements of Batman and Gotham City in ways that blow mere mortals’ minds, but Cloonan’s style is better suited to a story that has an extremely poignant and sensitive aspect to it.
Her artwork shows the personal bond between brother and sister while keeping Batman tough, but steadfast in his fight for every citizen of Gotham. Even though this is stylized comic art, Harper and Cullen look like real, everyday people with real, everyday gestures and emoting. Good call, Snyder, for bringing her in for this issue.
The backup stories for this issue are co-written by Snyder and Tynion with a turn back towards what makes Batman badass. It may be presumptuous, but Harper may have a future as an Oracle-like character that can help Batman. Tynion and Snyder close the loop on the main story with this nice finish. Andy Clarke’s work on the backup is fresh and has an interesting style that is reminiscent of Frank Quitely.
Overall, Batman #12 gets an A across the board for the creative team for great storytelling, writing, and artwork. They also get an A in the courage department for tackling a tough story to tell in the right manner. Get ready for the Joker’s return in issue #13.