Comics Review – Batman #18

Gotham City has two prisons. The big flashy and well known lock up for comic criminals is Arkham Asylum, which has featured prominently in several Batman television shows, movies, and videogames. The second prison, rarely mentioned beyond the comic book’s sphere of influence, is Black Gate Penitentiary.

Harper Row, a high-school aged electrical engineer first appearing in Batman #7 (March 2012, 1 year ago), calls Black Gate “Dad’s”. It’s where her father is serving a jail sentence.

Batman #18, written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV – alongside their extensive pencil, inking, lettering, and colouring team of Andy Kubert, Sandra Hope, Alex Maleev, Brad Anderson, Nick J. Napolitano, and Carlos M.Mangual – continues the Dark Knight’s story.

Batman #18

Between story arcs, contemporary Batman comics seem to have a rest stop. An issue that takes place from a different perspective than The Batman‘s.

It’s not unusual, and it is in fact welcome, to have a story told about The Batman – usually from a character following the Dark Knight‘s movements. These kinds of stories help to build up the symbolic, legendary aspect of The Batman. Seen from the eyes of anyone else, The Batman could be a force of nature, and not a man in a costume.

Unfortunately, Batman #18 does not serve this purpose. Batman talks too much: the voice behind the character does not sound right, and it feels like reading the angry antics of some other man in a cape. Not The Batman, who acts, speaks, and moves with silent precision.

Of course, this is a deliberate choice. Considering the events that have spun out of Batman Incorporated #8 (March 2013) – another title starring Batman, which DC comics publishes – Bruce Wayne has a reason to fall apart, and it would be a spoiler to write about what happened in detail. Suffice it to say, Harper Row’s observations are correct – he is emotional, and careless.

Then there is Harper Row herself – who comes close to being a Mary Sue, which is an idealised character, implausibly talented with an “unusual or dramatic” backstory, and “endearing” flaws according to Television Tropes and Idioms.com.

First Harper was an electrical engineer, and is now creating gadgets, swinging from rooftops, and practicing martial arts. There seems to be nothing she can’t do, including preaching to the Batman about the value of resolve in times of crisis. For these traits, the character feels bothersome and forced

What works in her favour, however, is Harper’s approach to violence: she does not attack suspects and pursue criminals, hoping The Batman will notice her.

She resorts to violence only when things she values are under threat. Further, she stands up to bullies – in this case, her father, who makes homophobic remarks about his son (her brother) Cullen Row.

Her character design looks excellent – purple and aqua blue punk hair highlights her non-conformity.

There is a variety of different art styles in the comic. Shadowy parts of the comic look suitably gloomy, and the clean, bright, and colourful style works well for the scenes in Wayne tower, during the light of day. A good step for the expanding Batman story.

Batman #18 Variant Cover by Andy Kubert. Published by DC comics.

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