Not unlike other instances in Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s run, “Batman” #34 takes a break from the structure of a large arc and tells a done-in-one storyline with a guest artist. This time, Matteo Scalera, artist on “Black Science” and bits of “Indestructible Hulk,” takes over art duties, and for the first time in an issue of the New 52 “Batman,” there is a guest writer in Gerry Duggan. Snyder and Duggan teamed up to form the story, but the latter takes care of the script. There isn’t a big drop in quality in taking away Snyder from script duties; “Batman” #34 is a great comic, with gritty, creepy art along with a compelling, simple plot written with enough finesse as to be quite satisfying.
Batman is great for huge, worldwide superhero stories, but he’s better suited for stories contained in the contained and focused setting of Gotham City. “Batman” #34 is a no-frills detective story with a new, super-power-less, cringe-inducing villain tagged “The Meek.” The book does a seamless job of making this guy out to be a detestable, imposing creep. It also does a seamless job of revealing him to be a real loser, stupidly thinking he can outwit the Bat and keep his disgusting crime hidden. Batman wins, and he isn’t so nice; incorporating neat tech and his genius detective skills, the caped crusader ruthlessly takes this guy out and punishes him with the not-entirely-wholesome form of justice Batman is commonly associated with.
The comic opens with some chilling, off-panel discussion that expertly sets the tone, and there are a few bits of dialogue and panels that are a truly exciting kind of satisfying. The quality of Duggan’s writing doesn’t overshadow the sheer skill seen in Scalera’s pencils. Scalera’s art is perfect for creating a cool, yet very twisted look, with its scratchy line-work as well as its exaggerated facial expression, fit for showcasing any emotion called for, whether it be sheer fear or gratification. It’s a grimy-looking comic that displays the damaged nature of Gotham.
“Batman” #34 doesn’t say anything new about any aspect of Batman or put forth any kind of innovation, but it’s a very well-done, great comic. It’s a solid break as comic fans wait for the next big “Batman” arc from Snyder and Capullo, and a healthy reminder that stories told in just one comic certainly have a place in the medium.