Batman: Broken City
(a) Eduardo Risso
FC, 144 pgs, $24.95 US / Higher in Canada
Broken City began with a surefire strategy– take the award-winning team behind the critically acclaimed 100 Bullets, and apply their talents to the world’s greatest detective. Look past the hype, however, and while the result is an impressively edgy and dark Batman tale, it’s one that feels strangely out of place within the title’s continuity.
The murder of a small-time criminal’s sister has set into motion a citywide investigation on both sides of the law. But when a young boy’s parents are murdered in the confusion, the Dark Knight takes it personally, and the streets of Gotham become a hunting ground in the Caped Crusader’s unstoppable quest for vengeance.
Within these six collected issues, Brian Azzarello has constructed a gritty urban mystery that flows with the style of a Raymond Chandler detective novel. His Gotham City is permeated with a film-noir ambiance, and his Batman is a tough-talking, hard-boiled threat who’s as sarcastic as he is sadistic. There’s a bit too much witty banter and smirking satisfaction when compared to the character’s previous incarnations, but this can be overlooked as long as it’s viewed in context with the book’s tone. The story itself meanders through a series of seemingly disconnected leads as it nears its conclusion, and though the twist ending leaves something to be desired, the real payoff is in the atmosphere. Azzarello’s razor-sharp dialogue plays fast and hits hard, while Eduardo Risso delivers a shadowy, grimy and violent Gotham filled with creative interpretations of both newly invented and all-too-familiar faces.
This story arc, collecting issues #620-625, was released directly after Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee’s Hush, and it’s a stark contrast to the colorful superhero tone that had been established in that work. Just as Azzarello dismissed that storyline’s perspectives and events, this chapter was completely disregarded by the creative team that followed it, making it a stylish but essentially throwaway chapter in the Batman mythos. As comparisons to previous and subsequent issues are inevitable, Broken City would have been best served as a standalone tale, freed from the restraints of continuity. Isolated in hardcover format, however, that problem has been minimized, leaving readers with an absorbing and realistic take on an iconic character. (Dave Brennan)