Okay, let’s talk Batman. It sort of sucks to be starting this column right at the tail end of Greg Capullo’s tenure as artist (he says he’ll be back, though). The guy has pretty much redefined the look of the character, while also taking a more classicist approach in things like “Zero Year,” and has done a lot in the way of making these comics terrifying again.

Under Capullo’s art (and Snyder’s writing, of course!), Batman has almost become a horror comic. It’s evident in stories like “The Court of Owls,” which plays with the concept of vampires, zombies, and cults in a very cool way, and “Death of the Family,” which did a lot in the way to turn the Joker into this universe’s boogeyman — something that the last arc, “Endgame,” really delivered on.

And the same goes for what Snyder and Capullo are doing in “Superheavy,” which started as a pretty light sci-fi adventure story, but has quickly plunged back into the depths of Hell, as Batman and Mr. Bloom finally face off for the first time.

WARNING: THERE ARE SPOILERS AHEAD.

Until now, we’ve only really seen Mr. Bloom in the periphery of what’s going on in Gotham at the moment. The real Batman is dead, Bruce Wayne is working at an orphanage, and Jim Gordon has been wearing the Bat-themed tights (so to speak) in the Dark Knight’s absence. The first few issues of “Superheavy” were really about having fun with the Babbit (Capullo’s nickname for that ridiculous mech suit), as the all-new Batman faced off against some villain-of-the-month baddies not even worth mentioning by name.

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But slowly, an intriguing mystery started to form: how were these two-bit thugs gaining superhuman abilities seemingly out of the blue? For example, Gee Gee Heung, leader of Triad group Devil Pigs, suddenly has the power to control silicon. Thus, the seeds were planted for a much darker story. (Pun intended.)

Mr. Bloom, Gotham’s very own version of Slender Man, is the man behind all the weird shit that’s been happening in the city lately. The idea behind the villain, as Snyder has explained, is that he’s the weed that grows out of the cracks between the powerful and the disenfranchised—something more evident than ever in the Narrows after the Joker attack last year.

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Snyder explains:

You have a villain that grows like a weed in the cracks—the chasms that grow between different communities, between rich and poor, between different races, different classes, all of that. And that’s what makes Mr. Bloom so scary. He’s a reflection of what can go very wrong.

As you can see from the panel above from #45, when Bloom finally reveals himself at a press conference meant for Gordon’s resignation—he’s just been fired as Batman by the powers that be—things get particularly bloody. And things pick up right where we left off in #46, with more of Gotham’s rich being impaled and getting their eyes stabbed through their sockets.

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I really love Bloom, because he doesn’t have any kind of comic book history—although #44 teased that he’d been around since the beginning of Batman—and is really just a cool monster. Snyder and Capullo’s ability to create new monsters is remarkable. His recent work on Wytches has evidently bled through Snyder’s writing in Batman. Like those pre-historic wytches, Bloom is a lanky, otherworldly villain that crawls out of the woodwork when the opportunity presents itself—in a moment of transition for Gotham and Batman.

There’s one panel from #46 that really stuck with me. Bottom right:

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It’s really terrifying to see with what certainty Mr. Bloom has unleashed his plan, with the cunning of Dracula but the savagery of the Wolfman. I love how he’s looking out the window of the abandoned warehouse, admiring the weeds that are about to grow all over Gotham. After this, another fight unfolds, and there’s absolutely no doubt that he’ll overpower Jim in their rematch.

I like how Snyder is indirectly approaching the big reveal of the story: who is Mr. Bloom? Although #44 was meant to answer that, it absolutely doesn’t. It’s more teasing, because whoever it is, it has to be BIG. This month’s issue really does point to Julie Madison, Bruce’s...err...fiance? She’s always kind of been a suspect. For one thing, Snyder has upped her importance in the book, after only making one appearance in the very last scene of “Zero Year.” Since her earliest appearance in Detective Comics Vol. 1 #31, Julie has filled the role of Bruce’s first major love interest—something Snyder and Capullo’s book has never had time for, since Bruce has practiced alienation and isolation for so much of these 46 issues.

The new status quo has facilitated Julie’s return, but could there be more to her heightened profile? She seems to have Bruce wrapped around her finger, as he unpredictably proposes to her during a particularly steamy shower scene...

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There are more overt clues, too. At one point in the issue, Gordon and the rest of Team Batman are busy searching for Bloom after he/she makes his/her escape from his latest murder scene. Gordon, talking to himself, asks, “Where are you?” and then the next panel cuts to Julie. Now, this could certainly be Jim asking his predecessor, “Where are you?” I doubt he really thinks Batman is dead, deep inside, and when coupled with a pretty important moment in new Bruce’s life, Jim could just as easily be referring to Bruce/Batman. But the overt cut to Julie can’t be ignored.

I’d almost say the Julie as Bloom hint is a misdirection if it weren’t for Duke Thomas’ portion of the issue, which is the weakpoint for me. Although there’s plenty of action and cool gadgets in the scenes where Duke infiltrates the Penguin’s lair in order to get information on Bloom, I hate when comics assume we’re reading the other Batfamily books. Yes, I know Duke has joined a troop of Robins in the past few months and is the star of We Are Robin. But for all the time Snyder has spent introducing Duke in the past, and then his exclusion in most of this story (for example, you don’t know he’s a crime-fighter by #46 if you haven’t read We Are Robin), his sudden reappearance in the book for a particularly important moment that could drive the conflict in future issues, it’s a bit annoying for him to just get thrown back in the mix.

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Again, Duke’s discovery seems to point to a big “Julie is Mr. Bloom” reveal. The info he uncovers surprises him quite a bit, like it’s totally shattered his universe. Duke knows Julie, even owes him for shelter and safety since the disappearance of his parents. She’s sort of been a surrogate parent to Duke, along with Bruce. His ties to her would undoubtedly become a big point of conflict for the rest of the story if she is indeed Bloom.

We don’t find out the answer by the end of the story, which is fine. The mystery helps push the arc along, especially when its top half was so action-centric. The second half of “Superheavy” is a chance for Snyder and Capullo to explore the case, although it might not be Jim that gets to solve the mystery...

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(That’s the cover to Batman #49 by Yanick Paquette, who will be a guest artist in the issue.)

I planned to include my thoughts on Batman & Robin Eternal in this post, as well, but this got a bit long, didn’t it? I’ll get to the weekly in another post, though. I’m really enjoying it so far!

More soon.