Friday, June 20, 2008

Broken City: Part Five (DC)
Batman #624 When: April 2004
Why: Brian Azzarello How: Eduardo Risso

The Story So Far...
When a pregnant woman is murdered in Gotham's east end; Batman begins his interrogation of the criminal underworld in an effort to find the true killer.

Angel Lupo, brother to the deceased, emerges as the chief suspect, but this small time chopshop hood has made some big time enemies, forcing him to go on the run. Batman's interrogation spree reveals Angel's hunters, men like Killer Croc and the Ventriloquist, but Angel proves surprisingly elusive, prompting the dark knight to recruit other lowlifes to track him.

With the entire city searching for Angel Lupo; Batman soon reaches a grim realisation. He had condemned an innocent man. Thrown him to the wolves. And now, Batman would have to protect this hood from the attention he had turned on him, and revisit the hunters that intend to destroy him.

Tale of the Tape...
ARTWORK: Ed McGuinnessARTWORK: Eduardo RissoStrength: Fatman 4 (Enhanced)
Intelligence: Batman 5 (Professor)
Speed: Little Boy 5 (Superhuman)
Stamina: Batman 5 (Marathon)
Agility: Little Boy 5 (Cat-like)
Fighting Ability: Batman 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy Power: Batman 4 (Arsenal)

- After witnessing the street murder of his parents, the young Bruce Wayne's destiny was forever shaped to be one dedicated to an ideal. Having spent his formative years studying the various sciences, martial arts, and crime fighting techniques, Bruce is ultimately inspired to become the one-man war on the criminal element in Gotham City: Batman.

Perhaps Batman's greatest power is the millions inherited from his industrialist parents, and the various facilities that came with that. They prove crucial in the design and construction of his many weapons, which are typically non-lethal, and have a variety of uses.

Complimented by his keenly strategic mind is Batman's expertise in the martial arts. He is extensively trained in multiple fighting styles, and commonly regarded to be one of the greatest hand-to-hand fighters in the world. He is also extremely proficient in general urban warfare.

- Fatman and Little Boy are a little known quantity in the criminal underworld of Gotham City, operating under the legitimate facade of a fish mongery. The Japanese duo are uniquely suited to Gotham's conditions; Fatman is a physically powerful giant, while Little Boy, his partner, is a young, lithe, and impossibly fast woman. Their status is largely unknown, but their few dealings have earned them a reputation of fear within the criminal ranks of the city.

The Math: Fatman/Little Boy (Ttl) Batman (Avg) Ranking: Batman (#2)

What Went Down...
At Angel Lupo's chopshop, Batman confronts Fatman.
Having discovered the true killer to be Lupo's lover, Margo Farr; Batman now stalks the smalltime crook in the interest of protecting him from Gotham's nastiest. Knowing that Lupo went on the run after his sister's death, the dark knight detective theorizes that he'll believe the murder to be a revenge hit by the Japanese, from whom he stole.

Fatman denounces the folly of Lupo's assumption that he and his cohort would employ a sloppy murder weapon, Killer Croc, rather than do the job themselves. Noting Little Boy's absence, Batman gets a preview of their killing efficiency.

Little Boy's fantastic speed gives her the edge in getting the drop on the dark knight, who suffers the indignities of a kick to the jaw that softens him up for two blood-splattering hits with lightning quick fists.

On the ropes; Batman is hoisted into the air by the hulking arms of Fatman, and held limp like a human punching bag. Little Boy launches with a flying kick and continues the pain wih a blistering explosion of punches that Batman cannot begin to anticipate. He suffers the blows, reaching deep within himself to ignore the pain of bruises and blood, searching for a strategy. A hook. A tail!

Snagging a loose strap on Little Boy's glove, Batman springs like a cat, launching his strike in the form of a headbutt. With his hand yanked free, Batman shifts his weight, and turns Fatman's incredible bulk against him with a toss that sends the burly gangster hurtling after his cohort.

Wiping the blood from his pulped face, Batman stalks toward his prey.
Taking a mount position, he finishes the job, and just as he does, the chop shop doors wrench open letting the night rain inside. Hidden in shadow: Angel Lupo.

What Angel sees is the nightmare that could have easily befallen him.
The lonely car thief draws his gun on the Batman, but comes to think better of it. He flees into the night. Batman is too weak to do anything to stop him. Gun shots ring between the clattering of the rain. Angel Lupo dies.

The Hammer...
A hollow victory as Batman defeats his Japanese rivals, unable to secure the safety of the man he cast from the shadows, to the wolves. Noir!

I've been wanting to get to this issue for quite some time. Disjointed as things have become around here, it seemed as opportune a moment as any to cram in another vague reference to the stars of MK vs DC.
Apologies again to those disgruntled with recent lateness. It seems a whole lot of different obstacles have thrown themselves into the air lately. I appreciate the patience and support of those still reading!

We've been to the world of Azzarello and Risso's Broken City once before on the site [Batman #621], and while I almost certainly spent a lot of time fawning over the story, I can't help but feel the need to do some more a year later.

This issue rather delicately continues our discussion concerning the archaeology of comic books [re: Incredible Hulk #205] because it embodies the principles of the major schools of thought purveyed by the eras of comics creation. It embodies the very spirit that makes superhero comics unique, drawing upon the references of some of the industry's finest, while also contributing something fresh, vibrant, familiar, but different. It's an edict I try to hold very close to with my own struggling endeavours in the comics industry.

Top 25 Bat-Foes
#1 Superman (1938)
#2 Catwoman (1940)
#3 Red Hood (1983)
#4 Deathstroke (1980)
#5 Black Mask (1985)
#6 Harley Quinn (1999)
#7 Darkseid (1970)
#8 Deadshot (1950)
#9 Lex Luthor (1940)
#10 Scarecrow (1941)
#11 Joker (1940)
#12 Two-Face (1942)
#13 Hush (2003)
#14 KGBeast (1988)
#15 Amazo (1960)
#16 Firefly (1952)
#17 Ra's Al Ghul (1971)
#18 Kobra (1976)
#19 Clayface (1940)
#20 Penguin (1941)
#21 Zsasz (1992)
#22 Gorilla Grodd (1959)
#23 Killer Croc (1983)
#24 Bane (1993)
#25 Solomon Grundy (1944)
Like many; Brian Azzarello positively swims in the inescapable influence Frank Miller's work has had on the understanding and depiction of the dark knight detective.

Crucial to the creation of Broken City was the deal to carry the entire team from Azzarello's 100 Bullets over to the pages of Batman. In this respect, the story is unmistakably Azzarello's, as is Risso and his collaborator's visual presentation, which successfully fuses the tropes of their work, with the clear and present overtones of Miller.

This is not a brilliant insight.
The team quite proudly wear their historical reference on their sleeves. Not a page goes by without referencing Miller's penchant for trenchcoats, flat black shadows, cartoony gangsters, and atomic bombshells. Some scenes almost feel like deja vu, like the pummeling Batman suffers in our review, which at times appears to borrow visual cues from a similar scenario where Bats suffers the same treatment from Lex Luthor, in the infamous DK2.

Even for all that's borrowed; bother writer and artist never lose ownership of the work put on the page.
As if to debunk theories like Erik Larsen's; which suggests an emotionally barren, cowardice in company work; Broken City contributes two sorely missed villains in the Gotham City underworld.

Fatman and Little Boy have the factor of cartoony instant recognition working in their favour, but they aren't villains in the sense you're thinking. No. You have to bite your top lip and spit the word like an Englishman to really get the meaning of what these characters are. They're villains - crooks - mobsters. Underworld figures who've successfully marketed themselves through brand names.

There's a lot to enjoy about Broken City.
Comics seem to have the ability to completely transcend the theory that sequels only water something down. Seventy years after the character's creation, new instalments in the Batman mythos seem only to refine and redefine what makes this character so great. Here, a story from 2004 ranks among my all-time favourites.

Though hardly a deep narrative, what Broken City lacks in story, it makes up for in atmosphere and characterization. The plot essentially boils down to a game of Pong as Batman bounces between the cops, the bad guys, the suspects, and his own nightmares. He's a troubled hero with teeth-grit trying to fight the good fight on the sames terms as the bad. In some ways, he's even badder.

After a year of Jim Lee's hyper-real caped crusader navigating through the rogues of Gotham in Hush and the coinciding grey-toned urban intrigue of that period's Detective Comics [ie; #796]; Patricia Mulvihill's neon colour pops were a little jarring at first. It was easy to jump to conclusions about this book, but it quickly became apparent that this was some of the best Batman in recent years!

Visually, Risso's Batman is more forthcoming than we might be accustomed.
In some ways the script and art help to boil Batman back to his origins. He is a man in a costume and despite the heavily stylized art, plays by vaguely realistic rules that don't often allow for a two-dimensional living silhouette. He's a hard character living with his vulnerabilities and using the character to compensate, more-so than the conventions of ninja training and superhuman feats.

Again, the Miller references are inescapable, but even the most sparse of scenes ring far smoother with Risso's cool inks, than Miller's gritty Sin City work. Sin City, along with DKR, shows heavily in Risso's design. Little Boy is every bit a tribute to Miho, while Fatman feels like some sort of mash-up between Manute and maybe even Kingpin. Trainspotters will note cameos in this issue by the mutant gang (from Dark Knight Returns).

It's disappointing that Fatman and Little Boy have remained absent from the Gotham underworld. I feel like these characters are just waiting to be incorporated to fullfil the all too rare role of a brand new villain.
The top twenty list [featured above] shows, based upon entrants in our SuperStock rankings, just how few villains have successfully filtered into the Gotham rogues in the last twenty years. It's by no means a complete list, if anything, it favours the newbies more than the classics, but the point remains.

All-in-all, it's a hoot.
All my stumbling for woods can't refine the experience of Broken City to anything better. It's a darn shame that it only lasted for six-issues, and for many, remains the maligned follow-up to Jeph Loeb and [Jim] Lee's top ten year on the title.
I live in hope that one day we might get to see the 100 Bullets team back on the Batman, maybe in the better suited pages of Detective Comics.
While it isn't necessarily perfection, I can think of few more exciting prospects than the return of these team for a year's worth of three-five part stories!

The Fight: 5 The Issue: 7

Missed out the first time? Had the wrong idea? Want to catch up on one of the finest noir-thrillers in the Dark Knight's recent history? Before the Batman Begins sequel hits cinemas, why not freshen up with a purchase from Amazon? By using purchase links on the site you help sponsor future entries in the Infinite Wars. Which is a good thing. A very good thing. If you're going to be a player you'll want friends. You'll want favours. Do yourself a favour. Read Broken City. Devour it. Study it. Don't like noir comics? In Gotham, consider it a survival guide. If you want more info, go visit the Gift Shoppe. The Amazons'll take care of you -- if they like the look of you. They might be cheap, but you'll want nothing more when you curl up and die at night.

... Okay, now it just got weird...

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