Batman #5 — Snyder/Capullo — March ’12/DC

Ever since Gotham was first brought to life in the ’30s, Batman’s adversaries have delighted in pushing Bruce Wayne’s splintered psyche into the red in hopes that it would permanently fly apart. Nothing has changed in all that time, and as mind-bendingly perverse as Grant Morrison’s recent Black Hand was supposed to be, their methods seem positively utilitarian next to the latest secret cabal to try and torture our man until he was bat-shit crazy.

When this issue breaks, the Bat has already been missing for a week. While Commissioner Gordon sits vigil next to an over-heating signal, Batman has been struggling to keep to the shadows in a full-sized Escher nightmare. His legendary calm resolve is tested by endlessly returning to a florescent-lit room with framed time-lapse photos of all those who were driven mad in the maze before him. Every time he turns a corner, “Pop,” an antique bellows-style camera on a tripod snaps his picture and one more frame joins the wall. Of course, he may just be tripping balls.

As Batman begins to lose his moorings, artist Greg Capullo begins to shift the layout orientation, effectively throwing readers off their feet until up becomes down and forward becomes backward; an effective way to get the derangement of Batman’s senses across to anyone holding the book. Writer Scott Snyder has come up with a worthy adversary in the mysterious Court of Owls that has only begun to call into question the Wayne legacy and Bruce’s sanity.

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