Batman’s fighting off the effects of the strength-enhancing drug, so he’s locked himself away in the Batcave and instructed Alfred not to open it–no matter what Alfred hears! Now, The Dark Knight faces the monstrous challenge of battling his own nightmares.
That is what I see when I look at this Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez cover.
Desperate. Pathetic. Wasted.
None of these are words that we typically associate with The Dark Knight.
By default we think of Batman as being confident, self-assured, and powerful. In the face of not just danger but near-certain death he holds his head up straight and stares enemies many times more powerful than he is straight in the eye… Right before spitting in it. Probably with kryptonite gum.
But what does Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez give us here?
Not just desperation; not just that unkempt mop and unshaven chin (neither being signals for “billionaire” or “playboy” for the cowl-less Caped Crusader); but a lazy slouch. Bruce in this shot is barely able to stay in his chair (let alone spit in the eye of an angry Kryptonian).
My longtime collaborator (and onetime comics editor) Brian David-Marshall loves to talk about comic book art as more storytelling than “mere” portraiture; and this cover does a great job of telling a story.
Why is Bruce falling out of his chair?
Why is Bruce out of control of his hair?
Mayhap he should have enrolled in D.A.R.E.
Do you see what is falling out of our hero’s hand?
This is what comes of pills. Not even The Dark Knight is immune to their insidious effects. They can reduce a straight-backed superhero to a slouching scamp.
Neither will you, child, be able to walk away unaffected (if even you can still walk at all) (see not even Batman can).
Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez communicates a shocking amount of emotion into this image, layers upon layers of meaning, without a single speed-line. His story is not reliant on a single word balloon or stray line of detail. Through body language he can give Bruce’s ripped abs a sense of desiccation rather than core strength; and the same kinds of lines that typically communicate a lack of fat around the rib cage here seem more like a lack of oxygen or nourishment. Along with the shag and beard, Garcia-Lopez’s hands tell a tale (two tales actually): the left is warily weary but the right completely exhausted. Though we see essentially only two pieces of furniture (a pretty stock, if normally luxurious, captain’s chair and a pretty cool wicker cowl-perch), the non-furniture spiderwebs in the top-left give us a setting of disuse, even ruin. One of the sharpest, fittest, most on-the-ball billionaires in the DC universe — on top of every other negative emotion already communicated — is living, or at least sitting, in a zone of neglect; abandonment.
Overall, this is just a great cover. Technically it’s really well composed; I’m fine with the inks but it’s the combination of flat color and negative space that really do it for me. I’m just such a sucker for flat color.
In case you’re wondering what you’re reading, this is Superficial Saturdays — a column I am carrying over from my original blog Five With Flores — that talks about comics covers (as in “superficially” judging a book by its cover), you know, on Saturdays. If you liked this, you can check out the previous sixteen installments over at Five With Flores.
I do hope you liked this! Thanks for checking our comics content out here at Fetchland.