Friday, July 8, 2011

Batman: Close Before Striking

Cover by Scott McDaniel
Close Before Striking (2001)
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Penciller: Scott McDaniel
Inker: Karl Story
Colorist: Roberta Tewes
Letterer: John Costanza

I know, I know. Another Batman post. I really need to return this pile of books to the library.

I’ve been pretty used to being disappointed with Batman comics lately, so it was pleasant surprise to actually enjoy one for once. This was another comic written by Brian K. Vaughan and, unlike the really silly one I read earlier, Close Before Striking had a solid story, strong characterization and a decent enough mystery. While it definitely didn’t have anything jaw-dropping, it was at least well-written and actually suspenseful at points.

Close Before Striking involves fake identities, undercover investigations, the mob and Bruce Wayne beginning to slip under the guise of both Batman and one of his many false identities, the long-dead gangster Matches Malone. Things become complicated when the real Matches turns up very much alive in the middle of Bruce using that specific identity to infiltrate Scarface’s operations.

This comic posed a lot of questions and a decent enough mystery for Batman to unravel: how is Matches still alive? What are his plans in Gotham? And just exactly who is Batman? Identity becomes a major theme in this work, so much so that Nightwing, as he expresses his concerns to Oracle (in a subtly sweet and sexy scene), questions: “I mean, in a lot of ways, Bruce is just a mask that Batman wears when he needs him, right?” Oracle counters, “I mean, who are you? Dick? Officer Grayson? Nightwing? Bruce’s ward? Leader of the Titans? How do you stay grounded?”

I thought this was an interesting dilemma, though one that is in no way a new one to the comic book world. Having multiple identities often stresses out our heroes as some point or another. It was just particularly interesting how deep Batman falls in this comic, especially when he promises to kill Scarface. Oh man, that’s serious. Batman does NOT kill. He refuses to cross that line. Or does he no longer know just who he is anymore, so he is willing to cross that line? I shan’t divulge the ending, dear reader.

Overall, I had a fun time reading this comic. It was also worthwhile because it actually made me like the Ventriloquist and Scarface. I had always thought that character was very jokey and therefore, not interesting. Vaughan did a really decent job making a puppet an actually dynamic villain, someone worth paying attention to and fearing. I would never have expected that in a million years but now, I kind of like Scarface as a villain. Weird.


  1. Scarface is a good character. I really like him in Broken City.

  2. @Thomas I don't remember much of his character in Broken City, though I do remember that that was my first introduction of him. I have to admit, I was mostly "lol wut" when I read about him but now he has grown on me quite a lot.