Archive for July 30th, 2012

July 30, 2012

Year 100 – must read Batman stories …12

The name says it all. This is Batman, set a hundred years after the original’s Gotham debut. Sadly, Gotham City is no better than it was a century ago. The police are still ravaged by corruption and too much of the city is gripped by poverty. But there is hope. There is a Batman. At least, that’s the myth. No, this isn’t Bruce Wayne at 120 years old. This is a new man in the suit, with a new Robin. But as we learn, the cape and cowl have become part of a legacy. A legacy most of Gotham has forgotten. Well, they’re about to get a reminder.

Year 100 is different. Not just because it’s set in the future. This is the rare Batman story that doesn’t try to hang tight to the Bruce Wayne version of Batman. It’s fresh and new and exciting. And yet, it has some very clear connections to Batman: Year One, keeping this wild fantasy of a futuristic Dark Knight tethered to the core mythology.

July 30, 2012

Gotham By Gaslight – must read Batman stories …13

Set in the Victorian era, the origin of Batman hasn’t changed much in Gotham By Gaslight. Bruce Wayne’s parents were murdered, he travelled abroad to train so that he could return to Gotham as its protector. Only catch is that while Bruce was in London, a madman was on the loose cutting up prostitutes. And when Bruce returns home to Gotham, the murders follow him. If you’re going to suspect someone of slashing up ladies with a scalpel, why not the eccentric son of a doctor? After all, can Bruce Wayne explain his nocturnal habits?

Gotham By Gaslight is a tightly woven mystery that never tries to do too much. Sometimes Elseworlds tales throw in every bit of Batman lore and the Cray computers to boot. Wisely, Augustyn sticks to what makes sense for the story and pulls off one of the better tales in Batman’s long history.

July 30, 2012

Black and White – must read Batman stories …14

Here’s a novel concept: Take the best writers and artists in comics, give them only a handful of pages to work with, and ask them to create complete and compelling stories about the Dark Knight. The result is the fascinating, varied, and sometimes hilarious Batman: Black & White. If Batman’s legend were a diamond, this book would show you every facet.

Some of the stories in B&W are larks, some are very serious. Each shows a slightly different side of the Batman. My personal favorite is the Neil Gaiman/Simon Bisley romp “A Black & White World” which imagines Joker and Batman as actors playing out parts within the pages of a comic book.

July 30, 2012

Death in the Family – must read Batman stories …15

There is no more significant comic-book moment for DC in the past 20 years than the four-issue swan song for Jason Todd.Batman: A Death in the Family is notable not only for the death of Robin, but for the 900 number that readers could call to vote for life or death. Forget American Idol, this was the first true test of American phone voting. In just 36 hours, DC received more than 10,000 calls — each one costing the vote a buck. 10,000 people paid a dollar to vote yay or nay on Jason Todd.

They chose nay. I can’t blame them.

Todd was cursed with writing that made him seem bitter, arrogant and disagreeable to a large majority of comic-book readers. Had he been as affable as Dick Grayson or Tim Drake, it’s likely DC would never had taken the phone-voting gamble. But Todd was just too obnoxious to live month to month in the pages of Batman. So he died horribly at the hands of the Joker. It’s the single best decision DC has made (or, I guess, hasn’t made) in decades.

The death of Robin forever changed the Dark Knight and has been fodder for numerous stories. This, however, isn’t a tale of the repercussions of said death — this is the story of how Robin met his end.

When the brash Jason Todd discovers that one of three women living abroad may be his birth mother, he runs away from Wayne Manor on a quest for the truth. As it so happens, Joker has stolen a cruise missile and taken it to the Mid-East to sell to the highest bidder. Batman follows and by chance runs into Todd. Together they work to take down the Joker and find Jason’s true mother.

Ironically, Todd is never more likable than in issues 2 and 3 of this classic tale. It’s almost a shame he had to die — but not really. Even knowing what events are coming, Batman’s discovery of Todd remain chilling even two decades later.

It’s hard to imagine anyone who reads comics who hasn’t readBatman: A Death in the Family, but if you haven’t, you should. It’s not that this is the best Batman tale ever, in fact plot seems a little far-fetched even for Batman. But the emotions dripping from the pages are raw and real and the death scene is worth the price of admission.

July 30, 2012

Batman: Gothic – must read Batman stories …16

Before Grant Morrison, I’m not sure anyone thought to answer the question: “Where did Bruce Wayne go to school?” We know about Wayne’s training to become the Batman, but in Gothic, we get a glimpse into Bruce Wayne’s life before his parents were murdered. This ties into a series of grisly murders in Batman’s early days in the cape and cowl.

Gothic is a detective story, a horror story, and a thriller that teams Morrison with the great Klaus Janson. Religion and Batman aren’t married in comics as often as they should be. Morrison plays it perfectly. For those a little worried about a “Morrison head-trip,” relax. Nothing in these pages will damage your brain… too much.

Wonder, silence, gratitude

one who is going upstream ......

one who is going upstream ......

%d bloggers like this: