More Christing Batman.
Well, since my last post covered Batman solo stories, it makes sense that this one covers the “Batman and whomever DC decided to saddle him with this month in a failed effort to artificially boost sales to dead characters” books.
As you would guess, the results here are very mixed. That being said, what I discovered is that there’s a reason why Bats works perfectly in the team up format: He’s the ultimate straight-man. Because he’s always so serious, and because his opinion is so well respected by the average comic book fan, any positive comment he makes about a character will go along way to making the average fan like a character more. From now on, I’m calling this the “Batstrategy”: “If Bats thinks Blue Beetle is smart, then he must be REALLY smart, and therefore I should spend $2.99 a month on this horrible comic that I would have never normally buy. And yes, there’s a comic book character named Blue Beetle. Not only that, but there’s actually been 3. That’s right. 3 characters named Blue Beetle. On purpose. Who reads this stuff?” You could also easily substitute Punisher, Wolverine, or Deadpool into that formula. It doesn’t work so well with Superman though. It’s not going to matter much if Superman likes someone, since Superman likes EVERYONE.
Batman & The Outsiders – DC Showcase Presents Vol. 1
I LOVED this series as a kid. It’s one of the few series I read right from the beginning as a child, and because it dealt mostly with new or underused characters, it was easy for someone not as familiar with DC continuity to follow. Plus, Jim Aparo was on the pencils, so there ya go. So when they put out an omnibus sized black & white edition of the first 25 issues of this series, I was all over it. In case you haven’t read it, the basic premise is that Batman has quit the Justice League because they wouldn’t let him do things that he wouldn’t let the Justice League do several years later when he was in charge of them. Oh comic book logic, how I love you. So he gets together a new team of younger heroes because they’re a lot easier to bully around.
I have the DC Showcase trade that collects the first 25 issues of this 1980’s series. And much like the time I bought Magnum P.I. Season One on DVD, it’s not quite as good as I remembered. Quite simply, it’s a run of the mill DC comic book from the mid-80’s. That being said, there are a few things that I liked quite a bit upon rereading:
1 – Diverse Characters. I don’t mean ethnicity, though that’s in there too. I mean actual characterization. This book is a how-to guide of how to build an interesting super team. Each character’s origin is interesting and complex, and a lot of the first batch of issues have to do with the background and history of each character.
2 – Jim “I never met a comic book I didn’t make better” Aparo on pencils. When I was a kid, Jim Aparo’s art was what I thought of when I thought of specic DC character’s, and that still remains true today.
While this isn’t perfect, I’m keeping it mostly out of sentimentality.
Batman & The Outsiders – The Chrysalis
Speaking of sentimentality, that’s the reason I gave this a shot a few years ago. The Outsiders had been brought back as a team book, and since sales were soft they decided to team them back up with their old running buddy. Fine, except they put old Chuck “I never met a story I couldn’t take the fun out of” Dixon on scripts. I’m being harsh. Dixon is not a bad writer by any stretch. But he’s a very safe writer, and it’s hard to think of any character that he made better during one of his runs (though Nightwing might disagree). Dixon got a lot of flack in this for supposedly letting his homophobia leak through. I WISH this story was that interesting. A ho hum story not worth keeping.
Batman & Grendel – Batman & Grendel
In the mid 80’s, Matt Wagner was one of the hot young indie talents in the comic world, and so someone had the great idea to put his hit character Grendel into a story with the great and powerful Batman. This shouldn’t work. Well, actually I think a strong case could be made for saying it didn’t work. Wagner REALLY tries to give these two characters a legitimate reason for meeting. And so he concocts this complicated plot regarding two room mates. One of them falls for Hunter Rose, one of them falls for Bruce Wayne, and then kabaam! you’ve got yourself a story. The problem is that this only works if you know a hell a lot about both characters. He’s assuming that you know as much about Hunter Rose as you do about Batman, and while Grendel is definitely a well loved comic character, he’s no Batman. And so what was supposed to a compact action story ends up being a convoluted mystery that never really goes anywehere. The only thing that saved this book for me is Matt Wagner’s art, which I can never get enough of. This was his first work on Batman as well.
KEEP. Just barely.
Batman & Huntress – Cry For Blood.
I’m sure DC felt that putting Bats in the title helped the sales, but this is really a Huntress story. Greg Rucka is one of my favourite mainstream comic book writers, and he seems to have a knack for writing strong, yet damaged female characters like nobody else in the business. This was a rebirth of sorts for the Huntress, and set the stage for the great work that Gail Simone did later on with her in Birds Of Prey. Also a great guest starring role from one of my all-time favourite DC characters, the Question. Fantastic story, essential for Batman fans.
Ok, now that’s over, I’m looking forward to reading some non-Batman stories.
Next up: Still more fucking Batman.