Monday, February 1, 2010

The Strange Deaths of Batman (comics)

Writers: Various
Artists: Various
Collects: Detective Comics #347, Worlds Finest Comics #184, Brave and the Bold #115, Batman #291-294, Worlds Finest Comics #269, Batman Chronicles #8 and material from Nightwing #52

This one really should have been called "The Strange Close Calls of Batman", but I suppose that doesn't sound as punchy; doesn't serve this volumes premise as a theme collection brought about by Batman RIP either.

That's the funny thing about this collection. Once you read it, you quickly realize that despite the name, there really isn't a whole lot of Batman dying going on. Out of the eight or so stories presented, he actually dies maybe twice - not counting a dream Catwoman has - and one of those are in a "what if" scenario after the main story is done. It does carry a very loose theme of death, but I find the disconnect kind of funny.

There are quite a few stories in this trade from era's past, but they were clearly picked by theme. As such, it won't surprise you to hear the quality varies from issue to issue. The story I may have enjoyed the most is the issue of "Brave and the Bold" included. In it, Batman's brain is fried by electrocution and the Atom has to shrink down, take control of Batmans dying body through stimulation of the brain and complete his last mission. The very idea is almost insane and that's what makes it fun. It feels very "seventies comic", but it's well crafted and holds up as an interesting read.

It's a bit dicier from there. The bulk of the trade (I'd estimate about half) is taken up by a tale called "Where Were You the Night Batman Died". It's from the seventies and features most of Batmans villains holding a mock trial to determine who really killed Batman, since everyone and their grandmother took credit. People familiar with Batman: The Animated Series will feel a sense of familiarity; a couple episodes seemed to take inspiration from this one. It holds up okay, though it does suffer somewhat from the dated writing style of the day.

After that, it's more a matter of personal taste. A few of the stories are from Batman's relatively forgettable Silver Age; they're alright, but not something you'll remember. There's a pretty decent 90's tale with Talia, wrestling with her fathers command to kill Batman; it's a nice enough, even if that particular thing had been done to death by then. The most modern thing in it is probably a short vignette at the end from an issue of Nightwing, where Catwoman dreams about marrying Batman and ends up killing him.

The production of this trade is pretty bad. It feels incomplete, for one thing; the covers for the given issues are nowhere to be found, which is basic trade composition in this day and age. On top of that, the trade is done on the old kind of paper that I've never been fond of. Details are missing as well; when I went to write this review, I realized that I had no idea whatsoever if the closing Catwoman six pager was a backup, part of the issue or what. To be blunt, the collection feels somewhat rushed; pushed through so it coincided with Batman RIP, a landmark story featuring the "death" of Batman. Damn shame too.

These kind of theme collections are always a crapshoot. Considering stories are often pulled from different eras, there's almost never any consistency and you don't really know what you're going to get beyond the basic theme. This wasn't one of the better efforts. Still, there's enjoyment to be had. If your interest is piqued, it might be worth a read.

My Opinion: Try It

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