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Batman Review

-by Andrew Goletz

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Damn DC to what they’re doing with the Bat-books! Editor Bob Schreck and company have assembled a core of books that’s bringing me, and a lot of other fans, back into the Bat-fold.

I’ve haven’t really been an avid Batman reader since the pre-crisis days no matter what ‘event’ stories they came up with. During the ‘No Man’s Land’ storyline I picked up some of the stories written by the likes of Bob Gale and Greg Rucka, but I was still determined to stop reading after the gimmick was over. Alas, it wasn’t to be.

I started picking up ‘Nightwing’ since the character was featured prominently in the NML storyline and found Dixon to be at his usual top form writing everyone’s favorite ex-Robin, Dick Grayson. Rucka commented on how Dixon is ‘a master at getting the reader to turn the page’ and he’s right.

Then there’s Devin Grayson, at the top of her game over in ‘Gotham Knights’. She recently brought back one of the best Batman adversaries of all time in Hugo Strange and her stories get better with each issue.

Finally, Greg Rucka is given Detective Comics to write and there was no way I could avoid that book. I already reviewed Detective, but the work of Rucka and artist Martinbrough warrants mentioning again. It’s the best damn Batman book and one of the best comics on the market today.

I was able to avoid the transformation to complete Bat-Zombie by not getting ‘Batman’. Larry Hama has been one of my favorite writers, ever since I began reading ‘GI: Joe’ as a kid. But there was something about his run on ‘Batman’ that didn’t click for me. It seemed like the stories were more goofy, super-heroey related than the cerebral works of the other books and I wasn’t interested enough in Batman as a character to go that route.

So in comes Ed Brubaker. Scott McDaniel gained fan popularity penciling Dixon’s Nightwing, but switched over to ‘Batman’ after the revamp. McDaniel stayed aboard when Brubaker arrived and it’s been a very good match so far. Brubaker wrote the fantastic ‘Scene of the Crime’ mini-series a couple years back and the attention that book received propelled Ed into his ongoing ‘Deadenders’ book for Vertigo/DC. DC recently released a trade paper back of ‘Deadenders’, which collects the first arc of the story. It’s one of the most unique of Vertigo titles and really deserves more attention than its been getting recently.

The first story under the new regime was ‘Fearless’, a two parter featuring an old friend of Bruce Wayne’s, Jeremy Samuels, who’s gotten himself into the type of trouble that calls for Batman’s assistant. It also introduces a villain who is fairly forgettable, but one that we’ll apparently see more of in the future.

 Aside from McDaniel’s impressive pencils, Brubaker’s dialogue is the book’s strong suit. I also really like how he incorporates Robin into the story. With the responsibilities of having his own book, Robin really hasn’t had too much to do in recent Batman stories and when he does show up it’s like he really isn’t there anyway. Robin makes a couple brief appearances in the ‘Fearless’ storyline and already we get some layers added to the Batman/Robin dimension that’s been sorely missing for years.

‘The Dark Knight Project’ was a very enjoyable tale. The premise of the story is that a group of kids come to Gotham City to investigate the urban myth that is Batman. I had to suspend my disbelief a bit with this one and just go with the story. Given all the situations Batman has been in over the years and his involvement with various groups such as the Justice League and the Outsiders, it was hard to accept the fact that there’s still a question as to whether he exists or not. After ‘letting that go’, it was fun to read the various people in Batman’s life come up with excuses as to why Batman was a myth and nothing more. The concept was a bit hard to swallow, but the dialogue and great art redeem the issue.

We’re only four issues into Ed Brubaker’s run on the title, but he’s already made an impression on me. He’s given the Bat back his attitude and added little elements here and there that really give the title and the character a new dimension. I’ve always found one of Brubaker’s greatest strengths to be his ‘real life’ dialogue and having it on this particular title makes it a much more enjoyable read.  He is also set to write ‘Catwoman’ in the near future, so it looks like I’ll be getting myself into the Batman universe even deeper. If the book has the same quality as Ed’s work on ‘Deadenders’ and ‘Batman’, I don’t think I’ll regret it, either.

Batman is available monthly from DC Comics.

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