Friday, 10 July 2009

Four Colour Glory - Batman Reborn

Towards the end of last year, much was made in the press about DC Comics killing off Bruce Wayne. In fact, this was all very misleading and one of those examples of a story being blown out of proportion in order to generate some sales and publicity. Yes, the man who was Batman is seen apparently being killed but it wasn't even in the issue that DC publicised and also, in the series that he does "die" in, it's made pretty clear at the end that he's not actually dead and he'll be back along to pick up the cape again at some point in the future and everything will just be all back to normal again. Even the writer of the storyline in question, Scotland's own Grant Morrison, stated in interviews that of course he'd be back. Death in the world of comics isn't necessarily that much of a handicap (Marvel Comics killed off Captain America a couple of years ago and the first issue of Captain America: Reborn hit the shops last week).

So, after a few months of trying to drum up some tension about who the new Batman is when we all knew it would be Dick Grayson (the first Robin) and weren't fooled by their attempts to pretend otherwise, we are now getting down to business in the brave new world they've created for the Batman family of comics. Now, I must admit, there was a certain weary sense of deja vu about all this for me. See, I started reading Batman comics about 16/17 years ago at which time the main storyline involved Bruce Wayne having his back broken and someone else taking over as Batman (Bruce got better, naturally). There was a sense that maybe I'd come full circle - this was where I got on the train in the first place; maybe it was time to get off? But I'm nothing if not a sucker when it comes to being a collector so I decided to give it all a go and see. And I'm glad I did.

First up is Grant Morrison's new title Batman And Robin which is trying to inject a little of the old school weirdness and fun back into Batman while still keeping it reasonably dark. And, so far, he's succeeding. It's like a breath of fresh air, putting a bit of new life into the old familiar characters. It's bright and vibrant but still has some chilling and horrific moments. (In fact, there's a slight hint of Morrison's run on New X-Men in there.) Next up is the flagship title of DC (after all, it initially gave the company its name) Detective Comics which now showcases Batwoman. The artwork and design is great but the storyline leaves a little to be desired; however, I'm curious to see where it goes. Over in Batman, we're getting some nice insight into Dick Grayson struggling to fill in for his adoptive and presumed deceased father which counterpoints the madness going on over in Batman And Robin.

Then we come to the new titles - Streets Of Gotham, Gotham City Sirens and Red Robin. Streets Of Gotham has a more than a hint of the sadly departed Gotham Central about it as it follows Gotham's police force on their day to day business. Gotham City Sirens is the best of the new titles, following the adventures of Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy and Catwoman. Being that it's written by Paul Dini, one of the main men behind the 90s Batman cartoon, it's no surprise that it has a lot of the feel of that show (and, seeing as he created her, no one quite writes Harley Quinn as well as he does). The weak link of the bunch is Red Robin but I feel it's going to be key as it centres on the effort to find Bruce Wayne (seeing as Batman And Robin and Red Robin are both due to run for 12 issues, I can think we can all guess when Bruce Wayne will be back...)

Is it worth it? For a long time Batman fan, absolutely. It feels like a much needed shot in the arm and, for the first time in a while, I'm actually looking forward to Batman titles again when they come out. Here's to a year or so without Bruce Wayne. Maybe he should die more often...


Nikki said...

I have never purchased a comic book before but you are making me want to go out and buy some. What are some comics you recommend for a first time buyer?

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

Is this like the end of The Dark Knight Returns when he fakes his death (again)?

I had heard so much great things about the Dark Knight Returns, only to shrug in the end and say "meh". I was really unimpressed with Frank Miller.

That Baldy Fella said...

Nikki - Ooh, good question. For a non-comics reader, maybe start with something fairly traditional - -Watchmen by Alan Moore and Batman: Year One by Frank Miller are good starts - also Brian Michael Bendis' run on Daredevil is another one. For non-superhero stuff, I recommend Preacher by Garth Ennis and Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis (if you've got a sick sense of humour and love inventive sweariness) and TheWlaking Dead for a cracking if unrelenting zombie apocalypse type tale. Hope that helps!

mjenks - No, it's more of a "zapped by killing eye beams which leave a dessicated corpse but somehow his essence seems like it may have been transported back into prehistoric times" sort of death. You know, the usual.

See, The Dark Knight Returns was one of the first Batman comics I read and I loved it (along with The Killing Joke and Year One) but I can see that Mille is not to everyone's tastes (and pretty much anything he's done in the last 7 or 8 years has been balls - The Dark Knight Strikes Again is wful).