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The ’90s Revisited: Robin #1

90s_revisited

robin001Big Bad World

Writer: Chuck Dixon
Penciller: Tom Lyle
Inker: Bob Smith
Letterer: Tim Harkins
Colorist: Adrienne Roy
Editors: Dan Raspler, Denny O’Neil
Cover: Brian Bolland
Published by: DC Comcis
Cover Date: January 1991
Cover Price: $1.00

I’ve read this issue before. This might even be the third time I’ve read it–I’m not sure at this point. But for this particular read-through…it came about because I wanted the POSTER that was bound into the issue, without having to rummage through a bunch of unsorted longboxes–so I bought a copy just for the poster. But since I was "handling" the issue, I decided to read it…and quite enjoyed it overall, though unfortunately not quite as much as I’d thought I would.

I’m pretty sure this issue picks up essentially from the pages of a Batman issue, as I seem to recall a scene of Tim debuting the new costume before Bruce and Alfred; but that’s clearly already happened by the time this issue opens.

We open on Tim in the Batcave with Bruce; wearing the then-new (but now highly familiar to me) ’90s Robin costume–the red body, wide yellow belt, green pants, tall/dark boots…and the stylized "R"; as well as the two-colored cape: yellow on the inside, the classic yellow; but black on the outside, so he can wrap into it and blend into shadows same as Batman…not "glow in the dark" or such. The two discuss Tim’s readiness TO be the new Robin, in a bit of Tim’s doubt that I don’t quite remember, but fits for the time. Tim decides to further ready himself, now that he’s "passed" Batman’s training is to take his own journey to train with others in preparation for his role. He heads to Europe, where we quickly learn that another figure from Batman’s past is active: Shiva. Meanwhile, Tim finds the master he sought, though some details aren’t as he expected. He gets drawn into a situation that calls for what Robin can do, that Tim Drake can’t, and gains a potential ally, even as he considers what it’d mean to fail, to let down the Batman.

Which is all a grandiose, vague summary of the issue. It’s interesting to consider a number of "firsts" at the time this was released–first action in the new costume, first "solo" Tim Drake adventure, Tim’s first issue as Robin, first issue of any series–mini or otherwise–of the solo-billed Robin title, etc. And I’ll be doggonned if I am aware of any variant covers. Really! All these firsts…and other than (perhaps) a second printing or such, or maybe some kind of foil-y something or other that I’m not consciously aware of at present, this is THE issue. Period. One cover. One issue. A Brian Bolland image.

Story-wise, this is a very solid first issue. Though I mentioned recollection of a scene preceding this, that’s not integral to this issue. We simply pick up on Tim in costume, apparently freshly made officially Robin, and through dialogue get a bit more detail to fill in gaps on his background and our getting here. He’s given a ‘quest’, we’re introduced to threats and antagonists in addition to the self-set challenge, and get drawn into the story.

I said above I didn’t enjoy this as much as I thought I would–it’s a good issue, and fairly enjoyable in and of itself; certainly nostalgic…especially for me. But that’s part of the problem. One of Tim’s first couple cameos before his full appearance in A Lonely Place of Dying was my first-ever Batman comic…this character was introduced AS I got into comics, and is still around. But this issue by itself–not re-reading the lead-up, not having the rest of the issues handy nor the time to read their contents in one of the TPBs, this is just a snippet of early-Tim Drake stuff. And since this isn’t an ongoing series but "merely" a finite five-issue story, there’s less "need" for the kind of hook an ongoing might need…and I think I frustrated myself not being able to just read the whole story handily in one go.

robin001_posterThe art is quite good, and rather iconic to me. Looking at this, it just screams "early Tim/Robin" to me. The cover isn’t horrible…but the way Robin’s face is, this has gotta be one of the creepiest-looking Robins I can think of! The costume, cape, etc work…but the face just doesn’t fit Tim. I also like that the "corner art" seems to be a carryover from what I recall offhand of the main Batman issues, cementing this as what it is–its own thing, starring Batman’s sidekick, but in a solo title that does NOT emphasize Batman.

If you find this in a bargain bin–or heck, find it for $2 or under, I highly recommend it! Particularly if you’re a fan of Robin, or specifically Tim Drake. But I’d recommend trying to acquire the entire 5-issue mini-series rather than just this isolated issue.

Unless you want the poster…in which case, that ALONE is worth at least a couple dollars!

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The ’80s Revisited: The Flash #324

flash_vol1_0324The Slayer and the Slain!

Writer: Cary Bates
Pencils: Carmine Infantino
Inker: Dennis Jensen
Colorist: Carl Gafford
Letterer: Phil Felix
Editor: Ernie Colon
Cover: Carmine Infantino, Rodin Rodriguez
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: August 1983
Cover Price: 60 cents

I have the Showcase Presents: The Trial of the Flash volume, bought a couple years ago. That book has Flash 323-350…basically, the final couple years’ worth of issues of the Silver Age Flash series that took us up to Crisis on Infinite Earths prior to Wally’s series kicking off.

I have "experienced" 28 years of reading new comics myself, all being years after this issue. And in broad strokes I’ve long since "filled in the gaps" or otherwise have "a passing knowledge" of stuff from this "era."

But finding this issue in a 25-cent bin, I was all for it. Sure, I have the issue in that Showcase volume–but that’s black-and-white and a thick volume that’s not the greatest for a randomish, casual read. This issue is in color with all the ads and whatnot in being the actual, original, (vintage) edition.

The cover is what grabbed my attention–The Flash holding Reverse-Flash and exclaiming "Get up, Get up! You can’t be dead!" and a caption proclaiming "But he is–and Flash killed him!" This is both accurate and yet comes off very much as a number of classic covers do–a "technicality" of truth but quite misleading. Of course, I know this isn’t "just" that, but is indicative of an issue with a lasting point that influenced so much at the trailing end of the series.

Then I figured I’d missed the actual occurrence, and "assumed" that this would pick up immediately after the PREVIOUS issue ending on an "Is he or isn’t he dead?" cliffhanger.

What I got from this was a solid read from a key point in pre-Crisis Barry Allen’s life with one of his most dangerous foes, and an issue meeting expectation while drawing me into the then-contemporary story and leaving me curious about a number of things, not limited to: Iris died 40+ issues earlier? I did think that was here. Who is this Fiona, and how important was she as I’ve never consciously been aware of her? And how does an obvious rock-and-hard-place situation stopping a known killer with intent lead to a lengthy story of the Flash on trial?

While I’d half expected to open the issue TO Barry and a dead Thawne, I actually found that the two were still engaged in fisticuffs. Said fisticuffs have made Barry very late for his own wedding, where family and closest friends try to salvage the situation, assuring folks he’ll be there and has NOT left Fiona at the altar. Kid Flash performs a "super feat" rescuing a baby and showing THAT he has the power and speed to do much of what Barry does…and even he is late for the wedding. Or would be, if it was proceeding as it should have. As the wedding situation deteriorates, Wally heads out to try to find Barry, and is intercepted by a Guardian of the Universe (not to be confused with a Guardian of the Galaxy…similar names, different publishers) who does something to dampen his powers, ensuring that no one will interfere with Barry’s fight…at said hero’s request, apparently.

We then switch more fully to the Barry/Eobard fight and see a fraction of what goes on with two mortal combatants at super-speed. Ultimately, seeking to press whatever advantage he maintains, the villain takes the lead, heading to kill the woman who would be Barry’s second wife–forcing Barry to move even faster and decisively to save Fiona’s life. Standing before her as the Flash, he does not tell her that it’s him–Barry–and as she storms away, we learn that Thawne is not just "stopped" but dead.

As said earlier, this cover looks like something right out of the ’70s and classic exaggerated/far-fetched situations. The art inside the issue is solid and seems very much of its time–early 1980s–with all relevant characters being distinct and recognizable, and generally no wonkiness or weirdness throwing me out of the story. Possibly the biggest visual grab for me was that somehow I keep forgetting that Barry was blond, and I’m still used to Wally and thus a Flash without red hair throws me off.

Story-wise, this issue includes a footnote indicating that there were several issues’ worth of development leading to this one–and that by itself serves to pique my interest in finding those issues. It also reminds me that this is from those days long ago BEFORE everything had to be clearly deliniated within a rigid 4-issue or 6-issue "story arc" format…when issues could be issues, telling an ongoing story without necessarily being formulaic X Chapter of Y Story.

I like the structure of this issue, giving us some heroics, super feats, as well as developing the wedding side of things and Fiona’s thinking she realizes what’s happened, then seeing Barry and Thawne and their battle, leading to Barry’s being forced (goaded into?) to kill Thawne to save Fiona.

All in all, I definitely enjoyed this issue. It was an easier read than I expected, half thinking it was gonna drag on and feel overly wordy, as well as thinking I’d be reading simply a random chapter of something–not even a key moment–of a much larger story. Though in a way this IS just another ’80s issue, it being an issue included in that Showcase volume, I feel like it’s an ‘early chapter’ more than an ‘isolated issue’ but found this engaging and interesting, while leaving me interested both in backtracking and getting the later issues (as preferable to "just" a black and white reprint).

For only 25 cents, it was well worth the purchase, a solid read, and I would certainly recommend the issue if you find it in such a bargain bin and don’t mind NOT having the entire 25+ issue "run" necessarily at hand.

The ’80s Revisited: The Untold Legend of the Batman #3

untold_legend_of_the_batman_0003The Man Behind the Mask

Writer: Len Wein
Artist: Jim Aparo
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Cover by: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez
Editor: Paul Levitz
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1980
Cover Price: 50 cents

This issue is one of THE comics of my youth, up there with my "original 4" or the likes of Superman #75 and X-Men #41. Until I read through this for this reading, though, I would’ve said I had the issue memorized line for line, narration included…but the memory can be a fickle thing, as can a slightly modified/incomplete audio cast recording!

My original copy of this issue was a reprint edition, that came packaged with an audio cassette tape (for those of you old enough to remember what those are!) that had a cast-recording audio of the issue. I’d personally "digitized" a copy of that to my computer years back, several years BEFORE the rise of YouTube, and did so off a nearly-worn-out tape from listening to it so much! As with a couple parts of the first issue of this mini, going back through it and seeing (not just hearing/listening) to the contents of the issue, I was reminded of how much has stuck with me and came from this issue, even shaping parts of me beyond just "a comic book."

The over-arching story of the issue sees Batman leave the aftermath of the exploding Batmobile to Robin and Alfred while he goes out to question folks on the street, talk to Jim Gordon, sleep on it and go to work at the Wayne Foundation, mull over what Gordon said, make a realization and visit the old Batcave under Wayne Manor, and confront the responsible party to the destruction of the precious costume, and leave things at a Batman status quo such that this mini happened, but doesn’t need to have any lasting effects.

In practical terms, the framework allows us to see the "origin" of the guy that keeps the Dynamic Duo supplied with quality, reliable Batmobiles; Commissioner Gordon’s involvement with the duo; the origin/involvement of Barbara Gordon as Batgirl, and Lucius Fox.

Story-wise, as with the previous two issues, things are kinda flimsy when you look deeply into ’em. But as a kid, I was not that analytical and just took the issue at face-value, the steady, constant moving-ahead-the-story-doesn’t-stop from the audio rendition, and that was that. It’s stuck with me, such that to ME, this is one of THE most important single issues of all time…while to others, I’m sure it’s "just" some arbitrary Batman comic, a pretty cover, or of note for having been reprinted as a breakfast-cereal comic. (I would love to see an ongoing promotion with modern cereal "prizes" being reprints of small stories/minis from DC!)

Visually, this is a great treat, both the cover AND the interior. We have classic Aparo art, which as I noted with the first issue, means this looked like the same Batman I was familiar with in my earliest days and earliest back-issues with the character, seeming all the more important for the consistency. It also very much "defined" great Batman art for me, where I’ve retroactively determined Aparo to be one of my all-time favorite Batman artists, though I didn’t know one name from another at the time I was first exposed to the issue!

The cover is an iconic one for me, from this issue itself, to its being used as THE cover of the original "collected edition" (mass market paperback black-and-white reprint), and even serves as the cover image of the Tales of the Batman: Len Wein hardcover that came out a year or two ago. If I could have a poster of this cover, I’d be all for it!

Overall, this is a consistent piece fitting with the earlier issues, caps stuff off, and was maybe THE most foundational Batman comic of my life!

I definitely recommend the mini-series for older fans of the character and anyone who’d appreciate Aparo‘s art, or Len Wein‘s storytelling and use of characters! As for me…it’s just been enjoyable revisiting the mini and getting my own thoughts out there!


Now having "covered" this series myself, in my own format, I can listen to Michael Bailey and Andrew Leyland discuss the series on their new show: The Overlooked Dark Knight. I’d been planning on covering this series here, and discovering their new podcast prompted me to jump on this sooner so that I could get my thoughts out in this way prior to listenig to theirs–which I’m certain is far more detailed and insightful than what I can share here textually!  Having listened to their work in the past, I highly recommend the show just for their involvement alone, as well as whatever other Batman-related topics they cover.

And for the audio itself from the old cassette tapes of The Untold Legend of the Batman, you can find where folks have posted it on YouTube (links worked as of this posting):

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The ’80s Revisited: The Untold Legend of the Batman #2

untold_legend_of_the_batman_0002"With Friends Like These…"

Writer: Len Wein
Artist: Jim Aparo
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Cover by: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez
Editor: Paul Levitz
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: August 1980
Cover Price: 40 cents

This is the "middle chapter" of the mini-series…"only" 3 issues. I knew the first issue from having read a copy that Grandpa had; and the third issue (as I’ll get to soon) is one of the single most familiar-to-me-comics ever.

This issue opens with a furious Batman seeking answers in a bar from the lowlifes that might have some knowledge–any knowledge–of anyone brazen enough to break into his sanctuary and steal–and destroy–one of the most precious items he owned. The situation deteriorates as Batman loses himself in a rage rarely seen (at least until post-Death in the Family). He’s snapped out of it by the arrival of Robin (Dick Grayson), and the two head back to the Batcave. Meanwhile, Dick reminisces about his own past with Batman, and how Batman’s affected his life. Once back in the Cave, the two interact with Alfred, who muses on his own background and coming to be butler to the Caped Crusaders; as Batman pores over files of suspects, we get a glimpse at the extended rogues’ gallery, and a bit about the origins of the Joker and Two-Face. Robin suggests they try police headquarters–and a conference with Jim Gordon–but as he readies to leave, a beeping is heard…and our heroes barely have time to seek cover before the Batmobile explodes. Batman declares war on the as-yet-unrevealed villain.

Of the three issues, I’m least familiar with this one. This was actually the "gap" for me in the story, that I first read (I believe) in a paperback reprint of the story–one of those mass-market paperback-size black and white things. I feel like the "focal" origins here are Robin and Alfred, and once again realized how much this version of both has stuck with me and formed the foundation of my understanding of the characters. We also get another reference to a warehouse explosion that I’ve always considered to be a contrivance or such–but I actually wonder (though have yet to actually opt to do the research) if this ties the story to anything in the ongoing Batman or Detective Comics titles, like if the explosion happened in an issue of either title and then this mini takes place as a "side trip" exploring the ramifications.

Visually, I had a definite sense of deja vu, thanks to Aparo‘s art, and I’m amazed to consider that this was published in early 1980, and that Aparo was still (or again?) a key Bat-artist up to stuff I read in my earliest then-modern explorations of Batman stuff in 1989 and the earliest part of the 1990s. I’m also somewhat amazed at the reminder of this being published in a much different time, where the issues (while part of a singular mini-series, a singular story) don’t flow nearly as smoothly one-into-the-next as they do now. Nowadays, it seems like in many collected volumes, one almost has to GUESS at where the issue-breaks are (accounting for mid-issue high moments and such) where this obviously picks up after the events of the first issue, but it’s a sort of "cold start" that does not REQUIRE one to have read the previous issue to follow along with THIS issue.

Chances are, especially these days, if you’re considering reading this issue, you’ve got #s 1 & 3 as well; and cheesey/hokey/flimsy as the STORY-story is (it’s a loose plot to give us the excuse to see a bunch of characters reflect on their origins, and by these better know "the rest of the story" as readers), it’s worth reading. This firmly embodies late-70s/early-80s pre-Crisis Batman, and is a product of its time. I don’t care for the cover proclamation of this being "an instant collector’s item"–if it SAYS it’s a collector’s item, it’s probably NOT. Then again, there’s the original comic edition; there’s a comic-on-cassette reprint edition; there’s a reprint edition that came in boxes of cereal; and there’s the MMPB collection…so DC got plenty of mileage out of this one 3-issue arc; and certainly formed my basis of understanding for these characters!

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The ’80s Revisited: The Untold Legend of the Batman #1

untold_legend_of_the_batman_0001In the Beginning

Writer: Len Wein
Artists: John Byrne & Jim Aparo
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Letterer: John Costanza
Cover by: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez
Editor: Paul Levitz
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: July 1980
Cover Price: 40 cents

This is a comic that I clearly recall coming across in Grandpa’s collection all those years ago–after he’d loaned me a stack to read, and we visited and I found it in his comics cupboard. It stood out to me immediately for the cover being taken up itself by a giant book, with three very recognizable villains (Joker, Penguin, Riddler) apparently teamed up, utilizing the book to learn more about the Batman. The Joker proclaiming "This book will tell us everything we need to know to defeat the Batman!" To this day, this particular issue is rather "iconic" to me, one of the more "singular" stand-out covers IN comics (though a bit behind the third issue of this very series, which I’ll touch on when I get to that issue).

Presently in 2017 (some 37 years after this issue originally saw print!) the issue is definitely a bit "dated" in that it’s clearly from its time…but for me, it’s rather timeless. And it’s easy to see as I read just how much this very issue originally (and still) informs my FOUNDATION with the Batman character and mythos–from Thomas Wayne’s costume, to Leslie Thompkins and Joe Chill and Lew Moxon, the notion of Bruce as the first Robin, and so on.

The issue opens with Batman having a pleasant moment with Alfred, going through mail…only to discover a package with the shredded remains of the most valuable item in the Batcave–the costume once worn by Bruce’s father, which inspired his own look as Batman! This kicks off some nostalgia/reminiscing between Bruce and Alfred, which gives us as readers the background on the costume, the "base" origin with the death of the Waynes and Bruce’s childhood vow and self-training, to some specifics of the training and such, the origin of both his costume and the Robin outfit, and a glimpse in montage of many of the villains faced over the years. We also get the "expanded" origin details of young Bruce having been taken in by his Uncle Philip, and being "raised" by the man’s housekeeper, Mrs. Chilton (unknowingly mother of the man who murdered the Waynes), as well as Batman and Robin’s discovery of Joe Chill and eventually Lew Moxon, and how the Wayne murder case was finally, completely closed. Despite 18+ pages of additional story (the issue has 21), there’s no resolution regarding the destruction of Thomas Wayne’s costume nor the perpetrator.

What we ultimately have here is basically a framing device to give thin "reason" to characters reminiscing in that classic comics way–think all that hard on it, and it’s like–what? These characters have known each other too long, been through too much, to have this sort of stuff in this sort of detail coming up. There’s also the issue of the thought balloons seeming–by 2017 standards to me–being very in-your-face and blatantly stating stuff that would be left to be hinted at or given only as a subtlety.

While I’ve probably known this issue’s art was John Byrne and Jim Aparo, I feel like it’s "consciously" new information to me in the sense that it feels so revelatory. This series being one of THE early introductions for me to Batman, and the character’s background and generally a compact, definitive source on all things Batman…it would seem to clearly explain why I particularly dig Aparo‘s Batman, and any Batman that looks close to how he appears here!

I also wasn’t aware–until rather recently (a couple years or so back)–that this was written by Len Wein. This series is one that, as a kid, simply WAS Batman. I didn’t know the artists, I didn’t know the writer, I just knew that this was Batman, this was his origin and the showing of everything that made up the character and associated characters, and that was that.

So framing device or not, ludicrously blatant detailing of stuff or not…this was a very key comic for me in my youth, and I love it to this day for what it was, and remains, to me, though this is a much different Batman than the one I’ve known for most of the time I’ve been into "current comics," and could functionally be a whole different character (and in a sense, is–this is from a half-decade PRIOR TO Crisis on Infinite Earths!).

I have a definite soft spot for this mini-series, which is also why it hardly phased me to buy a new-to-me copy of all three issues just for the convenience of re-reading the single issues AND seeing the original ads and such, rather than simply grabbing my Tales of the Batman: Len Wein volume off the shelf to re-read it or such.

I’m certainly biased on the issue, but I think if you’re a fan like me and enjoy the different "eras" of Batman, this is an issue well worth reading in some form.

And while I’ll get into it more for the third issue, it should definitely be noted here: there is an audio-drama of sorts out there for this issue…this entire mini-series was made into a "comics on tape" thing with a voice cast, music, and so on, and packaged with reprint editions of each issue.

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From the Archives: Superman #650

superman0650Up, Up, and Away! (part 1)

Writers: Kurt Busiek & Geoff Johns
Artist: Pete Woods
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Associate Editor: Nachie Castro
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover Artists: Terry & Rachel Dodson
Cover Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

[ This review originally written for and published at comiXtreme/cxPulp some time back while the issue was new–within the first days to a week that the issue was available for sale. ]

It’s been a year since Superman apparently disappeared, and the fine folks of Metropolis have moved on, though many take an evening to revisit the past, watching a retrospective on the life and times of their favorite son. Among the spectators are Lois Lane and Clark Kent, who discuss the authenticity of the retrospective with a couple different viewpoints. Shortly after, other familiar elements of the Superman story are reintroduced–Jimmy Olsen, Lex Luthor, Perry White. A familiar "villain" is introduced here as well–one that may be familiar to older readers, but I’m not sure this character has appeared in the Superman comics since the mid-80s reboot. As this villain is attended to, we as readers are clued into at least part of why Superman has been absent for a year.

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this issue. I’ve been concerned at the idea of "my" Superman–that is, the character (re)introduced in Byrne‘s Man of Steel mini-series–being shuffled off to the side in favor of yet another/different reimagining of the character. While this is only the first of an 8-parter that re-establishes the character post-Infinite Crisis, the writing team of Busiek & Johns has assuaged some of my concerns as several aspects that have defined the character and supporting cast for the last 18+ years are re-established here. However, there seem to be a number of minor or subtle shifts that distance things from the past, settling the characters very much in a sort of "timeless" present.

Busiek wrote my favorite Superman story in 2004’s Superman: Secret Identity. Johns on the other hand has written some other very compelling stories that I have really enjoyed over the past several years (including pulling me into following The Flash for 30 issues after never previously caring for the character). That said, both writers have a lot to live up to in my eyes, and for the moment, I’ll cautiously advance the idea that yes, they have lived up to those high standards.

The writing here is clear and definitely gets across the idea first of the broad strokes of Superman’s history that just about anyone will be vaguely familiar with (whether you know the character solely from last month’s issues, the Christopher Reeve films, Smallville, Lois & Clark, a parent/grand-parent’s stack of older comics, or just picking up on elements from years of the character’s suffusion of popular culture. If this is the first-ever comic starring Superman that you’ve read, you’ve got yourself a good starting point. If you’ve been following these comics for 20 years, you’ve got a good read that revalidates the character for the present, showing that both the old and newer elements can come together in a single well-written manner that gives us a story of Superman.

Offhand, I am unfamiliar with Pete Woods‘ art, but this issue makes for a good introduction. Everything seems nice and clear/clean–reading along with the story, the art shows exactly what is going on and pretty much just does it’s job of enhancing the written word to contribute to the overall look and feel of the issue. The art’s not perfect–but very little is. The main quibble I have is the depiction of the S-shield; it comes across a bit too "shiney" or metallic for my own tastes.

However–whether in Woods‘ art itself or the coloring (or both)–this issue somehow has a "brighter" feel to it than a lot of recent DC issues–by design or not, this lends itself to this being an upbeat, bright start to a new "generation" of Superman.
I very much recommend this issue, whether you are a new, old, or an on-the-fence reader.

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From the Archives: Batman/The Spirit #1

batman_the_spirit_0001Crime Convention

Storytellers: Jeph Loeb & Darwyn Cooke
Inks: J. Bone
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: Comicraft
Assoc. Editor: Tom Palmer, Jr.
Editor: Mark Chiarello
The Batman created by: Bob Kane
The Spirit created by: Will Eisner
Special thanks to: Denis Kitchen
Cover Art: Darwyn Cooke
Publisher: DC Comics

[ This review originally written for and published at comiXtreme/cxPulp some time back while the issue was new–within the first days to a week that the issue was available for sale. ]

I don’t know where this story takes place in continuity exactly (or even whether or not it IS in-continuity). But thankfully, that doesn’t really seem to matter.

Essentially, we get a story opened by the meeting between Gordon and Dolan, and their discussion leads into us (as the readers) discovering the story of “How the Spirit met Batman…” The story itself doesn’t seem particularly deep, and actually evokes a classic Silver-age feel, when events were just taken at face-value, simplistic, silly, and new as they might be.

A bunch of Batman’s rogues and a bunch of the Spirit’s rogues get together; and it’s up to Batman and the Spirit to foil the baddies’ plans. While things are going on, the vigilantes’ confidantes are each ‘seduced,’ and play their own role in the story’s ending.

I know next to nothing about The Spirit as a character. I know that he was created by Will Eisner, and something about the creator adding the mask to please someone with a say over the character being published or not (someone correct me if I’m wrong). The character’s identity, supporting cast, rogues, adventures, and in-continuity history are a mystery to me. Batman, on the other hand, I do know.

One might expect that to detract from the story, but it doesn’t. I got the feeling that a lot of characters were almost analogues of one another, in the way that one could compare Green Arrow and Hawkeye, Aquaman and Namor, and so on. Given that, you need only really know one side or the other to “get” the most basic concept of characters, and have at least some idea of what they’re all about.
The art seems at points almost overly-simplistic at first glance, but that (like the story itself) lends beautifully to a “classic” feel. Additionally, upon slightly deeper examination, it reminds me of the “Animated DCU” visually, which lends further enjoyment and timelessness to this story.

Overall, the issue reads rather like an extra-length episode of Batman: The Animated Series…and for me, at least, that is far from a bad thing. Possibly the worst thing about this issue is the price. I looked past the price due to the novelty of these two characters being thrust together and wonder at how (or even if) this will have any play in the new The Spirit ongoing. Was it worth it? Yeah…I’d say so.

This is a fun read, not so completely hokey as to make one check the date in the indicia, but by no means as serious-toned as a lot of other recent stuff coming out of DC. I can’t speak to longtime/familiar fans of the Spirit, but just for knowing the Batman-side of things, this seems like quite the enjoyable, faithful sort of mushing together of two characters who’ve never (to my knowledge) met prior.

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