Friday, September 12, 2008

batman begins: the movie and other tales of the dark knight

Paydirt. I’m sure I’m biased, but whoever put this collection together is a genius. Scott Beatty is listed as the writer, but the script has basically been taken verbatim from the David Goyer and Chris Nolan original. No matter—it gives me yet another chance to marvel at the intricacy of the plot. At the back of my mind, I think in light of TDK I was beginning to imagine Batman Begins was simplistic—and it isn’t at all.

Killian Plunkett and Serge LaPointe are superb artists. I know from first-hand experience how difficult it is to draw comics characters who actually look like their real-life film and TV antecedents—ie, the actors. The artists here do that stunningly, for all the characters. I’ve been complaining ever since I started my comic-reading quest that I’d much prefer Batman to look like Christian Bale than anyone else, and what unabashed, fangirlish joy for me to at last experience that. Hawt. (And the inked version of Dr. Crane is perfectly Cillian Murphy, down to the pale blue eyes.)

I wonder if it’s easier to create a comic when you’ve got a film equivalent to work from—or harder. I believe—it’s been awhile since I saw BB—that some of the backstory and narrative have been rearranged, and necessarily a lot of the middle material and fight scenes have been distilled—which is an interesting lesson in itself. Maybe best of all, I can see that, from the clean, realistic inking style, with a lot of work, I might be able to draw comics like this someday.

I am aware more thoroughly than in the film of a lack of female characters, and it bothers me—put purely from a drawing perspective! Some of the dialogue was either excised from the film, or was rewritten by Beatty, an excellent example being: BATMAN: “I’m taking her back to my place to give her an antitoxin before the damage to her psyche is permanent." GORDON: “Your place?” BATMAN: “Don’t ask.” GORDON: “Good, because I’m not sure I want to know.”

The strength of this collection is the four other stories the brainiac behind all this chose to match up with the story of the film, as they are all similar in tone to the Nolan!verse. “The Man Who Falls” by Denny O’Neil and legend Dick Giordano must have influenced Batman: Year One and the Nolan!verse. Young Bruce falls into the well and is traumatized by bats as in the film, though his father in the comic is callous and could easily be Sarah Palin’s hunting buddy. It’s a very good origin story, even if Bruce does look like Clark Kent again, and poor angsty Brucie endures the ache and pain of loss and isolation while hippies kiss. This Bruce meets a Korean sensei, a Pacific Indian leader, and his debut as a crime fighter being beaten by whores in the east end is as dismal as the one in Year One. An enjoyable if straightforward story.

The drawing style of “Air Time,” by Rick Burchett, reminds me of Heroes for some reason, and it’s the colors, as well as the innovative panelling and strongly technical inking, that keeps the non-traditional narrative, er, afloat. Batman is so noble in this story, it hurts. The family he saves is smart, brave, and grateful, not often a given in Gotham’s seedy world. Legendary Greg Rucka has found a perfect match in the talents of Burchett in this story.

Equally legendary Ed Brubaker contributes a morally uplifting story that perfectly complements Scott McDaniel’s active, colorful art in “Reasons.” It’s also a sweet Catwoman tale, though I confess to hating this “traditional” (?) version of the Catwoman costume. There’s an impossibly impressive two-page spread of Batman circling the Gotham skyline. CATWOMAN: “You kidding? Tony the Turk deserves to be walking with the a limp.” BATMAN: “That’s not the way I work.” It’s Catwoman who saves Batman’s heiny, and there’s a sweet moment where she infers he’s come to the east side to see her. BATMAN: “Okay, you caught me.” CATWOMAN: “Somehow I don’t thinks so . . ."

Urban Legend” by Bill Willingham and Tom Fowler has quite honestly the most hideous cover art I’ve ever seen, but it’s the first comic that’s made me laugh aloud again and again (other than Harley and Ivy of course). The book is worth reading for this one alone. To spoil the twist would be unpardonable, but Batman finds himself knocked out, amnesiac, and needing help getting to his car. “It’s called the Bat Car, Rob—or maybe Mobile, or something like that.” “The Mobile Car? That sounds stupid.” Batman is convinced that his “special bat powers” will come back on when he regains his memory. There’s a very, very funny sequence of Batman in the ‘hood with the local vatos, who actually help him out—it had me in stitches.

With very great reluctance I returned this volume to the library, and it’s definitely going on my to-own list.

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