Thursday, September 20, 2012

Batman: Under the Cowl

Somehow I hadn’t realized that this was an anthology collection, and as such, was a bit confused at first.  Upon reflection, however, it seemed like a perfectly reasonable idea for a collection.  Men other than Bruce Wayne who have, for whatever reason, taken up the role of Batman.  The first story occurs toward the very end of Batman’s official run, where it’s Damian Wayne who, in the not-so-distant future, has become Batman.  The art in this, provided by the talented and rather omnipresent Andy Kubert, includes a great new version of the costume for Damian.  Alfred is a cat, Barbara Gordon is still wheelchair-bound but now Commissioner, and once again, Batman is fighting on the wrong side of the law.  Morrison’s stuff is not really my cup of tea, but this is a pretty good standalone story.  “I knew I’d never be as good as my dad or Dick Grayson.  But I promised I wouldn’t leave Gotham without a Batman.”  

It’s a shock to head back to 1993 and see the differing styles.  Sure, I’ve seen Batman stories from the 1940s through to the 1970s, but I’m surprised at how . . . young “Lightning Changes” by Chuck Dixon and Graham Nolan looks.  I think it’s to do with the coloring, which is awfully bright and garish.  The story is that Jean Paul Valley, a superhero who normally goes by the name of Azrael, has been asked by Bruce to be Batman while the latter recovers from having his back broken. In fact, Bane, in the first actual comic story I’ve seen him in, features in this story, though in appearance he looks a bit like the lovechild between Darth Vader and a pro wrestler. One should be scared of him, but one is not. Robin is doing the babysitting, and predictably, the power seems to be going to Azrael’s head.  

“Robin and Batman,” from a year later, is Doug Moench’s way of dealing with Dick Grayson’s insecurities.  This is well-drawn by Mike Gustovich—indeed, some panels looked positively Tim Sale-like—but again, the coloring lets it down.  Killer Croc is the villain in this one, who unfortunately hasn’t got much nuance to his character.  

I’d already read “Urban Legend,” by Bill Willingham and Tom Fowler, and I need not say that it’s one of my favorite Batman stories ever.

I admit to being bewildered by “Tales of the Titans,” which involves Tim Drake, the third Robin, time traveling forward to meet himself . . .?  These group superhero things just don’t appeal to me.  The art, by Mike McKone, is nice.

I’m not sure I entirely understood “Grounded” from Batman Beyond #1, 1999, but as drawn by Craig Rousseau in the style of Batman:  the Animated Series, it’s absolutely gorgeous.  The story, written by Hilary J. Bader who one assumes is a woman, sees Bruce Wayne as quite elderly but still spry.  

All in all, an interesting collection with many different styles. 

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