Batman: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly - guest review
by Brian Linnen
Last Wednesday I bought two excellent books, Matt Wagner's BATMAN AND THE MONSTER MEN and Andrew Helfer's BATMAN: JOURNEY INTO KNIGHT, both limited series and both dealing with the Caped Crusader's early adventures.
Once you get past the fact that the phrase "Journey into Knight" really doesn't mean anything (it just looks cool!), you'll find that this series is actually rather good. The few Andrew Helfer stories I have read before impressed me, which is why I bought this even though the artwork didn't. If you ever stumble across issues of Helfer's DC series THE SHADOW, pick them up. It's a sometimes disturbing, sometimes "laugh out loud funny" comic. I think you will really like it, even if you don't care about the Shadow.
Matt Wagner has been a force to reckon with ever since the publication of "Mage" many years ago. His art here is clean and deceptively simple, and his story is top-notch, although admittedly we're not too far into it at this point. Julie Madison, Dr. Hugo Strange, and Bruce doing the "bored playboy" act at a posh social affair - all stuff a Bat-Fan will love!
But the thing that made these two books shine the most was that they featured Batman - the REAL Batman - and not the Batman of current continuity whose anger, anti-social behavior, and general unfriendliness has pushed away everyone he once called a friend.
As a Batman fan, I have put up with way too much "bad stuff" in recent history:
1. Leslie Thompkins betraying both her Hippocratic Oath and Bruce by letting the Spoiler (then Robin) die. Why did she do this? To teach Bruce a lesson - a lesson he had already learned years ago when Jason Todd was murdered.
2. "War Games" in general - from Batman being too dumb to realize that it was his "master plan" tearing apart Gotham to his attempt to take over the police department to Barbara Gordon needlessly destroying her headquarters, this story was just an insult to our brains.
3. Commissioner Gordon being replaced by the bland Commissioner Akins. I can't believe they have let this replacement go on for so long. I miss the old guy - especially after seeing him on the big screen last summer.
4. David Lapham's 12-part story in "Detective Comics." It really seemed to have potential at first, but somewhere along the line it crumbled into a huge, boring mess - you know, the same boring mess that "Gotham Knights" has been since it's inception. GK's rumored cancellation would be a mercy-killing at this point.
5. Miller's "Batman in Sin City" storyline in "All-Star Batman": I wanted desperately to enjoy that book, but with dialogue like "What, are you retarded? I'm the #&*-!@&%$# Batman!" it's really hard to. The art looked fabulous, but it only ended up making me think back to when Frank knew how to write super-heroes. His "Sin City" books are great and I'll keep buying them, but from now on, anything he does with a cape in it gets an automatic pass from me.
Wow! This started out so positive, but look where it ended up - me whining and complaining. Oh well - I do this because I care. I have been reading Batman for almost 30 years now, and I have never considered him to be in worse hands. Well, except for when Larry Hama was writing the book. Anyway, all this makes me appreciate the good stuff when it comes out, and like I said "Monster Men" and "Journey into Knight" is good stuff. Check it out!