This year was the first time I started to read comics. It is also the first year that I started to read Batman. What follows below is my review and Christian reflections of my favorite works on Batman.
Batman: Year One
Frank Miller. Batman: Year One. New York, NY: DC Comics, January 10th, 2012. 136 pp.
First published in 1987, the author and illustrator wanted to retell the story of Batman with more realism; which is a refreshing contrast to the silliness of Batman in some of the older comics I’ve read and which is characteristics of the 60s TV show. From what I understand from reading other people’s review before reading this book, Batman: Year One is now accepted as the “canon” of Batman’s origins and beginning. I enjoyed the plot. I also enjoyed a Batman that didn’t know it all and was trying to figure things out, unlike the TV version of Batman played by Adam West. I suppose that is why I like Batman more than any superhero because he’s a man and not someone with superpower. This is a Batman volume that I finished through in one sitting.
Sometimes some comic books and TV show can paint the hero in unrealistic light where they have it all together. Here was see a young Bruce Wayne who didn’t have it all together, and one who could be hurt and injured. Batman after all, is still a man. And as a man he is not perfect nor does it mean that victory will always be easy. This book also is honest about the darkness of the world in city life. I also enjoyed the story of police officer Gordon who was just starting out with the Gotham police force and Gordon facing police corruption and incompetence. It lead me to appreciate the authority that God has place in civil magistrate according to Romans 13 who does make a stand for justice and who does not bear weapons for nothing.
The Long Halloween
Jeph Loeb. Batman: The Long Halloween. New York, NY: DC Comics, November 1st, 1999. 376 pp.
This work got me hooked on Batman. The writer Jeph Loeb tells an original and creative story that spans one long year in which a criminal is on the loose in Gotham who is going around committing murder on holidays and leaving messages behind. Batman is out and about to find who the culprit might be, and to prevent another murder from taking place. The murderer even acquired the nickname “Holiday.” There is an alliance between Batman, Gordon and the District Attorney Harvey Dent and their work is made more complicated with the trails of various suspects all with different motives. There is the undercurrent with the story of the tension between being under the law and above the law in the fight against evil.
This book is truly a graphic novel, a mystery novel depicted in picture form. I love the colors and artwork, it gives a noir feel to a story of mobsters and the “freaks” who are dangerous and deranged characters in costumes. I thought one unique aspect of this comic compared to others is how the drawings and colors was able to portray the anguish of the characters and the psychological burden of envy, suspicion and other tensions. It makes this story richer in contrast to your typical two dimensional superhero comic book story.
I also like how the story also depict the struggle within the “good guys” especially with Harvey Dent. Harvey Dent would eventually take the law unto himself and we see the guy would later evolve into the future Batman villain “Two-Face.”
If someone wants to start reading Batman I recommend this book for starters. Again, this book was what got me hooked on Batman and this is another comic I finished in one sitting.
Jeph Loeb. Dark Victory. New York, NY: DC Comics, October 1st, 2002. 391 pp.
This is the sequel to The Long Halloween. It wasn’t as great as the first work but it was still enjoyable. The story picks up after the first book with another round of holiday killings taking place, mimicking the earlier murder nicknamed “Holiday,” who murder during holidays. This work raises the question of whether or not the Holiday was still on the loose or was there a copycat going around committing the same kind of crime. Like the first book, there are many possible suspects. The problem is further compounded with the release of these characters from the insane asylum. Here in this book we also see the district attorney Harvey Dent who was originally on the side of good in the first book now becomes a villain that Batman has to deal with. Good story, even though it mirrors a lot of the story telling in the first book yet it adds twists and turns that keeps the plot moving.
Christian Reflection of The Long Halloween and Dark Victory:
I think this book really made me think about human sinful nature. The rivalry between two crime families demonstrate how the folly of envy and pride makes one think one is more invincible than one think. In a sin fallen world, people’s judgement isn’t always correct and you see the story capture people’s misstep and incorrect judgment by both the protagonists and the “bad guys.” If Christians believe in total depravity we need to understand that sin effects those who are working on the cause for justice as well as those on the other side of the law. The story’s development of District Attorney Harvey Dent downfall into the villain Two-Face is a good example of this. How much more should we be aware of our sins and the need for God’s sanctifying work in our lives through faith in Jesus Christ.
The Court of Owls
Scott Snyder. The Court of Owls. New York, NY: DC Comics, May 9th, 2012. 176 pp.
This is the first volume of Batman in the new 52 series by DC Comics and volume one kicks it off with a powerful start. I really enjoy the writing ability of the writer Scott Snyder. The Court of Owls tells an original story of a new group of villain that Batman faces that unbeknown to him has secretly run Gotham City for centuries. At first Batman dismisses the idea of the court of Owls as mere legends and nursery rhymes. And the nursery rhymes is rather creepy in how it begins: “Beware the Court of Owls, that watches all the time, ruling Gotham from a shadowed perch, behind granite and lime.” As the story progresses Batman finds out that they really do exists which totally surprises Batman since he thought he knew it all about Gotham. Scott Snyder builds the suspense with every page and ends volume one hanging: Batman is injured and one wonders whether he will get out alive. I don’t want to spoil it any further but this has got to be one of the best Batman story of this decade (note I have read later volumes in this series).
The City of Owls
Scott Snyder. The City of Owls. New York, NY: DC Comics, May 9th, 2013. 208 pp.
This is the continuation to the story of the Court of Owls. The dramatic plot continues in this second book picking up with Batman’s escape barely with his life with horrible injuries. But this is only the beginning as the Court of Owls releases their trained assains called Talons out into Gotham city to cause mayhem. Even Batman has a hard time fighting a single Talon and what later became known as the Night of Owls commences with Batman and his butler fighting off Talons in the Bat Cave and a Batman who often is reluctant to seek help from others have to send electronic signals to his allies to fight off the Talons spread out throughout the city. As the book progresses readers discover that these Talons can’t be killed, as they already are dead, with the Talone being a cross between ninjas and zombies. Fortunately there is a way to neutralize them as the plot unfolds. I thought Scott Snyder’s amazing creative ability is demonstrated in how he told the story of the Night of the Owls with Batman messaging others for help, which expanded this story by involving other superheroes that is told in their own series in the DC universe. This is a story of epic proportion! Scott Snyder’s creativity is not only seen in the big picture of things but also his attention to details such as how he has characters discussing that owls hunt down bats at night, etc. What an incredible power of storytelling!
The Night of Owls
Scott Snyder. The Night of Owls. New York, NY: DC Comics, February 19th, 2013. 360 pp.
This is a collection of various comic series of the heroes in Batman’s world who responded to an incident known as the night of owls. These heroes, including Robin, Nightwing, Birds of Prey and Batgirl fights assassins known as Talons that were sent out by the mysterious Court of Owls which is a secret society that runs Gotham City. If one has not read the Court of Owls and the City of Owls this book would be confusing (I started reading this first by itself and suddenly found that I needed to get the other two books first). I didn’t really enjoy this work as much since it was kind of choppy chronologically due to the arrangement of the book according to the issues and series. It was also repetitive of the same scene in the retelling of the story. This book is a supplement to the other two work to show what happened that night with the other heroes besides Batman. But I think it would be rather expensive to buy this work to have a lot of repetition.
Christian Reflection for both the Court of Owls, City of Owls:
Batman’s reluctance to believe that the Court of Owls exists in part is due to his pride, his pride of thinking he knew it all about Gotham and his own family’s past. I can’t help but to imagine that batman fans who thought they knew it all would likewise also be surprised at how an original and creative story about the court of owls could come about (although the surprise for the readers will be a pleasant one). Yet that should make us think about our own pride, our pride that is so subtle that assumes we have so much experienced, we’ve figured it out already. The reversal of Batman’s pride is seen in volume two when Batman contacts other heroes for help to fight off the Talons. The Bible talks a lot about the danger of pride and pride can manifest itself in many ways. Unfortunately we can see the pride of others more easily than in our own self. How much more important is it to be involved with accountability others and also engage in self-introspection.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
See my review here.