27 April 2016

Faster than a DC Bullet: Project Gotham, Part XX: Batman: Fortunate Son

Batman's back, baby! Forget about your multiversal crises, and sink your teeth into some good old-fashioned street crime...

Comic trade paperback, 90 pages
Published 1999

Borrowed from the library
Read October 2015
Batman: Fortunate Son

Writer: Gerard Jones
Artist: Gene Ha
Colorist: Gloria Vasquez
Letterer: Willie Schubert

Year Four, Summer
This is a weird book, no doubt about it. A rock musician that Robin's really into commits a crime, or seems to, Batman decides the team will investigate, as a favor to Robin. It turns out that Batman utterly despises rock music, and he and Robin (quite temporarily) split up. It also turns out that in additional to homicidal maniacs (right down the hall from them, in fact), Arkham Asylum houses rock managers who did too much drugs. Also also: the ghost of Elvis Presley, but blond, and only ever referred to as "God"!

Yet... I cannot imagine a better story of Batman and rock music. The weirdness of the story doesn't bother me, because it's operating by its own rules; this is a heightened world where rock music is powerful, where it instigates riots and sweeps people up at the drop of a beat. It's weird and kind of mystical without being magical or fantastical. People can be hypnotized by it, and terrible crimes can be committed by its adherents, all because of the music. It can do great good, but also great evil, and people will do anything to harness its power. You might now be saying, "this world sounds an awful lot like our world." That's the point!

Of course Batman hates rock music, then. Even at its best, it's disorderly, it's suspect. You don't need the scene where young Bruce Wayne is told to turn off that rock music, because it's time to go to the theatre, to make him hate it. Rock is about changing the world, but through disorder. It's accomplishing what Batman stands for the most, through means that are utterly alien to him.

Click to enlarge, duh.

I should also say that I really liked the look of Gene Ha's art, though his storytelling was often confusing. He draws Batman like a guy in costume, if that makes sense; you can tell his suit is something he's wearing, especially his cowl, not something that magically molds into his body. I don't think that approach would work for every Batman story (it's hard to imagine it in my next read, Batgirl: Year One, for example), but it is the right approach for this one, a story which emphasizes the fragility of who Batman is and what he does.

Next Week: And then there were three... the Bat-Family grows again in Batgirl: Year One!

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