03 August 2016

Faster than a DC Bullet: Project Gotham, Part XXXIII: The Many Deaths of the Batman

Comic trade paperback, n.pag.
Published 1992 (contents: 1989)

Borrowed from the library
Read January 2016
The Many Deaths of the Batman

Writer: John Byrne
Penciller: Jim Aparo
Inker: Mike DeCarlo
Letterer: John Costanza
Colorist: Adrienne Roy

Year Thirteen, March
I get a weird little frisson out of comic book titles that use the character name in them, as opposed to a series prefix, like this or World Without a Superman. I don't know why; it's just neat. Anyway, this book adds support to my Jim-Starlin-and-Jim-Aparo-are-better-apart-than-together theory by pairing Aparo with John Byrne. This short book begins with a silent chapter where the Gotham City police find a dead Batman, the best efforts of a hospital can't save him, a nosy reporter's leak means the whole city quickly knows, and then a second Batman corpse turns up. John Byrne used to infuriate me with his excess verbosity on Alpha Flight, but like issue #13 of that series showed, he can do great stuff without them when he wants to. The chapter is a masterpiece of storytelling by Aparo, communicating a whole story with only a single, well-chosen word.

That said, there are times Aparo uses motion lines to excess, making one think of actors overdoing the wild gesticulating in old silent films.
from Batman vol. 1 #433

When the second issue begins, there's a ton of text and I got worried, but Byrne actually balances the word and image well throughout. The core of the story is that someone is dressing people as Batman and then killing them, often in grotesque fashion; it's actually kind of a dark 1980s take on a Silver Age story, and it works quite well, as Batman, Commissioner Gordon, and the rest of the police have to mobilize against this increasingly bizarre threat. Eventually the answers materialized and they're improbably convoluted, even for the kind of story this is imitating, but the ride up until the point was so enjoyable it was hard for me to care. This is a "typical Batman" story: no huge stakes, no deranged supervillains, and it works as a very solid example of that genre.

Holy Wall of Expository Text, Batman!
from Batman vol. 1 #435

As a side note, I read this book where it takes place, between A Death in the Family and A Lonely Place of Dying. I didn't gain anything from the experience: the Batman here doesn't show any effects of the death of Jason Todd.

Next Week: We draw nearer and nearer the end of this project with the return of Poison Ivy!

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