(2006) James Robinson, Don Kramer and Leonard Kirk, Titan Books, £8.99, trdpbk, 192pp, ISBN 1-84576-377-7
This is a first look at Batman after the events of Infinite Crisis and, I assume for most DC Universe continuity titles, comes under the heading of "1 Year Later". This volume collects issues 651-654 of Batman and issues 817-820 of Detective Comics and represents, I'm sure DC hope, an ideal 'jumping on point' for new readers. Which is not to say that it wouldn't be handy for readers to be familiar with previous continuity, just that all the characters will, no doubt, be redefined as time goes on. The opening situation is this: Batman has been away from Gotham City for a year and left Harvey Dent, formerly Two-Face, behind as a protector - cosmetic surgery and psychotherapy restored Harvey's face and cured him of his criminal tendencies (not to mention his homicidal ones). Jim Gordon has been re-instated as Commissioner of police (the third time, now, that he's held that role), and Harvey Bullock has also been re-instated following his cracking of corruption in the GCPD. Batman and Robin return, post-Crisis, 'retire' Harvey and take up where they left off...
Now someone is killing some of Batman's old foes (in a bit of post-Crisis tidying-up?); first the KGBeast, then Magpie, the Ventriloquist and Orca. In the meantime Batman has his hands full with a bunch of villains that have escaped from Arkham Asylum, including Poison Ivy (whose plant control powers seem to have increased to almost Swamp Thing proportions), Killer Moth, Killer Croc and the Scarecrow. Under the weight of work, and accepting that he has limitations in 'working' in the daytime, Batman recruits the help of a private detective, Jason Bard, to help out. The dead villains all worked for the Penguin, when he was boss of Gotham's underworld, but now even the Penguin has been run out of town. So, the question is, who is offing the old villains and why, and who has scared the Penguin away and taken over the reigns of the underworld? Evidence seems to point towards Harvey Dent but, even if he's innocent, what will happen to his mind as a result of the suspicions heaped upon him? (as if you couldn't guess...).
The writing is OK on the whole, as Batman comes to terms with his new situation and Tim Drake (the third Robin) is further integrated into his role - this includes Bruce Wayne offering to adopt him as his son ('wards' no longer being allowed) - and as Gordon and Bullock slip back into their familiar roles. The artwork from Kramer and Kirk is excellent, and very reminiscent of Paul Gulacy at his best, and the original covers by Simone Bianchi are very good too. The plotting is a bit weak towards the climax and the resolution of the questions asked above, but perhaps more flesh will be put on the bones as time goes on and subsequent issues appear.
This same month DC have re-issued in one volume Batman: Gotham by Gaslight (originally published 1989) and Batman: Master of the Future (1991) under the title of the former (Titan Books, £7.99, tpb, 112pp, ISBN 1-84576-403-X). These tales were printed under the "Elseworlds" banner which covered 'alternate realities' following the demise of same in regular continuity. In the first tale, it is 1889 and Jack the Ripper is operating in Gotham City. Bruce Wayne has been training for years in Europe to take on the persona of Batman in order to track down his parents' killer, but comes under suspicion himself as being the serial killer. The second story is set a couple of years on when Batman is called upon to defend Gotham from a madman based loosely on Jules Verne's Robur the Conqueror. Both stories were written by Brian Augustyn; the first drawn by Mike Mignola and P Craig Russell and the second by Eduardo Barreto. I wasn't impressed by these when they first appeared and, upon re-reading, I'm afraid that time hasn't much changed my opinion. But you can make your own mind up...
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