Graphic Novel/Comics Review

The Batman Chronicles Vol.2

(2006) Bill Finger and Bob Kane, Titan Books, 9.99, trdpbk, 224pp, ISBN 1-84576-292-4

Continuing DC's ambitious project to reprint every Batman story in exact chronological order, this second volume collects the Dark Knight's appearances in Detective Comics 39-45, Batman 2 and 3, and New York World's Fair Comics 1940. It is still interesting, in light of current Crisis-related attempts to reposition the DC characters to 'an earlier age' (ie. the Silver Age), to see how violent the really early appearances of the Batman were. For instance, in the first tale here, "The Horde of the Green Dragon!", two victims are killed with a hatchet in the head and later Batman goes on to topple a stone idol onto the bad guys, explicitly killing at least five of them! The next tale records the first appearance of Clayface and this, and the following story, both concentrate on murder mysteries, each with a number of suspects for the reader to choose from. Then, in Batman 2, we have the return of the Joker and the Cat, now referred to as Cat-Woman, and the tale of a man who develops a split-personality and becomes a murderer which contains Batman uttering a telling line, "This is the only time I was ever sorry to see a criminal die!", implying he doesn't have a problem with that normally. In the 1940 World's Fair story a criminal accidentally electrocutes himself and Batman's only comment is, "Well, he saved the state the job!", and in the next tale a criminal blows his own brains out. Further tales introduce a forerunner of the current detective Bullock, a comic relief cop called McGonigle, and they also heavily feature the Batplane and Robin's use of a sling-shot (lest you think that was a modern invention), as well as moral tales of the dynamic duo cleaning up a corrupt town and humiliating crooks before the children who idolise them, not to mention further appearances by Catwoman and the Joker. All this covers a period from May to November of 1940 and features the writing of Bill Finger, the pencils of Bob Kane, and the inks of Jerry Robinson and George Roussos. It's all lovely stuff and highly recommended.

Tony Chester

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