(2005) Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso, Titan Books, £8.99, trdpbk, 138 pp, ISBN1-84023-922-0
Azzarello and Risso are mainly known for their run on title 100 Bullets and this collection of Batman issues 620-625 contains all the hard-boiled noir-ishness of the former title. Of course, Azzarello is also known for a lengthy run on John Constantine: Hellblazer which informs the horrific aspects of the plot, I'm sure. The original covers for those six issues (plus this trade paperback) are by Dave Johnson and a couple of these (plus others) appear in the recently released Batman: Cover to Cover coffee table book reviewed elsewhere on this site. Batman is trying to track down one Angel Lupo whose sister, Elizabeth, was found dead and partially eaten. The trail leads to Killer Croc but, just when it seems that Batman has caught up to Lupo, he apparently kills the parents of a small boy, making it personal for the Batman, for obvious reasons. The investigation winds through meetings with the Penguin and a pair or assassins also looking for Lupo, Fatman and Little Boy, though the real resolution comes only after Batman meets with the Joker in Arkham Asylum...
There's a lot of good writing here, and the artwork is just right, but there are plotholes and loose threads that could, and should, have been plugged and tied up (unless they were dealt with in subsequent issues of Batman... I wouldn't know). I'm not quite sure what to make of Killer Croc, however, who seems little more than a pimp in this story, rather than the stone killer we've come to love, and the Penguin seems to have been re-invented while I wasn't looking. However, the heart of the story is the killing of the child's parents - not the first time this device has been used (Batman has witnessed many such incidents before) - and finally someone has written the obvious (to me) plot to resolve that. Obviously I can't tell you that now, otherwise you wouldn't need to read the book but, when you finally see what I'm talking about, you're bound to say "Oh, of course..." Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Anyway, I give this a cautious thumbs up, with some reservations.
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