8.12.2013

Batman #21 [Kamak's Corner]

By Contributing Writer Brian Kamak

Batman #21 (DC): What the fuck!? There are a couple pages in here that act as reminders as to why I’m not a fan of protagonists in tights. I promised the proprietor of Yesteryear Comics that I’d pull at least one DC title. He stressed that the title had to be Batman. So, here I am on vacation in New York City, the parallel universe to Gotham City, and I turn to pages 15 and 16.

Page 15 is just another beautiful and flawless panel by Greg Capullo, as expected. This page basically shows off the chiseled physique and boyish good looks of a younger Bruce Wayne. Yawn. Page 16 & 17 contain an ad drawn by the comic book community’s perhaps most celebrated living artist, Jim Lee. It’s a two-page spread for Superman Unchained.

As a child, I ripped the heads off of my action figures and played mix and match. My Frankenstein-like genius created a Jedi Knight Boba Fett. This badass mo-fo had Luke’s Jedi body, Boba’s Jet-Pack and head, a blaster and a green lightsaber. If I still owned Franken-Fett, it would have caused the most fierce bidding in the History of eBay. But, back to Batman. Had these depictions been my childhood toys, my game of decapitate-recapitate would have yielded the same goddamn toy, a guaranteed eBay fail. I don’t know if the twin resemblance of Bruce and Clark was done on purpose, or if it’s purely coincidence. What I do know is that these yoga-pant-wearing heroes are DC’s most famous personas. Can’t they give one of them maybe green eyes with a lesser-defined jawline? Even a slight variance in their eyebrow shape would be enough to soothe my disdain. 

Capullo does an awesome job drawing the bored billionaire playboy looking for his next adrenaline rush, while claiming he’s Gotham’s salvation. His lines are perfectly done, almost too perfect, but they do reflect Bruce’s need for an unobtainable level of clean sterility in Gotham. I’m in love with Danny Miki’s use of color throughout his section of the book. His use of shading and color gradation are perfectly managed. I found myself hypnotized by a perfectly illustrated Koi. 

The story? Well, does that even matter? We already know the story. Snyder writes Batman in the typical DC fashion. There are only two possible outcomes. In this issue, Batman finds some bad guys, he becomes a thorn in their side, and narrowly escapes. I’m confident that one of two things will happen in this arc. One, Batman finally gets the upper hand on the evildoers and brings them to justice (most likely, incarceration in Arkham Asylum). Two, Batman finally gets the upper hand on the evildoers and they narrowly escape justice, living to fight another day. 

Batman does not kill. Period. Secretly, he hopes to face them again for another adrenaline rush. A lot of Bat-Fans will disagree with me, but it comes down to him being a bored punk with way too many resources and a psychotic need to sculpt his world to his ideal through vigilante tactics. If Wayne really wanted to clean up Gotham City, he’d assume his role at Wayne Industries just as his uncle is persuading him to do in this particular book. Certainly Wayne is not as smart as he's given credit for. He could easily turn non-profit and create an incredible security team that would patrol Gotham using a limited amount of Bat-gadgetry under his watchful eye. 

Branding! Branding is what enables the Yankees to have the highest salaries in baseball, but do we have to see it on absolutely everything Batman related? Does the Bat-dirt bike have to have a Bat emblem AND Batwings. Must his mask have Bat ears if he ALREADY has a Bat on his chest? Is DC that afraid that in the middle of the book we might mistake him for another overly-branded character like Spider-Man? Marvel, you’re guilty too. 

All of this Bat bashing brings me to my favorite section, the book’s most redeeming quality. There’s a short story of Bruce Wayne pre-Batman titled “Where The Hell Did He Learn To Drive.” This story is written by Snyder and James Tynion IV. The art is thankfully done by Rafael Albuquerque, and inked by Dave McCaig. The team of Snyder & Albuquerque won the coveted Eisner Award for American Vampire, a book I could never speak ill of. The story revolves around Bruce’s criminal underworld adventures that helped him mold his skillset. The art is rougher than the main story, but I find it way more enjoyable. It has a very distinct flair that sets it apart from the other spandex-clad players. McCaig’s use of color adds a realistic human element in the earlier pages. The best frame in this book may happen to be the smallest; it’s a close-up of Miguel. Even though there’s lettering, it’s not needed. Miguel is so perfectly drawn and inked that a reader can easily infer his thoughts and emotions. The story is a brilliantly executed six page car chase. I wish that this entire story encompassed the entire book and they expanded upon this back-up story. 

If Batman is all about branding, maybe it’s time for DC to truly rebrand the Dark Knight. The new foundation laid by Snyder and Albuquerque sets a much higher level that DC should embrace as their main attraction. Rembrandt was an a amazing artist, but the art world evolved to embrace edgier groundbreaking talent such as Marcel Duchamp, Francis Bacon, Jasper Johns, Jeff Koons, and Damien Hirst. The Comic Book World is a piece of the contemporary art world. Batman is one of the largest and longest running pieces in the Comic Book World. Hey DC, isn’t it about time to evolve out of tights? While the back-up story is an easy Grade A+, the main feature ranks Grade C.

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