Btmn: Highly Condensed

9 February, 2006 at 12:43 am (batman)

BATMAN #648 by JockI was poking around the comic shop today, trying to find something Batman-y to hang another post on, but nothing was really lighting my fire. I considered writing about the two-part story that just wrapped up in Detective Comics, as written by Shane McCarthy and illustrated by the always-excellent Cliff Chiang. It was a classic Batman story: good Alfred bits, Batman versus the police, a non-superhuman villain, a taut pace and a solid resolution. The story stars the relatively recent psychotic villain Mr. Zsasz, who kills an astonishing number of people over the course of two comics. Which brought home the frequent iComic fan comment about Batman’s relationship with the Joker: why hasn’t Batman killed him? The Joker will always escape, and he will never be cured or redeemed. Which means that every day that Batman lets him live is another day that Batman is responsible for a future murder. With the Joker it’s usually be semi-acceptable because the Clown Price of Crime has a bemusing aspect that makes the murders part of the fantastic game of comic violence. Zsasz, on the other hand, is psychotic in a particularly nasty, ’90s manner. And to have the issue end with Alfred telling Bruce that he did the right thing by putting Zsasz back into custody, by keeping him alive felt a little distasteful.

But not enough to go into a full-blown morality post about it. Nor did the pathetically few (five? maybe?) pages that Batman actually appeared in in Frank Miller and Jim Lee’s All-Star Batman & Robin #3. ASB&R has been getting wildly divergent press from the iComics community. I think it fails at its essential mission: to simplify and streamline the ages of Batman continuity into a core essence. This book does not capture my essential Batman, full stop. And so it ceases to be interesting.

To be honest, I rather think I’m waiting for the whole One Year Later comics event that DC Comics is about to unleash. More than Frank Miller’s streamlined Ultimate Batman, One Year Later is supposed to jump start the DC Universe so that characters can get back to the business of telling good super-hero stories. Now DC does this stuff all the time. Most recently with Zero Hour, which allowed them to update all the origin stories of all the characters, and prior to that with Crisis on Infinite Earths, which basically got rid of all the silly fifties and sixties comics with Bat-Mite and Ace the Bat-Hound and other camp sci-fi tales. Because comics are a monthly soap opera that keeps on getting tangled up in its own complexity, it is apparently time to clear the decks of the dead wood (how’s that for a mixed metaphor?) so that the writers can get back to basics.

BATMAN: YEAR ONE by Jon SungAnd in that vein, The V — “the greatest collection of pseudo intellectual nerds in the world” — has set about condensing comics to their essence. Enormous, sprawling, lengthy, ill-edited, and vast stories are reduced to four panels, crappy computer-generated artwork, and hopefully a joke or two. There have been three or four dedicated to various Batman stories, amongst them the hilarious efforts of Jim Massey and Jon Sung. All of the submission so far can be found in the Highly Condensed Comics group on Flickr. PLEASE NOTE: not only are some of the comics teetering on the edge of highly vulgar, but many don’t make a damn bit of sense unless you’ve already read the comics that they are reducing. You may also have to join the group to see the pictures, so that helps prevent any accidental offensitivity. Anyway, be so warned.

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