I am very excited to talk about these stories. The first one alone makes the book worth buying and the second is just icing on the cake. Plus, it’s it features the best stories Catwoman or Scarecrow have had in quite some time. Must buy all the way. You don’t really need to read anymore of this review. I tried not to spoil anything for you but I promise it’s best to just go in fresh.

“Dreaming He is a Butterfly” by Christos Gage & Jheremy Raapack

When I wrote this week’s Upcoming Comics article and talked about issue #9 of Legends of the Dark Knight I summed up DC’s synopsis as “Scarecrow hoping to use a new fear toxin on Batman (that doesn’t sound like a very new storyline, does it?” So you can imagine how pleased I was when on the very first page of this issue we get Batman telling Scarecrow this:

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Scarecrow’s plots have become a bit cliche anymore and this was a nice way to tear that down right from the start so readers knows their in for something different. Granted it’s not that different of a plot than what we usually see, but the important thing is that it’s so well executed that I can proudly say that this story, “Dreaming He is a Butterfly” by Christos Gage and Jheremy Raapack is going to go down as one of the most memorable Batman stories I’ll read all year. It was hard for me to even read the following story because I couldn’t stop thinking about what had happened in this tale! I was amazed that there even was another story included in this book because when I finished with this I felt like I had totally got my money’s worth an was immensely satisfied.

I’m trying to think of a good way to sell you on the synopsis without giving too much away. The story is dark. Very dark. Not in a gory or violent way, but in an emotional sense. It’s one of the most tragic Batman stories you’re going to read and the artwork by Jheremy Raapack is fits the material perfectly. In a way it reminds me of Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader, one of my favorite Batman stories of all time. Maybe my most favorite. In that book we get a bunch of different stories about Batman, different interpretations of the character. One version twists the narrative of the Dark Knight legend in such a way that Bruce is mad and his nightly adventures are a fantasy which Alfred indulges him in. As we know, Alfred’s a master thespian, but in that world it went so far that Alfred would pretend to be colorful characters like The Joker, Riddler, etc. just so “Batman” would have someone to fight and not get himself killed while wearing that ridiculous outfit.

What Gage does is twist the narrative in a similar fashion and asks questions all of us comic fans who have over-thought these comic books have wondered. How does a man who has taken more punches than Muhammad Ali and been dosed with more drugs than Timothy Leary even manage to stand upright? And just how crazy is Bruce Wayne?

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The whole time I was reading this story, I didn’t want it to end. The idea of Batman being so crippled both physically and mentally by his years fighting crime that all his most recent adventures are just deranged daydreams is one of the best downer-endings to the Batman saga that I’ve ever heard. And it really makes a moral point to the mythology. If the tale of Batman has any sort of message at its core, what is it? Here it would be that we need to accept death and learn to move on. There’s a lot of truth in what Alfred tells Bruce: Had he devoted his energies toward something more realistic and attainable he could have achieved truly great things that would’ve helped society. Batman is a prime example of arrested development. He’s an angry child’s fantasy with a child’s sense of morality. You’ll dress up as a monster so you scare all the bad guys and then catch them all until the city is a safe place? And you’ll do this without killing anybody? It’s a very depressing take on the Legend of the Dark Knight and I certainly wouldn’t want to make it the definitive ending to the story, but in the long list of sad ways this could conclude for Bruce Wayne I think that Gage and Raapack’s version is one of the best.

I hoped that this issue would end with the dark-timeline as true and I was kind of let down when the final pages took the Perchance to Dream route, but thankfully the last page added a bit of ambiguity to the story and I’m pleased with that. Batman miraculously pulled himself out of the toxin’s grip just as Bruce was showing the signs of the dementia Alfred warned him about? Was the flashback to Bruce on the treadmill a false memory concocted by the effects of Crane’s latest toxin or was it a hint of reality shining through? Did the top fall over or didn’t it?

“Tap Tap” by Ray Fawkes & Stephane Roux

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As I said, these few pages could’ve been blank and I’d still give this book a 10/10, but thankfully they weren’t because Ray Fawkes and Stephane Roux wrote the best Batman/Catwoman story I’ve read in my time reviewing these books. Their relationship is captured perfectly! And there’s some really fascinating gadgets on display here from the goop that Batman uses on Catwoman to immobilize her arm to the cooling tubes Catwoman integrates into her suit so the thermal detectors inside the house can’t read her movement. It’s just great and Roux did a great job drawing Catwoman and just did a damn fine job with… well, everything. I think I usually write better than this, but I haven’t had a solid 10/10 book in a while so I’m excited. It’s good to not be all cynical and making snarky remarks about a book for a change. This is something worth getting excited about and I want you to get excited about it too. “Tap Tap” is a really simple idea in which Batman can see a series of events unfold that will obviously lead to a break-in at a home with an extraordinary security system so he goes to investigate knowing full well he’s going to run into that girl who always gets the better of him. But while it’s really nothing groundbreaking, like with our last story, it’s really well executed. Roux paced it out beautifully so you can feel the tension of Batman gingerly stepping through a house that can kill him and Fawkes did a fine job of Batman’s inner monologue and his conversations with Selina. It’s nice to see a Catwoman who is smart again and actually feels like a master thief. She’s the perfect girl for Batman and I feel like I haven’t seen her for 2 years.

Overall

Buy it. It’s a contender for best Batman comic of the month and one of the best of the year. I’ll probably read it again before the day’s over.

SCORE: 10/10