I honestly think Neal Adams has created the perfect comic book.
Oh, you think I’m joking? You think I’m trying to trick you into reading this so I can have some company in the psych ward? Not so. This book is – not exaggerating – my favourite of all the books I’ve had to review on this website.
When I started this job, I was honestly really scared; not only of a large sum of people being able to hear and critique my voice, but also if that voice is even worth hearing. One of the exercises we had to do was review the entirety of Batman: Odyssey, and I think it was the hardest review I’ve written so far. The book is nigh-incomprehensible at times, the art is all over the place in terms of penciling, inking AND colouring, and so many people have spoken about it before that I felt it was impossible to say anything unique. It actually required some heavy editing help from a friend before it was at a point that I was satisfied with, and while I’m proud of the review, it was definitely a huge challenge for me.
With this book, I don’t feel those fears, and I don’t fear those challenges. I love this book, and I love reviewing it. Whenever I’m sent a review copy, I get a genuine smile, and I IMMEDIATELY dive into it. I don’t particularly care if it’s actually bad, because I didn’t stop grinning throughout the entirety of this issue.
I think what I love about Adams’ work is that his stories are, ultimately, coherent – nothing that he does isn’t explained eventually, even if the explanation is exceedingly oddball. That said, I think it plays off so much better here than it does in Odyssey, because that book was contending with too many time jumps and intersecting plotlines for Adams’ confusing logic to really shine. Here, we only have two plotlines, and they take place concurrently: the adventures of the real Bruce Wayne, and the adventures of the fake one. We begin with the fake Bruce donning the Batman costume to try and remember his past life, fighting two villains from the very first issue. Another reason that I love Adams’ writing is because he just lets the characters say whatever the hell he likes.
After Tim Drake ogles a robot Catwoman before clocking her with a crowbar (I’ve been there), we cut to Bruce Wayne’s adventures inside the pocket dimension (?) of his captor, a witch called Chiaroscuro. The story jumps between these narratives from page to page, and while nothing substantial happens in this issue, it does provide a bit of clarity to the insanity of the previous issues. Why was Damian clueless as to being Robin? His mind was wiped for some reason! Why was there a terrorist attack in issue 1? It was engineered by Ra’s! How is there an identical Bruce Wayne? Well- okay so they didn’t answer everything. Probably a clone? Look, you don’t need to pay that much attention. If you do, you’ll be stuck on panels like this for far too long:
I think this issue is a great example of how it is absolutely possible to perfect the “so bad it’s good” formula when it comes to Adams’ writing. His artwork, meanwhile, is about what you’d come to expect from Adams’ modern illustrations: reminiscent of the classics, but not without its quirks!
I found myself being more impressed by Adams’ art this issue, despite its literal rough edges. His work on Deadman in particular – who, yet again, shows up for no reason in this story – is actually really well-done. Adams has often used the following method of showcasing the action in a panel, and while I’m not normally a fan, it works well for a character who’s already rather ghostly in nature.
Not to say the art doesn’t get weird at all in this issue – again, some of Adams designs really needed a second, third and fourth pass. Not only that, but I’ve noticed that Adams has a very fascinating relationship with panels. It’s clear he sees the benefit in using panels as a guideline, rather than a rule. Here Adams uses that concept to make a slightly more dramatic panel, when we see Deadman’s hands pushing out of the borders:
While this works in one place, though, it doesn’t work as well in the next – here we have a wonderful depiction of Alfred’s chin getting stuck on a border as it tries to get back in the panel where it belongs.
Despite everything, it’s all a massive improvement over what we were seeing in Odyssey. The art is solid in the way you’d expect Adams’ work to be solid nowadays; I’d say that I like it “flaws and all”, but that implies that there are any flaws with this comic. Again, it’s perfect.
Everything I’ve just told you is just a fraction of the wild stuff that goes on in this book – I could spent ages talking about every weird thing that happens from issue to issue, but I’d honestly just recommend you pick it up and see for yourself. Even if you only get one issue, there’s enough content to really pull apart and think/laugh about for much longer than you’d expect.
- Deadman beating up an ogre and robbing him of his boots sounds like your kind of comic.
- You’re a fan of “so bad it’s good” comics.
- Neal Adams can do no wrong in your eyes. (Again, Mr Adams, I genuinely respect and admire you!)
- You like having a good time, you prude. <3
How the hell do I score this book? This is a question I’ve been asking myself for three months now. I keep finding myself giving low scores for a book that, sure, clearly has a lot of problems… and yet still ends up being the comic book I’m most invested in from month to month. Why did Ra’s al Ghul recruit a scantily clad witch we’ve never met to capture Batman? Why does she just let him do whatever he wants? Why does Deadman keep stalking Batman? Does he have no friends? These are important questions! So, clearly, this must be an important book. I have a fantastic time with this story from month to month, and maybe the score should reflect that.
God, maybe I have gone insane.
How much I actually like the book: 9/10