After reading, and reviewing Batman: Hush I decided that I'd gradually go through my Batman collection which I own nearly every issue since Batman #608 (only missing one) but in graphic novel form as it'd take ages otherwise. Anyway this is my second review, and I hope to do as many as I can as soon as possible, but due to only reading them casually (a story here and there) it might take a while to review them all.
Batman is on the hunt for Angel Lupo, the brother of a murdered woman named Elizabeth Lupo, trying to piece together what happened to her. On the way he runs into some familiar faces, as well as some new ones including, Killer Croc, Penguin, and Ventriloquist (Wesker) and Scarface.
This was a very good story, with lot's of pro's, but a few to many con's to be amongst the best Batman stories. I'll star by saying that although I know that Brian Azzarello is a highly praised writer, I've not really read much of his work, having only read more recent things like his current Wonder Woman series, and his Before Watchmen series Rorschach, and Comedian, with this being the only story that I've read prior. I have however ordered some of his other work including Superman: For Tomorrow, Joker, and Luthor, which I'll hopefully enjoy. Now I can't say that Azzarello's writing is bad, as the way he progresses the story through monologue narrative is brilliant, but unfortunately not my favourite type of story. I also loved the dark tone to the story, and loved that Azzarello continued this throughout the story. Although the overall story was good, and I loved that it showed Batman as a detective, it wasn't anything startling, and easily forgettable.
I'm not overly familiar with Eduardo Risso but I'm not too sure if it suits Batman. There are a lot of artists that I like, but don't like their work on Batman so Risso isn't the only one. The main person that I consider to produce fabulous art, but not on Batman has to be Mike Mignola famous for creating Hellboy, and there are similarities between his and Risso's work also. I liked Risso's art in Before Watchmen: Moloch, and the limited series Logan, and he's a brilliant artist, but it's just not appealing to me in this story. I did however love that his art was very dark, and violent, and it complimented Azzarello's story brilliantly. His art is however very detailed, and he shows the characters emotions brilliantly in his art, especially Batman, but overall his art just doesn't suit Batman in my opinion. I also felt that his version of Killer Croc was very different, and unusual than the normal look for Croc, but I'll talk more about that later.
In this story there is a lot of flashbacks to Batman losing his parents when he was a child. This is probably the defining thing in Batman's entire story, as it's the thing that made him what he is, and what shapes his life, even now. I have felt in the past that this is overused, and I still agree with that, but when it's used in a unique way, or a way that helps the story I'm always happy to see it, much like I was happy to see it in this story. Batman keeps thinking back to his past when he thinks about Elizabeth's unborn child being killed with her, and it makes him think of what life could have been like if the killer hadn't killed his parent's or if he died with them. I really think that this helped with this story, as it really helped to shape out the tone, and mood of the story, adding to the already dark tone.
Killer Croc appeared in this story, and he appeared to be the most featured villain from Batman's rogues gallery. As I said earlier though I wasn't overly keen on this version of Croc. It's not so much the writing that I don't like with Croc, it's the artwork. Now although there's nothing actually wrong with the art on Croc, I did think that he looked too different than his normal look. Whenever I look at Croc, or envision Croc, I always think of this gigantic reptilian like creature that's green with a bit of a snout. This version of Croc just had very pale skin, and looked like some one with bad acne. Although this can be perceived as a more realistic take on Croc, it just wasn't the Croc I know. I did however like the art feeling that he was the best drawn character, along with Margo Farr, but he just wasn't the Croc I know. I did however like that the story started and ended with Croc, giving a full circle feel to the story.
As I said earlier I was very happy that this was a detective story. Although this takes away from the excitement of the story I'm not overly upset, as I've felt that there aren't enough Batman stories that have him doing proper detective work. In saying that the lack of excitement is probably the reason for this, as it fans weren't excited whilst reading a comic, especially one like Batman then they probably wouldn't continue buying it. It is however still nice to see a proper detective story every now and then, and this has to be one of the best detective stories I've read in a Batman series. It feels very Sherlock Holmes like, and being a huge Shelock Holmes fan, considering him the worlds best fictional detective (sorry Batman, you're great, but Sherlock's astonishing) that's saying something. I really liked that like any good detective story, and mainly a murder mystery story (which this essentially is) it's very gripping, and suspenseful. We do however come back to the lack of excitement, as although it's a brilliant detective story, the lack of excitement means that it's not as brilliant as it could have been, at least in my opinion.
Margo Farr was an interesting character, and probably the most interesting in the story. I felt that besides Batman, Margo was the best character in this story, and very crucial to the overall story. I usually don't like it when woman are shown as tramps (couldn't think of a better word) in comics, but I think that this actually helped with Margo's character. Throughout the story it's obvious that Margo is the type of person that doesn't mind using he looks to get what she wants, and I actually found the sequences were she flirted with Batman comical. This however isn't all that is shown of Margo's characteristics throughout the story. Azzarello does a brilliant job of showing that she's a desperate woman that cares for Angel, willing to do anything for him. The story also shows that she's a bit conflicted at times, but overall a very strong, and competent woman. I think that Azzarello did a fantastic job of developing her as a character throughout this story, which shows more that although the story wasn't as exciting as I'd hope, that he's still a good writer.
The absence of the Bat-Family was probably the most noticeable thing in this story, and especially the absence of Alfred. Although I like seeing Batman supported by his family it was nice to see him on his own for a change. I did however think that Alfred could have been used at times, as there is a sequence were Bruce is grilling steak. Now this isn't anything big, and Bruce is probably more than capable of cooking some food, but I just can't imagine Alfred taking no for an answer, and cooking it for him. Besides that small thing it was very nice to see Batman going fully solo, giving a Batman: Year One feel towards the story.
I'll finish by talking about the amount of villains in this story. Like the previous story Hush this story feels the need to inject itself with a good few of Batman's villains. There are only two returnees from Hush, Killer Croc, and Joker, but there are also other Batman villains including Penguin, and Ventriloquist and Scarface. The story does however also have a forgotten villain in the form of Fat Man, with a new character Little Boy. Having multiple villains, with many of them being high profile doesn't necessarily mean that it'll make the story better. Although I like seeing well known villains in Batman stories, there wasn't the need for all of the villains featured in this. Most of the villains did have a valuable purpose towards the story, but the one that didn't was the Penguin. Although it was nice to see him in the story, and although he did progress the story during his sequence he wasn't really needed, and they could have used someone else quite easily. Besides that I really liked all the villains in this story, and it added a bit of excitement back to the story, although not enough to change my mind on my overall opinion of the story. Also the villains I liked most in this story were Fat Man and Little Boy, because they were something I hadn't seen before, and a different type of villain for Batman to face. I don't however see them becoming huge well known villains.
A brilliant story, but not one of the best Batman stories ever, and very forgettable. It doesn't help that this story comes after a very memorable story like Batman: Hush, but that's life. I would however still recommend this story, as it is well worth a read, and still very good.