Thursday, March 4, 2004

Batman #624 - A Review

Written by: Brian Azarello
Penciled by: Eduardo Risso
Inked by: Eduardo Risso
Colored by: Patricia Mulvihill
Lettered by: Clem Robins
Editor: Will Dennis & Bob Schreck
Publisher: DC Comics

I’ll admit here at the start that I may be somewhat biased against this title at the moment. Jeph Loeb is one of my favorite writers and it seemed unlikely that anybody could follow after him and leave me satisfied, particularly on a character who was one of my favorites when I was a kid. I am, based on numerous conversations with other fans, not alone in this feeling. Similar feelings abound among those who follow artists rather than writers who feel that there was nothing that could possibly match Jim Lee’s work on “Hush”. The team of Azarello and Risso, most recently of 100 Bullets, had quite the heavy task of winning over a skeptical audience; a task which, sadly, they were not up to completing.

To be blunt, Azarello is not writing a Batman story here. There is nothing distinct that makes this story Batman and indeed many sections where our hero is written very out of character. (“Go [to hell]? Look around… we’re already there. And as bad as this is, it’s going to get worse…”).

The plot, a murder mystery centering about a generic gangster who killed his sister, is standard issue Spade or Marlowe material. (Indeed, there is a new strong arm for hire who is referred to only as “Fatman’.) Batman’s dialogue and character here is more fitting those legendary detectives than The Dark Knight. This is not to say that it is not enjoyable… but neither does this really feel like Batman.

The artwork is something of a contrast from the clear and clean yet highly detailed style used by Jim Lee. Risso’s work is more abstract, darkly colored and heavily inked… resembling a cleaner Frank Miller, particularly in the scene in which Batman fights Fat-man and his partner “Little Boy”.

Overall, this isn’t a book I’d care to read again. I’ve never been a fan of 100 Bullets, but that’s more to the subject matter than any dislike of the team. And while this is a good detective story, it is just that… a detective story that any detective hero could be plugged into with his regular rogues gallery plugged in place of the villains here. For now, I think I’ll stick to Superman/Batman.

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