As our mutual friend, The Irredeemable Shag, says, “Everyone has a Batman phase.” I think that Stella is still in hers. Mine started in 1990 and while I finally gave up Batman in the early 2000s, I’d say that its high point ended sometime around the middle of the decade. The comics collected in this volume are from a few years before my phase; specifically, they are the first several issues of Detective Comics in the post-Crisis DCU.
I’d read a few of these both digitally and in print over the years, but most of my experience with this era of Detective was via the trade paperback for Batman: Year Two, which I had gotten from the Waldenbooks at the Smith Haven Mall back in the early 1990s. Oh, and sometime in 1990 or 1991, I spent the $5 I earned from the only time I ever umpired a little league baseball game on a copy of ‘Tec #574. I probably paid too much for it, to be honest, but I have always loved the cover to that book.
Anyway, that’s in here along with the Legends crossover drawn by Klaus Janson (which isn’t that great, tbh) and issues with art by Alan Davis and Norm Breyfogle, both of whom draw an amazing Batman. Year Two isn’t, though. My guess is either that they don’t consider Year Two to be “canon” anymore and decided not to include it, it’s already available in another trade paperback and they want people to buy that, or they didn’t feel like paying Todd McFarlane. Anyway, I don’t consider it a loss. Barr’s Batman is almost like the 1950s Batman that I’ve read in The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told (vols 1-2) and The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told, except they’re more violent than DC would have been in the early Comics Code era.
That’s actually pretty emblematic of a lot of Eighties entertainment. While there were plenty of very violent and dark movies across multiple genres, there was also a conservative thread running through our culture that while not exactly as reserved as the 1950s, had echoes of that era. I actually wonder if what Barr is doing here is finding a way to shove all of Batman’s more wacky pre-Crisis continuity into a new era that had a Frank Miller origin and would eventually grow more serious as time went on. I mean, I’m pretty sure that in 1986, he didn’t know Knightfall or No Man’s Land were coming, or even that within a few years fans would kill Jason Todd, but looking at the stories in this volume in hindsight, he is doing what I think are some deep dives into Batman’s past. He digs up Paul Sloane, the “second Two-Face” as a way to also bring Harvey Dent into post-Crisis continuity (at least I think … I think he had maybe one post-Crisis appearance before this?).
This collection is fun as hell. Barr gets the voice of an older, experienced, lighter Batman down, he reworks Leslie Tompkins in a way that I thought made her a great member of Batman’s supporting cast. He has Batman in crazy traps involving the Joker and other villains and even gives us one last look at the classic Catwoman costume. It’s comics that I’ll want to read and reread because it showcases such a great version of Batman. If I didn’t get this for Christmas, it would have been well worth the purchase.
You should read this book if …
- You want to see Alan Davis AND Norm Breyfogle draw Batman.
- You like Batman and aren’t pretentious about how the character should be written.
- You like classic, “Super Friends” type Batman but slightly darker and a little more violent.