It’s been a good year for Batman, several good years in fact, and as a huge DK fan this pleases me greatly.
As a huge movie fan, also, perhaps most gratifying for me personally was the culmination of Chris Nolan’s trilogy with The Dark Knight Rises. I’ve yet to watch all three films back-to-back but having three films I would consider doing that with, and three great films at that, is a rare treat, especially when considering just how bad those Schumacher efforts were (I think a part of me died when I watched Batman and Robin, what a terrible offense to the screen, let alone Batman, that was).
In animation, we’ve also been treated to Batman: Year One, Under the Red Hood and most recently, The Dark Knight Returns part one. Very much looking forward to part two early next year.
Regards the gaming arena, Arkham City was a triumph, even better than the already excellent Arkham Asylum. My cup has certainly been running over.
As a comic book fan, I’ve definitely been in the camp of one of those consumers who only buys the trades in graphic novel format. Over the years, I’ve built up a solid collection of what are regarded as the greats including the aforementioned The Dark Knight Returns, Arkham Asylum, Batman: Year One, The Long Halloween, Haunted Knight, Dark Victory, The Killing Joke, Hush and many more besides.
With the current era of Batman comics now fully underway after DC’s bold New 52 strategy that saw the restart button pushed on all their major books as well as a simultaneous/same day as print digital release, I have even more reasons to be cheerful, courtesy of a new Dynamic Duo in the grim world of Gotham.
I first read Scott Snyder’s work in The Black Mirror. Released during the Grant Morrison era on the Batman (who, to be honest, I can take or leave – I didn’t/couldn’t read the last volume of his Batman & Robin run due to the frankly awful Frazer Irving artwork), Snyder teamed up with Francesco Francavilla and as soon as I picked it up and turned the first page I was hooked. Dark, gritty; the story had depth, resonance and though it introduced new characters it felt like it had been part of the ugly tapestry of Gotham since… well, forever.
Like many new readers, I was swept up by DC’s New 52 and instantly added Batman, Detective Comics and The Dark Knight to my must purchase list. Whilst I enjoyed the other titles (The Dark Knight less so, to be honest), it was Snyder’s work on The Court of Owls saga that really stood out. Yet again, here was a new writer that was delivering the kind of Batman stories I really wanted to read. And again there was a weight of history behind it, a sense of the city itself as a character to be moulded to Batman’s indomitable will, of enemies older and more sinister than even the Joker. In the mysterious Court of Owls Snyder has created a foe to not only to test Batman physically and mentally, but morally too.
Greg Capullo stepped up as the other half of the team, his artwork visceral and utterly perfect for conveying the darkness of Gotham and its denizens.
The two have stayed together for the second arc of Batman stories, Death of the Family, where we see the welcome and terrifying return of the Joker. Courtesy of the Detective Comics storyline, the Clown Prince of Crime has a hideously stitched on face and is systematically targeting every one of the various ‘Bat Family’ members in some twisted idea that Batman is made all the weaker for their presence as they hang to his scalloped coat tails.
Much like The Court of Owls, this story arc is incredibly dark in tone. It also succeeds in digging into Batman’s complex psyche as the Joker tries to exploit it to the Dark Knight’s destruction.
We’re yet to discover the denouement of this story arc, poised at another awesome cliffhanger as Batman returns to Arkham Asylum in a stunning single panel that echoes the seminal title of the same name by Grant Morrison and Dave McKean. One thing is certain, however, both The Court of Owls and Death of the Family have become essential additions to the Batman canon.DC have already produced some fantastic animated renditions of classic Batman story lines and these two should be on that list for consideration too.
It has been a great year for the Dark Knight, one of the best, and with writers and artists like Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo working on the material I believe we can look forward to some great years to come.