Did I mention I was getting back into graphic novels? Probably.
I adored graphic novels back when I was in my early teens but the demands of school life meant that I had to cut back on more frivolous past times to make time for studying and unfortunately graphic novels didn't make the cut. As a result I couldn't keep up with my favourite titles and after a while found that I had lost interest, as I tend to do with things I know I can't commit to fully.
However recently I've been getting the graphic novel bug back and getting it bad! I thank (or blame) Tumblr to be honest. I wandered into the DC fandom section and immediately found myself right back where I used to be. Batman comics and cartoons where a huge part of my childhood but having been out of the loop I had no idea how much the DC Universe had changed! I suddenly found myself being simultaneously flooded with nostalgia for my old childhood loves and excited to see what the new rebooted series were like so once my University exams were over I went out and grabbed a few titles to reintroduce myself the the Batman universe.
I've read quite a few of the more recent installments now as well as a couple of classics I had missed out and thought I would share some with you. To keep the posts from being being abhorrently long I decided to split them up and review them in little bundles rather than ambush you with a whole summer's worth of deranged 'catch-up' reading. This consists of the first of a big series and two classic stand-alones.
Batman and Son
Grant Morrison's run is one of the most popular and well known series in the more recent canon, so I figured there could be worst places to start. This is the first of the trade paperbacks (when all the little single comics are collected into one big volume) so I picked it up and jumped straight in. I really enjoyed it and can see why it's so popular. In terms of the individual issues collected in it, there are a few that were a bit of a miss and one that just seemed pointless and forced in but overall the story arc was great and the artwork in most of it was really crisp, clean and bright which I love. In this series Batman finds out he has a son! I already knew this as it was something that was hard to avoid while browsing Tumblr fan pages but I was really excited to see what Damian would be like, I pictured him as this cute little baby 'Bruce Wayne' who would be the perfect little batman in training. LOLWRONG. As it turns out Damian Wayne has been raised by his mother, the daughter-of a-war-lord and all around badass Thalia Al Ghul and as a result he's not exactly been brought up with the best of moral guides. When Batman allows him to stay at Wayne Manor he promptly beats the crap out of Tim Drake (the current Robin) and declares himself entitled to the position of Batman's sidekick. Oddly enough Bruce Wayne isn't hugely impressed. To add to Bats' troubles there seems to be various Batman 'tribute acts' running round Gotham taking the law into their own hands.
I thought this was loads of fun and already adore the homicidal little brat that is Damian Wayne. Probably not somewhere to start if you have no background knowledge of the DC universe beyond the movies but if you know your basics and can tell your Dick Grayson from your Tim Drake I think this could shape up to be a really good series, I'll keep you posted as I get through the run.
The Killing Joke
Everyone knows the Joker. Even if your Batman knowledge extends to 'that guy with the cape and the silly voice' the Joker is an iconic villain and probably one of the greatest in superhero history. Or maybe that's just me.
The Killing Joke begins with Joker having broken out of Arkham Asylum and going after Commissioner Gordon and his daughter. It's dark and pretty brutal and the grisly contrasted with this very bold art style with a bright acrid colour palette which gives the whole thing a wonderfully creepy, macabre edge. The narrative flashes back and forth between this and what we are told is the Joker's back-story, detailing how he went from an ordinary man to maniacal clown prince of crime, although even by the end of the book it's hard to decide how much of what we are told is true given the form in which we are given the information.
I also really enjoyed this, my only complaint is that is was very short, it took me less than an hour to get though which, when you've paid eight pounds for something, is a bit of a disappointment in terms of getting your money's worth. Regardless I'm not a bit sorry I bought it as it's one of the most famous stand alone volumes and it's a great addition to my newly growing graphic novel shelf. Again this might not be right for complete beginners simply because it is so short but if you don't mind paying the money I think it's great.
Most superhero storylines are very fast paced and action orientated. This one is something a little different. It's April Fools Day and the inmates, led by the Joker, have taken over Arkham Asylum, declaring they will kill all the staff unless Batman agrees to take their place and lock himself in with them.
In terms of plot... well there isn't really one. It basically boils down to Batman having a wander through Arkham Asylum encountering some of the people he put away: Scarecrow, Harvey Dent etc while every so often the story flashes back to the origin of the Asylum and Arkham, the man who built it. What the story lacks in 'POW' fight scenes and cheesy hero/villain banter it makes up for with expertly wound tension and an art style like nothing I've ever seen in a Batman comic before. The whole thing looks like one of those dreams that's not an outright nightmare but that's horribly unsettling and creepy and from which you can't make yourself wake up.
I bought the fifteenth anniversary edition, which has, at the back, the original manuscript and a few pages of sketched storyboards too and I absolutely loved that. I loved reading Grant Morrison's manuscript scene by scene and flicking back to see how the artist, Dave Mckean, had interpreted his words into art. Honestly that for me was one of the best bits so if you were to buy it I would highly suggest spending a little extra just for that. Not really one for beginners (again... I really haven't thought this through) but if you're looking for something a bit different to try this is a really interesting one. I keep opening up my favourite pages and just marveling at how creepy and beautiful they are and it's made me interested to see if Dave Mckean has done anything else for the DC Universe.
So those are a few that I've read so far. I might make this something I do every few months perhaps? I can't justify buying enough graphic novels to do them more regularly, as they're quite expensive for how long they take to read and I do have rent and bills to pay (oh the joys of being a grown up.) But if you enjoyed this and would be interested to see more please let me know. I feel like I neglected to factor in that most of you aren't particularly well versed in graphic novels even if you're interested in getting into them, so I might try and put together a sort of 'crash course' reading list for introducing yourself to the DC/ Batman universe without getting confused in all the different runs and stand-alones and crossovers and spending a fortune in the process.
I'm going to go do something useful now. If you've made it this far good on you! Here's something embarrassing as a reward: When writing the title of this blog I knew I'd done something wrong but couldn't figure out what it was. I read it over and over, confused about what I'd messed up and why my brain was telling me I'd dome something stupid and then, after about ten minutes, I finally realised: I'd written "Batman Addition" rather than "Batman Edition".
That £9000 a year course in English is clearly paying off.