Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Batman Odyssey #1

The first issue of Batman Odyssey came out this week, a new mini series written and drawn by Neal Adams. If you aren't a comic book fan, you simply can't understand how amazing this news is. Neal Adams is the artist probably most associated with Batman since Bob Kane first created the character in 1939. He was one of the most influential, well respected, and beloved comic book artists of all time, and having him return to any major Marvel or DC book is big news, but having him do Batman again is incredible.

This is perhaps the comic book equivalent of Sean Connery coming back for one more film as James Bond in Never Say Never Again, after he had long since retired from the character and let a few other actors take up the role. Or, more recently, when Harrison Ford returned to the Indiana Jones series after twenty or so years. And, much like Never Say Never Again and Crystal Skull, the first issue of Batman Odyssey is something of a train wreck.

Now, don't get me wrong, I loved Crystal Skull and I'll watch Never Say Never every time it comes on TV, but the stars definitely show their age, and as fun as they are, they don't really work all that well when taken as films on their own terms, removed from their series history. This first issue is just... weird. There's no other, better way to describe it. The characterization of Batman seems off, the dialogue is wacky, and the story structure makes very little sense. It's a flashback story that takes place within another flashback, so placing this series in continuity is somewhat difficult. Also, Dick Grayson is Robin, but he's wearing the costume Tim Drake wore. And why is Man Bat hanging out in the Batcave? And, come on, do we really need another Year One type story for Batman? This guy is already on about his tenth year one by now.

But at least the artwork is wonderful. Neal Adams is a classic comic book artist, and if his work seems less than spectacular now, that's because he created the style that ushered in modern comic book art. I've read some reviews that criticized his art here for being too styled or "scratchy," but I thought it was beautiful. I think this is some of the best work he's ever done, even if it is a little more cartoony than the far more gritty work he did on Batman all those years ago. The line work is impeccable, as you would expect from a Neal Adams comic, but there is so much energy to the characters and the panels that everything seems in motion. The sequence where Batman rides on top of the train is particularly exhilarating, which is a word I would rarely use to describe modern comics. Best of all are the four pages or so from Neal Adams's sketch book. Beautiful stuff.

So I didn't love it, but I'll keep at it because it was fun and the artwork was outstanding. This was just the first of twelve issues, so who can predict where it will go and how it will all turn out in the end. All I know is that Neal Adams is back on Batman, and that's important. Considering the lackluster script, however, I wish he had made his return with writer Denny O'Neill, but oh well. I'm almost willing to buy this book just on principle, and while I don't necessarily recommend it based on that, I do think any comic book fans should at least take a look.

1 comment:

Justin Garrett Blum said...

The artwork looks pretty damn good from what you've shown here.