Thursday, January 10, 2013

One Hundred Books in 2013: Kickoff and Book One

Welcome friends, family, viewers, detractors. This is my newest blog and part of my personal goal in 2013 to read one hundred books in a calendar year. The idea came to me recently when I began wondering what happened to my passion for reading books. Determined to capture the intrigue of reading, I have set out on a quest to absorb as many books as possible in 2013.

One hundred books seems like a lofty goal, but I will preface this by stating that the one hundred books is going to be split into two piles of fifty: graphic novels and fiction literature. I can immediately hear the skepticism and groans about this choice. "But Patrick," you will say. "My good friend, graphic novels don't count as books. They are just pictures with some words!" To this, I humbly protest. Graphic novels are an incredible, untapped resource for getting people of all ages to read. I agree with the sentiment that reading fifty Batman stories would be excessive and missing the point of my original goal, so my pledge will also have the stipulation that I will attempt to read graphic novels that normally do not receive a great deal of attention in pop culture media. There will absolutely be Batman, Spider-Man, Superman, and super hero graphic novels on this list. I own many of them already, and the objective of this challenge isn't to bankrupt myself for the sake of buying literature. With that said, I will strive not to dip too deeply into my own pool of graphic novels and try new ones.

This is the kickoff, so what better way to begin than with a Christmas gift I received in 2012.

BOOK ONE

BATMAN: BATTLE FOR THE COWL

Of course it was going to be a Batman title. I have been fascinated with the Dark Knight since I was a boy. Batman: The Animated Series was something I watched with glee for many years. The DC Animated Universe was captivating and told stories with such depth that I believe even closed minded individuals would have the opportunity to warm to them. Batman has a special place in my childhood, and with the rediscovery of the source material and Christopher Nolan's trilogy (2005-2012), Batman is a part of my adult life.

Batman: Battle for the Cowl is a story that takes place in what was regular Detective Comics continuity that tackles the idea of what happens when Bruce Wayne disappears. Without spoiling too much of the back story, Bruce Wayne "dies", leaving a major whole in the network of crime fighting vigilantes who patrol Gotham City. Chaos ensues, leaving the remaining members of the Batman family to figure out how to move forward following Batman's death. The key players in this story are all Bruce Wayne's sons, adopted and biological. Dick Grayson, who many know and adore as the first Robin, has become the successful solo act known as Nightwing. Dick struggles with the idea of stepping into Bruce Wayne's shoes and becoming the Batman of Gotham City. One of his closest allies, Tim Drake, the third Robin, insists that Nightwing or himself must take up the role. Damian Wayne, the soon-to-be-fourth Robin, is slowly trying to find his own place in the Batman family. A very arrogant young man to begin with, Damian believes himself to be entitled to the mantle of the bat. Meanwhile, all three are targeted by the current "Batman", who I will not reveal. Three out of the four Robins targeted. Gee, I wonder who the "Batman" could be?

Overall, I was disappointed with this graphic novel compared to how I felt when I read the initial run a couple of years ago. Don't get me wrong, everything is there to make a good Batman story, and the ultimate choice of the next Batman is an easy win (hint: it's a Robin), but there just isn't enough meat to this story. It's entirely too predictable and while the art is outstanding, it falls short of delivering any twists and turns that come with the best Batman stories. Compared to one of the more recent stories of someone else taking up the mantle, Batman: Knightfall, this story is short and to the point. It's as though the brains at DC asked themselves "We need a story to fill up three months of issues, let's tell a long winded but thin story about how _________ becomes the Batman."

If I were to take three positives away from this book, the top one is definitely the art. This is how Batman should be drawn. Tony S. Daniel deserves credit for the sharpness of every panel as the penciller. Batman doesn't require hyper-realism like Alex Ross, and I think this comic hits the nail on the head with a very spot-on approach to the art of Batman. The second positive I will take away from this book is the little bit of character development for both "Batman" and the Dick Grayson/Damian Wayne dynamic. In both cases we walk away with better understandings of the characters and we see what they are all capable of, both good and bad. "Batman" is almost worthy of sympathy. His struggles and ultimate goal are not entirely masked in insanity. The third positive to take away from this book is the future of the Batman family. New titles and stories sprout of this storyline, and it helped to refresh Batman for a short period. The best to come out of the post-Battle era was definitely Red Robin (Tim Drake's new persona) and his quest to prove Bruce Wayne lives.

In conclusion, I would not recommend this title to anyone who isn't already a staunch buyer of Batman titles. Similarly to Batman and Son, this title had tonnes of promise but just dilly-dallied on telling the story. It's spread out unnecessarily and one 80 page issue could have tackled the basic premise. If you're going to buy it, buy it for the art and to see what not to do with a short Batman story. My grade for Book One of the One Hundred Books in 2013 campaign is C+.

--PG

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