Tuesday, November 18, 2008

With the advent of the blogosphere, and all the search tools and wiki-whatsis and everything on the Internet; it's become increasingly (and sadly) rare for me to be surprised by anything I find while digging in the long boxes at the comic shop. So, I was blown away to stumble across a batch of Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight in the quarter boxes, and realized a pile of artists and writers that I really like worked on that book when I wasn't looking. Garth Ennis, J.H. Williams, Chris Weston, and for issues #83-84 a standout team: Warren Ellis, one of my favorite writers, and John McCrea, of Hitman fame. How did I not hear about this before?

For one thing, aside from a short one in Batman: Black and White with Jim Lee (and I'm not sure if that's where I saw that story, anyway) Ellis hasn't done a lot of Batman work. Partly, because I distinctly recall him saying, and I'm going to paraphrase here since it's been years and I sure as hell can't search for Ellis quotes at work; that he didn't see the threat of Batman, since if he was a crime boss, he'd hire a thousand thugs, give them a grenade a piece, wait for the Batmobile to drive by, and rain them down on Batman's head. Or words to that effect. Frankly, I thought Warren was a crime boss already.
The dialog is exactly the sort of messed up that Ellis would think of, or notice.
That is kind of a shame, since while Ellis has his little tropes (like body modification, used here) that he uses a lot, they are fun tropes that work pretty well for Batman stories. Face the facts, Ellis probably could've, if he'd wanted to, written Global Frequency as a Batman comic and made that ever-popular dump truck full of money, right? In fact, a later issue of that book would feature government experimental super-soldiers as well, although differently than the ones tearing up Gotham here.
Damn.  Maybe if I stick the big one through his hand...
On the other hand, Ellis' Batman doesn't quite lineup with the continuity version of the time, if that bothers you. How so? Well, during a fight with the super-soldier, an on-the-ropes Batman resorts to nerve gas. He apologetically notes it's "not intended for direct use on anyone" before throwing it in the soldier's face, but I can't help but notice Bats has it in the front most pocket of his utility belt. Later, believing the nerve agent killed the soldier, Batman admits that he used it to Commissioner Gordon, who doesn't seem to bat an eye. (As it were.) Not fooling around today, I see...

Later, Batman faces the super-soldier for the final showdown: the virus that created it will soon spore and infect more people, who will also become super-soldiers fighting a hallucinatory war. Batman has to take him out, but has to disable the soldier's "boneguns" first. How so?
Besides, I love that taser.  Kirbyesque.
Holy crap! Admittedly, one of my favorite Batman stories starts with him packing heat, but that hadn't been seen in quite a while. Now, I think everyone's so used to the Batman that wouldn't touch a gun for the world, that's it's even odder to see. But Ellis' Batman is one that makes hard decisions, and that fears for his own life, but still is recognizably Batman. He's a big boy, and while he might not carry a gun, sometimes desperate times, can't make an omelet, pick your own cliche: Batman will do what he has to, and he's not going to cry about it or freak out or anything.

That said, Batman's still a pretty good shot, taking out both of the soldier's guns; which means he almost certainly could've just put two in his head. He's still Batman, not the Punisher. The story ends in a more Batman fashion as well, and I liked these two issues, even if wikipedia never heard of 'em under Ellis' bibliography.

An aside: I had to look up Batman: Year Two on wikipedia, since I couldn't remember the issue number. I also totally wish Alan Davis had done the whole thing: that's not a slight on Alcala and McFarlane, but it would've been nice to have the consistency, and I do like Davis better. But, apparently it doesn't matter, since Year Two is out of continuity now, since Joe Chill has been reconfigured at least twice since then. Phooey. Still a good story, and I love that first cover.

How do you feel about Batman using guns? I must confess, usually, I prefer the version that won't use a gun, ever, ever; but sometimes...by the way, Batman does have the gun on the cover of #84, so it shouldn't have been that surprising. Another of my favorite Legends of the Dark Knight arcs has a gun-toting Batman too, so maybe some other time for that.


Sea_of_Green said...

Well, Batman did use guns on occasion during his Golden Age years. Personally, I've always preferred the idea that Batman hates guns and won't use them, based on the fact that his parents were killed by a gun. It sets Batman a wee bit farther from the rest of the pack. We've certainly seen other super-heroes (including Hal Jordan) use guns without hesitation. The fact that at least ONE hero (Batman) might hesitate adds dimension to the character.

The Fortress Keeper said...

I like a Batman who refuses to use a gun, despite my fondness for the old Golden Age story where the Dark Knight machine guns a load of mutated humans.

I know ... typical conflicted fanboy.